During the Tory party conference I went to watch the Tories’ controversial new allies – Michal Kaminski and Robert Zile – at a gathering. Afterwards I wrote a fairly neutral piece. Why? Because I didn’t know enough about Polish or Latvian politics to start repeating Labour-generated smears about certain MEPs: not without any first-hand proof*.
Afterwards, a Labour MP wrote to me to complain that I’d been too soft on Kaminski, leader of Poland’s “Law and Justice” party (and chair of the new rightwing alliance in Brussels which includes the Tories).
The email – helpfully cc’d to my editor – said Kaminski had been in the junior wing of a hard-right party when he was a teenager.
“Imagine the row if Labour MEPs were told to serve under some hard-leftist who had made odious remarks about Jews. We would be slaughtered,” the MP said.
“Double standards now seem to apply and I think FT conference coverage should state who Kaminski is, not relegate his presence as just another fringe speaker as seems to be case in today’s paper.”
It was thus fascinating for me to wake up this morning to an interview on the Today programme with Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.
(Schudrich’s supposed criticism of Kaminski, in the New Statesman, has formed part of the “case” against him in the media)
This morning Schudrich did indeed condemn Kaminski for - as a teenager – belonging to the far-right National Revival of Poland party (NOP).
But he then went on to say that Kaminski had over many years proved himself an anti-anti-Semite who had staunchly defended Israel on multiple occasions. He added for good measure that the Law and Justice party is seen as a mainstream rightwing party within Poland.
The chief rabbi’s comments (they were crystal clear and without caveat) will up the pressure on David Miliband, who has spoken out against the Tories’ new European allies in the strongest of terms.
* The Latvian question is equally divisive, as I pointed out on this blog.