This article was published on the Guardian website
David Cameron's Prague spring
5 April 2010
As a Czech party leader is forced to stand down over homophobic remarks, can we expect Tories to follow suit?
Chris Grayling would fit in well with David Cameron's new allies in eastern Europe. On the Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Michael Heseltine airily dismissed a question about the Conservatives breaking links with their sister parties in eastern Europe as something that no voter was interested in. Maybe, but the judgment call of David Cameron in crawling into bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner with weird rightwing nationalist populists does deserve greater scrutiny.
We know about the dubious record on the Holocaust of Michal Kaminski, who leads the Tory MEPs in the European parliament. We know that Cameron's Latvian allies join in the annual commemoration of the Waffen-SS in Vilnius. Now, the latest example of the unpleasant nature of the Conservatives' new chums in Europe comes from Prague.
There, Mirek Topolanek has been forced to stand down as leader of his party (ODS in Czech) just ahead of crucial elections. The reason? Like Grayling, he made unacceptable remarks about a gay transport minister in the current Czech government. He also sneered at the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, as "the Jew". Fischer's son has reacted furiously to the antisemitic tone of Cameron's Czech mate.
David and Mirek are close buddies. Last spring, Cameron went to Prague to stand side by side with Topolanek to launch their breakaway Movement for European Reform. The ODS hero is the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus. He is a climate change denier and virulently anti-EU. During the communist era, unlike the other Vaclav – Havel, who led the resistance against totalitarianism – Klaus worked for the communist regime.
Klaus discovered his rightwing anti-European views once Havel had helped bring down communism. For William Hague, who was instructed by Cameron to destroy the Tory alliance with Germany's ruling CDU party or France's ruling UMP party, the ODS, whose hero is the Eurosceptic Thatcher-admiring Klaus, was a natural partner. When Angela Merkel came to London last weekend, she refused to meet Cameron. Before May 1997, every European leader wanted to be seen with Tony Blair. In 2010, no one want to know Cameron, who will poison Britain's business and trade relations with Europe if he becomes prime minister.
Cameron's friend in Prague is exposed as someone with views on gays and Jews that should put him beyond the pale in decent European politics. But the massive shift to the right in European politics – evidenced by the racist and anti-Jewish BNP and xenophobic Ukip wins in the European parliamentary elections last June is altering the British political landscape.
The PiS party in Poland is the main ally of the Conservatives. But whenever PiS politicians have gained power, they have targeted gays. As mayor of Warsaw, the PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, banned Gay Pride marches and the PiS MEP Kaminski uses the term "paed " – a homophobic Polish slang word that needs no translation – to denigrate opponents.
Like Jean-Marie Le Pen, who first coined the word "federaste" to attack supporters of the European Union in France, the right in Europe lurches from nationalist populism, via homophobia, to hate of Muslims and unacceptable language about Jews; it indulges in a constant rant against the EU and Brussels to create a witches' brew of intolerance and political nihilism.
One can understand why Lord Heseltine wishes to see all this brushed under the carpet, and why Cameron prays every morning to the British news editors who refuse to examine and expose the Tory links to the new hard right in Europe with its rampant xeno- and homophobia.
Tory MEPs also refuse to support measures in the European parliament aimed at supporting gay rights and other equality measures. Again, there is simply no coverage of what is said and done in the European parliament and what would cause uproar if spoken on the floor of the House of Commons passes unnoticed in Strasbourg.
Whereas Topolanek's homophobia has forced his resignation there is no inkling that Cameron is willing to take action against Grayling. But someone should dig up the pictures of David and Mirket as they toasted the launch of their new party. The Czech ODS members have forced Topolanek to go ahead of their election. Are there any decent Tories out there who will say it is also time for Grayling to be removed from the frontbench? And will Chris Patten, who is now attacking Gordon Brown, say anything, but anything, about his party leader's alliance with some of the nastiest extremists operating in European politics?