The Kaminski questions Cameron didn’t answer


by Sunder Katwala    
8:15 am - October 28th 2009

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David Cameron yesterday said of the man the Conservatives have chosen to lead their new European grouping, Michal Kaminski:

“I see this as a totally politically-driven campaign and particular nonsense.

“In terms of Michal Kaminski, who I have met, he is not a homophobe, he’s not a racist, he’s not an anti-semite. When he came to the Conservative conference the one event I know of he had lunch with the Israeli ambassador.

But there remain many serious and contested questions about Kaminski.

Does David Cameron think Michal Kaminski told the truth about his political history when questioned about it before and after becoming leader of the ECR? If not, why not?

Following our earlier post, here is a recap on just some of the claims made since becoming leader of the ECR which have fallen apart.

1. Kaminski claimed to the Observer he “never opposed” the Jewadbne apology – now admits that he did campaign publicly against it, with TV footage of this having surfaced too. This was also one of the highest profile episodes in recent Polish politics, in his constituency, yet Kaminski said he may have been there in support, but could not remember.

2. Kaminski claimed to the Observer “I never said it. It is absolutely not true … I never gave an interview” over calls for an apology from “the whole Jewish nation” published in a paper with some questionable associations. The clipping has been verified – and now he has repeated this unfortunate call to the Jewish chronicle.

3. Kaminski claimed to the Daily Telegraph that he had only been a member of the far right NOP ‘National Rebirth of Poland’ only while it was an underground opposition movement, when he was 15 to 17. The newspaper reported that the party membership records show he was a member for three years after 1989, when he was 17 to 20.

4. Kaminski claimed to the Jewish Chronicle that he never wore the Chrobry sword – then said it was a misunderstanding over pronunciation – then admitted he did, now claiming it only became a fascist symbol later, despite it being the main symbol of the radical Catholic totalitarian Falangist movement in Poland from 1935.

It is perfectly possible that Kaminski has changed – but he is not telling the truth about his political journey.

I doubt he told the Tories the full story either.

I have little doubt it was their unintentional mistake.

Why do the Conservatives think this is a leader they can trust?

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Europe ,Foreign affairs ,Race relations ,Realpolitik ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. organic cheeseboard

ah, the good old ‘he can’t be an antisemite because he had lunch with someone israeli’ line… i’m sure some of his best friends are jews too, etc etc

The real problem is that people do not care I know I do not anymore.

3. the a&e charge nurse

Who has the energy to police unsavoury eastern European politicos?

Surely we have our work cut out trying to keep on top of our own MPs?

If we accept the allegations made against Kaminski at face value – does it imply that Cameron is a closet nazi? or is he just a poor judge of character? or is there a case that Cameron has no regard for the groups that Kaminski seems to have such a problem with?

If we had to draw up a list of politicians that we could really trust I wonder how many names would spring to mind?

Whatabout whatabout whatabout!

There, I’ve saved you trolls the trouble. No you don’t need to clog up the comments thread.

Surely it would be better, and much more admirable, if fascists such as Nick Griffin and others such as Kaminski could admit to their previous comments and actions and explain why they have changed their mind. The fact that they can’t do this shows how shifty and dodgy they are. Even if a mainstream politician explains something they have done in their past by way of ‘youthful innocence’ this is better than denying the act completely. It shows a level of competence that will never be displayed by fascists.

some strange bloke has written a entry on this here website, explaining why being an exaggerated pro-Israeli is quite typical behaviour of one who is disavowing their anti-Semitic past.

7. the a&e charge nurse

[4] the ‘whatabout’ reflex seems to be increasingly deployed as a control mechanism nowadays

I must admit I find continual references to ‘whataboutery’ rather irritating – to my mind such accusations are synonymous with trying to predetermine what can and cannot be discussed.

May I respectfully suggest you simply ignore posters if their comments fall beyond the scope of those issues you personally find relevant or interesting – some like to share ideas no matter how tangential, you never know you might even learn something?

The sad thing is that none of this seems to be making a difference. Among the Tory core vote, I imagine they’d be quite happy cosying up with a racist, anti-Semitic homophobe, and among swing voters it’s not yet an issue – something which, hopefully, will change.

“Whatabout whatabout whatabout!”

