Author: By Jane Merrick, Political Editor
In an extraordinary intervention, the Foreign Secretary said David Cameron’s decision to support Michal Kaminski as leader of the Tories’ new Euro-grouping had provoked “real cause for concern” among Britain’s Jewish community.
It follows criticism last week by former Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who accused Mr Kaminski of being the face of “respectable fascism”. Leading rabbis in Britain and Europe also expressed concern about Mr Kaminski’s appointment.
Mr Kaminski, a member of the far-right Polish Law and Justice Party, has denied claims that he opposed an apology by his countrymen in 2001 for the massacre of hundreds of Jews in Jedwabne in July 1941.
Mr McMillan-Scott, now an independent MEP, was kicked out of the Tories in Europe last month for opposing the appointment of Mr Kaminski as leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, of which the 25 Tory MEPs are members.
So far, members of the Cabinet have not become involved in the row. But the Foreign Secretary, the son of Jewish refugees of the Holocaust, stated that Mr Cameron had driven his party to the right wing of European politics.
Mr Cameron caused controversy in June by going ahead with plans to leave the mainstream European People’s Party of Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel and form a new anti-federalist grouping. The Law and Justice Party includes MPs with a record of homophobia.
Mr Miliband told The Independent on Sunday: “David Cameron has shown little appetite for tough decisions in his career to date. On this rare occasion, he has decided to expend some serious political capital. And on what? On supporting a man like Michal Kaminski for a position of influence in the European Parliament over a moderate and loyal member of his own party.
“It has given key communities in Britain real cause for concern. Against the best advice of foreign leaders and British business, he drove the Tories out of the mainstream and into the right-wing margins of Europe.
“The British public rightly judge politicians by their actions. So far, they haven’t had much to go on with David Cameron. But this reversion to the right-wing extremes of his own party should give people a strong sense of what both he and his party believe in, and it has nothing to do with the best interests of Britain.”
Mr McMillan-Scott wrote in the Yorkshire Post last week: “The people who advised Cameron have been used by those who seek respectability through links with the Conservative Party.”
Mr Kaminksi has insisted he is not anti-Semitic, and claims he has spent “a lifetime of work supporting Israel and the Jewish community in Poland”.
But footage of a television news bulletin from 5 March 2001 shows Mr Kaminski reacting to news that the then president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, was to issue an apology. He said: “I think that Mr President can apologise, but for other things. He should withhold apologies for Jedwabne.”
The chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, told the New Statesman last week that there were serious concerns about Mr Kaminski’s background.
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