Abused Euro candidate says conditions as 'edgy' as Iraq
PUBLISHED: 10:06 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:06 23 May 2019
Michelle de Vries
An MEP candidate who has campaigned in Iraq and Compton, California, said she has never felt so threatened as when she was leafleting for the European elections.
Michelle de Vries, who lives in Norwich and is standing for the pro-Remain party Change UK, was leafleting at Liverpool Street Station in London on Monday when she was victim to a torrent of abuse.
Speaking as voters head to the polls today she said: "I was looking forward to it, it was so nice because I used to live around Liverpool Street, but just one by one people were just abusive like I've never had before."
Ms de Vries said she was called a "neo-liberal b****", a c***, a woman pretended to fall over so she could push the MEP hopeful, and a man stuck his middle finger in her face while screaming at her.
"I finished early, I just had enough of it," she said. "I've been in Iraq and Compton, I've walked down the street on my own in those places, and I know edgy. And this was edgy. I was shaking all the way home."
Ms de Vries mother, Daphne Parish, was arrested in Iraq in 1989 along with Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft.
The two had travelled to a military facility near Baghdad to pursue a story about a massive explosion reported to have killed hundreds of people.
But they were arrested and falsely accused of spying for Israel, and while Mrs Parish, a nurse, was jailed for 15 years, Mr Bazoft was executed.
At the time Ms de Vries said: "It is far too early to know what implications today's events will have on my mother. All I can do is hope and pray she receives the clemency not afforded to poor Mr Bazoft."
Mrs Parish was kept in solitary confinement for six months and then moved to a women's prison.
Ms de Vries flew to Baghdad and launched numerous appeals to gain her mother's freedom, dealing with Saddam Hussein, his sons Uday and Qusay, and others in the dictatorial regime.
She was just 21 at the time and her visits were said to be a lifeline.
Mrs Parish was finally released in June 1990 and Ms de Vries was reported to have said: "I burst into tears and then I started dancing and jumping around the room."
Speaking yesterday about that time Ms de Vries said: "So I've always been a bit of a campaigner, I'm a campaigner for justice really.
"I did get her out so that's what got me interested in politics and interested in middle eastern affairs, because I wanted to find out why a country would imprison my mother."
Despite this, she said it was her experience on Monday which nearly forced her to pull out of the race.
"To be honest part of me thought that night, I don't know if this is really worth it. I woke up at 3am and I really was going to give up," she said.
"But I got up in the morning and thought if I do this I'm letting those people win, I'm letting extremists win."
Ms de Vries said her experience on Monday showed the violence which had seeped into political debate.
She said: "We're either getting very positive people or very, very negative people, and we've got to be careful. I do say to some of our volunteers who go out on their own sometimes, I said please don't go back to Liverpool Street again.
"They are putting their lives on the line, someone is going to get killed."
She said she felt Russian and Chinese bots on social media had contributed to the climate, but also that there had been "no opposition for a long time in the UK", while the main parties drifted more to their extremes.
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"It used to be that these people were on the peripheries, and they're now actually in these parties."
And she said she was also against Nigel Farage and other pro-Leave candidates being targeted with milkshakes as it also represented political violence, despite them being at the other end of the spectrum policy wise.
She said: "All I know is we want to promote positive politics, just to be kinds. I feel there's not enough kindness in politics.
"My message to people is vote with your heart."
Who is standing in the EU elections in the east of England?
Emma Taylor, Neil Carmichael, Bhavna Joshi, Michelle de Vries, Amanda Gummer, Thomas Graham, Roger Casale.
Geoffrey Van Orden, John Flack, Joe Rich, Thomas McLaren, Joel Charles, Wazz Mughal, Thomas Smith.
Robin Tilbrook, Charles Vickers, Bridget Vickers, Paul Wiffen.
Catherine Rowett, Rupert Read, Martin Schmierer, Fiona Radic, Paul Jeater, Dr Pallavi Devulapalli, Jeremy Caddick.
Alex Mayer, Chris Vince, Sharon Taylor, Alvin Shum, Anna Smith, Adam Scott, Javeria Hussain.
Barbara Gibson, Lucy Nethsingha, Fionna Tod, Stephen Robinson, Sandy Walkington, Marie Goldman, Jules Ewart.
The Brexit Party
Richard Tice, Michael Heaver, June Mummery, Paul Hearn, Priscilla Huby, Sean Lever, Edmund Fordham.
Stuart Agnew, Paul Oakley, Liz Jones, William Ashpole, Alan Graves, John Wallace, John Whitby.