Would we be so proud of this tolerance if it had been Hitler who had gone from King's Cross to Germany?
We like to think we're more liberal and progressive than our ancestors. But on occasion I'm in awe of what they achieved with respect to creating and embedding English liberties such as allowing political asylum - hardly an unalloyed benefit to the host country. As Isaiah Berlin illustrated, liberty has a tragic element: upholding one liberty can involve the diminution of another or, indeed, the sacrifice of some other good.
I've remarked before how difficult it would be to introduce trial by jury into English law if it were proposed today. Political asylum would be near-impossible. The tabloids would have a field day: "Minister puts out welcome mat for foreign extremists" (or worse).
I wonder whether this is why I lean towards conservatism? I'm sceptical of the philosophical foundation for abstract and universal human rights so I tend to rely on traditional and conventional sources of authority to support rights and liberties. I guess that's how someone who's essentially liberal gets to think like a conservative.
UPDATE: An observation on liberty that supports my point above (and incidentally shows how a traditional English liberal can't help but be conservative):
Although "moderate" in policy, the Blair/Brown era is based on an essentially Marxist analysis of institutions which sees them as false superstructures. Yet the reason Britain is – or was – a free country is that people understood that institutions matter more than the people who happen, at any one time, to run them. We must recover this understanding, fast.