Kaminsky : replies to Tory MEP Timothy Kirkhope, by Edward Pearce and Denis MacShane

Tories cannot whitewash new ally's fascist past
Yorkshire Post
15th August 2009

The Yorkshire Post on 12 August published an article by the Tory MEP Timothy Kirkhope defending the Tory alliance with Michal Kaminski, the controversial right-wing Polish politician accused of making offensive remarks about gays and about a wartime massacre of Jews in Poland. Today (15 August) the YP published a letter from me and from the writer Edward Pearce on the Kaminski affair.

IN 1980 and 1981, I was active in Poland in support for the Polish union, Solidarity. I wrote the first book in English on the Solidarity movement, published in 1981. In 1982, I was arrested and imprisoned in Warsaw while running money to the underground union.
I was therefore interested to read the view of Timothy Kirkhope MEP (Yorkshire Post, August 12) that the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski "fought in the underground against Poland's authoritarian Communist regime". Mr Kaminski's controversial statements on Jews and gays have attracted attention since Conservative MEPs were instructed to serve under his leadership in the European Parliament. In 1982, Mr Kaminski was 10 years old and between that time and the first free elections in Poland in 1989, I do not doubt that, like every other schoolboy in Poland, he hated communism and took part in protests. However, he went a stage further by joining the openly fascistic National Rebirth of Poland party. This party has been branded by the US State Department as anti-semitic. It remains an unusual way of supporting democracy in Poland by joining a fascist party. Mr Kirkhope should not line up Mr Kaminski with the many Poles who were imprisoned, forced into exile, lost their jobs and worse. America's Anti-Defamation League which investigates anti-semitic activity worldwide reported that, in 2001, Mr Kaminski "mobilised the local population in the north-eastern Polish town of Jedwabne against a commemoration of a wartime pogrom against Jewish people". Mr Kaminski has also used disgusting language about gay people. These are facts which no amount of spin can whitewash. Timothy Kirkhope and all Tories I work with in combating anti-semitism are strong supporters of the Jewish communities in Britain. Kaminski now says he supports the Common Agricultural Policy and the Lisbon Treaty which British Conservatives oppose. I do not blame Timothy Kirkhope who is a hard-working and decent Yorkshire MEP, as is Edward McMillan-Scott who has been expelled from the Conservatives because he questioned Mr Kaminski's credentials. As a loyal Labour Party MP, I understand why Mr Kirkhope has to try to defend Mr Kaminski, as the Pole has been imposed as leader of British Tory MEPs by David Cameron and William Hague. But this alliance cannot last and it would be better for Britain if Tory MEPs simply acted as an independent group in the European Parliament...
TIMOTHY Kirkhope's assault upon Edward McMillan-Scott (Yorkshire Post, August 12) is an unworthy cringe in a dubious direction, and the facts he claims are vividly in dispute. He says that Michal Kaminski, the Polish ultra-rightwinger whom Mr McMillan-Scott, shamefully thinking for himself, voted against, has "refuted" charges of anti-semitism. To "refute" means to overturn charges comprehensively. Mr Kaminski has, I think, merely denied them. In the New Statesman, James Macintyre points out that the National Revival of Poland (NOP) in its manifesto actually quoted Mein Kampf: "Jews will be removed from Poland, and their possessions will be confiscated." He also alleges that, in 2001, Mr Kaminski "condemned President Kwasniewski of Poland, for apologising over the massacre of hundreds of Jews in Jedwabne". The date of this insult falls 12 years late for Mr Kirkhope's claim that his new colleague was only in the NOP as a gallant little fighter against Communist rule. Before he misuses the word "refute" again, he should ask Michal Kaminski much harder questions very closely. If his new colleague cannot give an exhaustive demonstration of his innocence over these (and other) charges, the Conservatives should apologise to a fully restored Edward McMillan-Scott.
Edward Pearce, Thormanby, York.