Friday, October 30, 2009

The Former Ambassador to Warsaw Exposes Labour Hypocrisy Over Kaminsky - Twice

Charles Crawford was our Ambassador to Poland. He now writes an excellent blog. He's written a couple of excellent posts on the Kaminski situation in the last couple of days which you can read HERE and HERE.

When the Law and Justice party won the 2005 general elections, there were a few progressive squeaks about the fact that European Civilisation had just ended since Poland had been kidnapped by wild anti-semitic homophobes.

Closer examination suggested that this was not in fact the case.

Which was why in successive high-level meetings between PM Tony Blair and Polish leaders there was not one word of concern expressed publicly or privately by the British side on these scores.

I know because I was in on all these meetings.

And, yes, in 2005 Michal Kaminski himself was there at the No 10 dining-table next to PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, scoffing prawn cocktail as Tony Blair's guest.

If David Miliband will not apologise to Michal Kaminski and sticks to his guns that Kaminski is a disgrace, maybe he should then apologise to the British people for Labour using taxpayers' money to host such a disgraceful person at this high level and then resign?

And while he is at it, he also might explain why not a single word of instructions issued to us in Warsaw from London to take up with the Polish side issues of anti-semitism, Jedwabne and all this other stuff.

What in fact happened was that the Labour leadership energetically supported by D Miliband instructed the Warsaw Embassy to get as close as we could to the Kaczynskis and their party, to help align them with us in successive big negotiations over the EU Budget (2005) and Lisbon Treaty (2007).

Which is what my team and I did, with excellent results - and much praise from the FCO and No 10.

And then this, today...

One of the points made by Labour against Kaminski is that he was in effect playing an anti-semitic card by arguing against the apology by then President Kwasniewski for the Jedwabne massacre.

It's obvious! Any Pole arguing against the form or principle of such an apology has to be at the very least a revolting person, and more probably a horrid anti-semitic extremist.


80% of Poles at the time (2001) felt that is was good that the crime at Jedwabne had been made public, but a similar 80% did not feel any moral responsibility for it - why should they? Opinion on President Kwasniewski's apology was divided, with a slight margin in favour.

Noting the complexity of these issues, the then Polish PM Jerzy Buzek was very careful in the way he chose his words:

The slaughter in Jedwabne was not perpetrated in the name of the nation, nor in the name of the Polish state. Poland was at the time an occupied country. Yet, if as a nation we have the right to be proud of those Poles who, at the risk of their lives, sheltered Jews then we must also acknowledge the guilt of those who took part in their slaughter.

We are ready to confront even the darkest facts of our history, but in the spirit of truth, without seeking presumed justifications. We will not, however, agree to have the Jedwabne event serve to popularize false theses of Poland's complicity in the Holocaust or about inborn Polish anti-Semitism.

Hmm. Is that formulation not just a bit defensive. Even ... shifty? Surely that crafty drafting masks a deep anti-semitic instinct!

And where is Mr Buzek these days?

Oh yes, here.

Some things are complicated and deeply morally challenging. Simplify them for banal political purposes at your peril.

How very strange that Labour aren't attacking Mr Buzek, the new President of the European Parliament. After all, he's committed the same "thought crime" as Mr Kaminsky. Surely something inconsistent in left of centre thinking, wouldn't you say?


Sunder Katwala said...


You can certainly score a political point about the realpolitik acceptance of Law & Justice when they won, despite the strong level of concern about their homophobia in 2005-06 in particular.

(ii) I think you here miss part of the point about the Jewadbne apology issue. As William Hague has argued, there were mainstream voices involved in questioning the nature of the apology, while others (rightly) saw it as a Willy Brandt-style gesture of much value. But there was also anti-semitic campaigning against it, and I don't think anybody denies that. That does not make all opponents anti-semitic, but the question has been about which arguments and associations Kaminski's campaign had. The Chief Rabbi in July suggested the concern of the specific 'Campaign for the Good Name of Jewadbne' was about "denying the historic facts"; this is something which Kaminski challenges. And there has been concern about the Jewish apology calls, both in 2001 and this month, which I am pretty sure Conservatives do not in any way condone.