Whataboutery may be relevant in this case though. If the EPP group has a similar problem regarding kooky members then there’s no point calling for the Tories to leave their current group if it means then re-joining the EPP. Unless of course you believe the EPP should be condemned as well. However, I’ve always suspected that a lot of this is just trying to make life difficult for the Tories for partisan objectives – which is fine providing it’s done honestly.

The problem I have with those who complain about whataboutery is that they appear to resent being accused of selective condemnation and hypocrisy. After all, if all EU Parties have dodgy members then why only pick on one? If it’s “because the Tories are in it” then fine, at least just say so.

10. Dick the Prick

Aren’t you all being led by Michael Cashman? When did Glennys get booted out of being Europe Minister – that was quick.

Hurrah! More about Kaminski!

I think the Charlemagne blog gets the point here:

It is a structural British problem, too: only on our side of the English Channel can you be a tree-hugging centrist and Eurosceptic.

This is also an issue where whataboutery is quite a relevant argument. Because replying to that accusation of ‘your new group is full of fruitloops and fascists’ with the response that ‘all European groups are full of fruitloops and either fascists or communists’ is perfectly valid.

The Greens’ (and the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s) leader in Europe is a self-confessed paedophile with strong links to terrorism. Where’s the outrage? Isn’t it worse to be a kiddy fiddler than to have said the word ‘fag’ in 2001?

12. Dick the Prick

@Tim J – ‘The Greens’ (and the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s) leader in Europe is a self-confessed paedophile with strong links to terrorism. Where’s the outrage? Isn’t it worse to be a kiddy fiddler than to have said the word ‘fag’ in 2001?’

Err…hmmm….cough cough…WTF? From Wiki

“On several occasions certain kids would open my fly and start to stroke me. I reacted differently according to circumstances, but their desire posed a problem for me. I asked them: ‘Why don’t you play together? Why have you chosen me, and not the other kids?’ But if they insisted, I caressed them still.”

Nah Tim – calling someone a poof is much worse than that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is very reminiscient of all the propaganda about Boris Johnson being a racist that the left kept banging on about prior to the mayoral election. I expect the Kamminski smears will be just as effective.

This is also an issue where whataboutery is quite a relevant argument. Because replying to that accusation of ‘your new group is full of fruitloops and fascists’ with the response that ‘all European groups are full of fruitloops and either fascists or communists’ is perfectly valid.

Um, no? At best, whataboutery only stops a member of one of the European groups commenting about the composition of another. Those who aren’t members of either remain perfectly free to point out the dodginess.

In any case, the whataboutery here is pretty weak, since you have think both sides are equally culpable in having extremists on their side. No reason supplied to think so, and plenty against: communism is no longer a threat, fascism certainly is. Further, if someone’s done something wrong and you have their example before you, then generally you’re doing worse if you end up doing the very same thing. This is pretty much what the Tories have done; it’s consistent to hold them to a higher standard.

In any case, the whataboutery here is pretty weak, since you have think both sides are equally culpable in having extremists on their side. No reason supplied to think so, and plenty against: communism is no longer a threat, fascism certainly is.

Um, what? This is nonsense. If the argument is that all groups in the European Parliament contain a leavening of nutters (which I think is reasonably uncontentious) it’s just silly to accuse one party of having nutters in their group. There is no option of being in a nutter-free group – the rules on the minimum number of participating countries scuppers that.

Plus, communism isn’t a threat but fascism is? Where are you getting that from? If you’re talking about actual fascist and communist parties, there are only a tiny handful of fascists in Europe. Jobbik, FN and the BNP, and that’s about it. They’re an irrelevance. There are lots more communists, obviously, but they’re no threat either. What’s been the subject of disapproval for the Tories’ group is that some of its members have historic links (of one sort or another) to fascism. Whereas in the PES there are successor parties to the communist governments of Eastern Europe. Neither communism nor fascism is a threat to Europan politics at the moment. Historically they were as bad as each other.

Further, if someone’s done something wrong and you have their example before you, then generally you’re doing worse if you end up doing the very same thing. This is pretty much what the Tories have done; it’s consistent to hold them to a higher standard.