Toby Helm, who reported from Jewadbne for the Telegraph in 2001, has given the fullest account of this.

(iii) I am very pleased that Law & Justice are out of power in the government itself, while holding the Presidency.

I feel pretty sure you and most British Tories would vote Civic Platform in Poland, if looking at domestic political issues.

Criticism of them did not begin this year. There were significant Polish, western and British protests against Law & Justice in 2005-6, especially their really very outlandish record at that time of making populist gay rights bashing statements, including banning pride/equality marches as sexually deviant and provocative. This led 36% of ConservativeHome readers in a 2006 poll to agree that their strongly homophobic record meant they would not be an appropriate partner for the Tories, though a narrow majority 53% thought that might be overlooked in favour of anti-federalism.

Norton Folgate said...

Where was the Labour outrage when he was invited to number 10 in 2005?

Same people, same party and not a squeak.

The people living in the political bubble playing politics with this issue really do think they are scoring Labour some big points, but you really aren't.

The unemployed, the people losing their jobs and and family homes,the people who have lost their pensions and savings, the little people left in the shit by this Labour government and who are tired of their lies and smears SIMPLY DON'T CARE!

Tony said...

And Sunder's desperate attempts to maintain the smear continue, despite the growing evidence that Miliband and MacShane have cynically distorted the truth for narrow political reasons.

We now have Rabbis and former Ambassadors sharing their previously private observations that make Labour's smear look ever more disgraceful. But worry not, because Sunder will ignore this evidence to continue flogging his dead partisan horse.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster said...

I hope you like smear campaigns Iain because they're all Nulab have left and they're going to be mudslinging like mad in the run up to May.

Lying, desperate weasels.

Anonymous said...

Guido has been deposed in favour of Brown:

David said...

Hahahahaha! Brilliant Iain. Topped off nicely by that twit Katwala trying desperately to keep it going. You've lost, mate. Face it. You and your friends in the Labour party have been found out as the McBride types they are.

Keith Elliott said...

Oh, and what about your mudslinging Mr Dail? New Labour might be pretty grotesque in their activities, but then you and your Tory friends are no better.

Magical_Mist said...

It's exactly the same as the UK apologising for the slave trade several years ago, which if I remember correctly Tony Blair actually did.
At the time, my line of thinking was We don't have anything to apologise for ourselves, as it occurred long before any of us were alive. But if it will help ease possible tensions, then it can only be a good thing.

I believe this issue was raised in the interview with Poland's chief Rabbi, but I can't remember.

Labour, and especially the odd looking David Milliband, certainly look like complete fools this evening!

Jimmy said...

Did Buzek claim that Jews had to apologise to Poles first? Because if he did then you may have a point.

LMFAO said...

Bang to rights!

Tapestry said...

Sunder's comments are getting longer every time this topic arises. If it's that complicated, this should not be used by Miliband as material for soundbite politics.

Can you not find other guilt for Conservatives to feel? OK we know a politician who might have once had bad thoughts in his head, or he might not have done. Yawn.

And of course Accuser Miliband's political friends are all saints...mmm. Let's not even go there.

This is really very dull, at best a distraction and there is no mileage in it.

The truth is that the EU are angry that Cameron wants to renegotiate Lisbon or the Social and Employment Chapters, or other things.

So do most countries including the German Constitutional Court which wants to ensure various national powers of decision are retained.

The accusation game is only being used to soften up Cameron before the real negotiations begin.

That is what this is all about. The rest is a monumental red herring. And a very dull and complicated one at that.

Sunder Katwala said...

Tony Sharp,

This "smears" claim is weak, and would refer to unfounded allegations.

I have been careful to consistently
* source all information
* point to competing information and counter-arguments, including points in Kaminki's favour;
* distinguish between fact and opinion, including stating my opinion that Kaminski's views have very likely substantively changed in a moderate and welcome direction since both 1991 and indeed 2001.

If you can point to any inaccurate point of fact in anything I have written, I will be happy to very to correct or retract it, or add additional source material.