But it’s not what the Conservatives have done, and it’s not consistent (with what?) to hold the Conservatives to a higher standard over their European allies than any other party. To restate the argument: European politics is sufficiently varied that elements in each state’s domestic politics looks weird to other states (good article in the economist on this point re: probate). The requirement that all groups have members from nine separate states means that all the groups have members whose views look bizarre to us. This is as true for the Tories as for anybody else.

Yeah, it is kinda disgusting. That is one of the reasons why we are better off out of the union.

I wouldn’t call Kaminski a fascist, or equate him to Nick Griffin. But the idea that the questions are “smears” isn’t serious. I think these questions show that.

Griffin provides a clear example of somebody who has held far right views for a long period and mobilised them politically across his entire lifetime. The idea he has genuinely changed his views is not credible. He is also an example of how ‘staunch support for Israel’ can be a convenient refuge for a fascist and anti-semite. (It does not follow that all staunch support for Israel is insincere).

Kaminski had far right associations, such as NOP membership. They are not at all on the scale of Griffin, but nor were they as non-existent as he and his supporters claim. Whether they reflected his true beliefs, or political opportunism, is hard to gauge. I suspect opportunism: this was how to be the rising star of the Polish nationalist right. It isn’t what now plays on the European stage. At home, he is one of the modernisers I expect, but his party has a strong authoritarian strain and strikes me as a very regressive party if looked at from a west european centre-right/modern British tory perspective.

Both over the campaign against the massacre apology, and in the 1995 campaign against Kasniewski’s presidential bid (if what seems credibly alleged is true, that kaminski was among those pushing the story that Kasniewski’s grandmother was Jewish), then at key moments in his career he at least may an opportunist bid to use and play to quite widespread anti-semitic opinion. This does not mean that he can not turn into a moderate mainstream right-wing political leader. But these are fair questions. (I don’t think they resemble the challenges to Boris Johnson’s newspaper columns, which I did not find credible at the time).

At home, he is one of the modernisers I expect, but his party has a strong authoritarian strain and strikes me as a very regressive party if looked at from a west european centre-right/modern British tory perspective.

No kidding. But then, almost all of Polish politics looks pretty regressive from a West European/British perspective. That’s rather the point.

Um, what? This is nonsense. If the argument is that all groups in the European Parliament contain a leavening of nutters (which I think is reasonably uncontentious) it’s just silly to accuse one party of having nutters in their group. There is no option of being in a nutter-free group – the rules on the minimum number of participating countries scuppers that.

Not in the least. You’re running together separate arguments: there’s the Harry Phibbs line: everyone is doing it; Labour is doing it; nobody has any right to criticise us for doing it too. That’s different from your latest one which is that all parties are compelled to join the nutters by the rules of membership, which is different again from your earlier one, the point of which appeared to be identical to Phibbs’.

Only the first is whataboutery, actually, because only the first rests on the view that the accuser is in an equally bad position, so has no right to make the criticism. Unfortunately, it’s unsuccessful whataboutery. Both premisses of the little argument are false: it isn’t true that the alliances are equally odious for reasons pointed out earlier — the cautionary example of the Tories; the resurgence of the far right — so Labour isn’t doing it, so not everybody is doing it, so Labour can certainly make their criticisms. But even if the whataboutery had succeeded, all it would’ve done is prevent Labour criticising the Kaminski decision. Non-Labourites would have remained perfectly free to point out its silliness. Not a lot to show for such heavy argumentative work.

Your latest is, if anything, even worse. Suppose it’s true that the Tories were forced into their dodgy alliance — they had no option — and that this is true of every other party. It doesn’t follow that they’re compelled to stay: they could actually join one of the other bunches of nutters. You’ll cavil at this point that all the nutters are equally nutty, but they aren’t: the far right (I’m happy to call them fascists) are significantly likelier to do serious harm, so there’s a premium to staying with them. That rests on the view that the far right is significantly likelier to be a danger than the communists, but when you’ve got the Telegraph reporting the resurgence of the far right and the Times celebrating the fall of Europe’s last Communist government in the same month and a half, it’s a safe bet.