If you have a different opinion, you are welcome to it, I would be happy to discuss any point on the Fabian blog, or respond to a point here if it did not drag Iain Dale's thread off topic.

I have never questioned the integrity of those defending Kaminski, while debating their arguments. That is one area where my approach has been somewhat different to Iain Dale's and to ConservativeHome.

I can see that Iain has a low opinion of and series of on-going arguments with one New Statesman journalist James MacIntyre, and perhaps the magazine as a whole. He also challenges the integrity of a partisan opponent, the Foreign Secretary,while he and Denis MacShane accuse each other of being partisan over this issue.

My view is that both Dale and MacShane are giving their honest opinion of the issues. And I would be genuinely surprised if Iain does not think a legitimate difference of opinion is possible here: that would entail his questioning the integrity of journalists including Martin Bright of the Jewish Chronicle, Jane Merrick of the Independent on Sunday, and Toby Helm of The Observer. I very much doubt that is Iain's considered view, though he has unfortunately failed to make this distinction in habitually referring to the issue as one of "Labour smears".

Sunder Katwala said...

Here are six statements. Opponents of Kaminski have stressed the (A) statements and supporters of Kaminsksi have stressed the (B) statements. However, it seems very clear that both the (A) and the (B) statements are true, as a matter of fact.

I would be surprised if any (serious) supporter of Kaminski would challenge statements (1), (2) or (5), or if any (serious) opponent of Kaminski would challenge statements (3), (4) or (6). (But perhaps some here would do so, or place other points as central).

1. Kaminski was in a far right group in his youth which the Chief Rabbi stated on Friday morning on Today "which is unfortunately openly anti-semitic and neo-nazi. He also quit that organisation as a teenager".(He was in this group either up to 1989, aged 17, or up to 1991, aged 20 according to competing chronologies) - (A)

2. Kaminski opposed (and opposes) an apology over the Jewadbne massacre, and does so using arguments and language which the Conservatives and Labour both criticise and find objectionable - (A)

3. Kaminski has stated his opposition to anti-semitism now and seeks to challenge anti-semitism, leading the Chief Rabbi to state carefully "I certainly see him as a man that today is against antisemitism"- (B)

4. Kaminski supports Israel's right to exist and is sympathetic to Israeli policy - (B)

5. Kaminski has given contradictory accounts of his own history during the last four months (particularly denying verified facts about occasions where alleged to have made a populist/opportunistic appeal to chauvinistic nationalism and/or anti-semitic sentiment, in 2001, though also in 1995) - (A)

6. Kaminski has operated as a mainstream democratic politician for several years and has been accepted as such while an MEP since 2004 - (B)

If those points were broadly agreed, I think the "smears" charge is an odd, as there would appear to be little dispute about the central points (though the detail of some points remains unclear or contested, as I outline in my post setting out the detail of where there appears common ground, and what is contested).

There are differences of opinion about Kaminski. Place weight on (6), as Iain does here, and he becomes *a legitimate choice* as a leader of a group; place weight on (5) on he looks rather *a weak choice* as a leader of a group.

I would propose this test.If Denis MacShane would not acknowledge the (B) points, I would agree he is being a Labour propagandist, as Iain Dale claims. If Iain Dale would not acknowledge the (A) points, then I think that would strengthen MacShane's challenge of "Tory propagandist" against Dale.

If they can both acknowledge both sets of points, then that is the foundation for an on-going (and legitimate) difference of opinion about what those facts mean in terms of attitudes to history, and to current politics, such as the quality of the new Tory group and its leader.

My own view is this:

"So that is the history of Michal Kaminski. I do not think much of the account above is contested as a matter of fact, as opposed to debating how much weight the different aspects of his complex and sometimes contradictory political history should have in judging a leader of a democratic right-of-centre alliance.

Kaminski is not a neo-fascist, but he has had several political associations he now wishes to avoid or play down; the evidence that this involved making at least opportunist use of anti-semitic arguments or links in the past is strong; I also find the evidence that he has substantially changed his views fairly convincing".

Does anyone violently disagree with those assessments? If so, why?

Houdini said...

It is irrelevant what the good Rabbi said, what Crawford says, or indeed what anyone says now.