19 – except that you are conflating the rise of the far right (by which I presume you mean the parties like FN, BNP and Jobbik – certainly none of the parties mentioned in the article you link to are members of the ECR) with the parties with which the Tories have formed the ECR. You are thus criticising the Tories for entering into an alliance with fascists – which even David Miliband doesn’t assert. The issue under discussion is, as I said,

What’s been the subject of disapproval for the Tories’ group is that some of its members have historic links (of one sort or another) to fascism. Whereas in the PES there are successor parties to the communist governments of Eastern Europe.

I don’t believe that any of the PES parties are still communist. Certainly none of the ECR parties are fascist. Stating that they are is simply incorrect.

Further, my argument is less that ‘everyone is doing it, so it’s all right’ so much as ‘it is a basic fact of European politics that some mainstream political positions in Eastern Europe look bizarre and regressive to Western Europe and some mainstream political positions from Western Europe look bizarre and decadent to Eastern Europe’. That’s not just true in Europe – look at attitudes towards homosexuality in, say Kenya, and compare them to the UK. It’s a basic incompatability of political debate.

Isn’t the real point that the Tories are making Britain look ridiculous in Europe by associating themselves with a bunch of dorks?

TimJ@18 – “No kidding. But then, almost all of Polish politics looks pretty regressive from a West European/British perspective. That’s rather the point”.

Except that if the Tories simply had to pick a centre-right ally in Poland, it seems to me that Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform would be much more sensible and broadly aligned to most centre-right Tories than the Kaczy?skis in Law and Justice … it is partly the difference between a responsible governing party and a populist distaste for the rule of law and democratic politics.

They don’t have that partnership – with Civic Forum fitting well into the EPP – and that’s primarily because they simply can’t stand to be in with the German and Benelux Christian Democrats, the French Gaullists.

So they have formed a group without any west European parties, other than the Flemish List Dedecker, another slightly odd choice of partner.

23. Jimmy Sands

The wider point seems to me to be this:

Cameron promised an exit from the EPP in order to placate the swivel eyed tendency and dish Davis. It was a silly idea and something about which Joe Public is largely indifferent. Over the next few years the scale of the mistake became apparent both in terms of the nature of the new allies and the mainstream alliances and influences that would be forfeited. It also runs counter to Cameron’s central narrative, in which he returns his party to the centre. It is plain from the foot dragging that he had little enthusiasm for the project. The practical obstacles were sufficient to make it entirely credible to abandon the original promise. In the circumstances his failure to do so, is indicative of either an unwillingness or inability to face down the extremists in his own party. One only needs to contrast the unconscionable treatment meeted out to McMillan Scott with the indulgence with which Hannan’s tantrums were received. Similar cowardice informs his vacuous posturing over Lisbon.

@23 Jimmy Sands … well put. cameron may now regret epp/ecr, but i think he does hold quite strong sceptic views himself and is very much instinctively with his party on lisbon.
—-

Hague: EU allies are “mainstream” but I “don’t agree” with Kaminski

i didn’t hear Today but I assume PoliticsHome are misreporting a new Srebenica controversy!
http://page.politicshome.com/uk/hague_eu_allies_are_mainstream_parties.html

08:22
29/10/09
William Hague MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary
Today Programme Radio 4
In a debate with David Miliband, Mr Hague defended his party’s new EU allies as “mainstream”. He said that Mr Milband should apologise to Polish leader Michael Kaminski, although he added that he didn’t agree with Kaminski’s views on the Srebrenica Massacre.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Sunder Katwala

    @graemearcher Kaminski ain't Nick Griffin. MK has probably changed. Told several clear lies to media and Tories http://tiny.cc/j16K6

  2. Sunder Katwala

    @graemearcher Kaminski ain't Nick Griffin. MK has probably changed. Told several clear lies to media and Tories http://tiny.cc/j16K6

  3. StopTheRight

    The Kaminski questions Cameron didn’t answer http://alturl.com/c3g5

  4. Liberal Conspiracy » Conservative Party in deep trouble over Europe

    [...] are several unanswered questions Kaminski and the Conservatives have carefully avoided answering and he has been shown to be [...]

  5. The LDV Friday Five (ish): 30/10/09

    [...] the holes in a pro-Tory “fisk” of an FT report” – submitted by markpack. 4. The Kaminski questions Cameron didn’t answer (Liberal Conspiracy) “Sunder Katwala examines the four chief allegations against the [...]





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