The seed has been sown. Mandelson is an operator who has used the drip drip tactic many times to good effect. Christ there are people still talking about fallacies from Thatcher.

Sunder, you are prevaricating and disseminating desperately, and it is an undignified spectacle.

Anonymous said...

OFF SUBJECT: Bercow has shown how disgusting a speaker he is by attacking the BNP. They are still a legitimate political party, but he shows he is incapable of now showing bias. Yet more evidence of his unsuitability of having the position as speaker.


Anonymous said...

Is anyone suggesting that Miliband is a hypocrite?

Surely not.

Simon Rifkin said...

So far as I can see from this report, Blair was hosting these Poles as the government of Poland. Therefore he was acting in a purely diplomatic capacity with another European government. When you're in government you have to deal with all manner of undesirables. It's the nature of the business.

There's a very big difference between that and what the Conservatives have done, which is allign themselves politically with these anti-semites. That's a matter of choice.

To pretend otherwise, as yourself and Charles Crawford have done, displays either a wilful ignorance of political and diplomatic business or dishonesty or indeed both.

I'm afraid the Conservatives are digging some very deep holes for themselves on this issue and their increasingly desperate efforts to defend themselves are only further demonstration of their lack of political nous and experience.

Even the intervention of the Polish Chief Rabbi was hardly a ringing endorsement, heavily parsed and nuanced as it was.

I'm afraid Mr Cameron may be forced to do another u-turn, as he so recently did on the matter of all female shortlists.

Though better that, and admit his errors and political inexperience again, than proceed in political alliance with these anti-semites.

As somone who will be voting in a marginal constituency, I await further developments with a keen interest.

Anonymous said...

The Fabian Society member is doing Campbell, Mandy and the banana boy's dirty work. I am not surprised about this at all, as they will smear any one and tell anything to prove their points. Hattersely a member of this deluded society I guess, kept on banging about the merit of local comprehensive schools even if parents ( who should know better as the rotund Hattersely is had no experience of sending a child to any school) were arguing about their problems and how they were driven by leftist ideology. Well, Tuscan Tony and Harman sorted out this argument when they sent their children to selective grammars.

Guido has posted about Tuscan Tony's meeting with the person in question at no 10, but then the Fabians being selfservers never uttered a word against it.
This Fabian member is adapting Campbell's tactics of keeping the issue going, but the UK voters are more concerned about the problems that Bliar and Brown hoisted on them.

no longer anonymous said...

In fairness to Sunder he does attempt to put together a reasoned argument as opposed to the childish partisan baying of Sunny H.

Dimoto said...

Once again, it is transparent that this is a Labour ploy to try to corral the jewish and gay electorate, whom they evidently feel are tending towards the Conservatives.
It is NOT aimed at the general electorate.
And judging by Simon Rifkin's curious and unprincipled response, they are succeeding.

It doesn't add up... said...

I do wonder whether Miliband is partly motivated to smear a Pole because

a) he is visiting Moscow, where anti-Polish sentiment might in his judgement be popular

b) there has recently been much furore domestically about immigration, and Poles (all of whom have rights to be here by virtue of the EU) are convenient targets because they are white and predominantly Catholic who can be smeared by association without being "seen" to be racist

Dog whistle of the lowest kind

Neil A said...

Can anyone magic me up a quote of one of these "anti-semitic" statements that Kaminski is supposed to have made, historically?

Whenever a local fascist, like Griffin, is on the spot, there is a never-ending stream of exact quotes available to shoot him down with. I haven't seen anything in relation to Kaminski so far. Not saying there aren't any, I'd just like to see them.

Tapestry said...

Sunder. The longer a topic is discussed the need for long explanations should reduce, not increase.

Your comments just get longer and longer and longer.

I am not one to read long comments. Can you write your message in three short sentences?

If not, it's not much use to politics.

Anonymous said...

Given that Millaband’s forbear-His paternal grandfather Samuel was a pro communist, who when living in Poland was actively supporting the Bolshevik invasion of Poland only to end up on the losing side, and having to flea the country. It should be Millaband who should be the one apologizing