Tories under growing pressure to suspend MP who attended conference with 'racist' far-right speakers

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·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
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A file image of Daniel Kawczynski (WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Daniel Kawczynski (Getty Images)

The Conservative Party has come under growing pressure to remove the whip from MP Daniel Kawczynski after he spoke at a conference alongside far-right European politicians.

The Jewish Labour Movement, Board of Deputies of British Jews and Muslim Council of Britain are among the groups who called for the party to take action against Mr Kawczynski.

The MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham spoke at the National Conservatism conference in Rome, which took place on Monday and Tuesday.

Among the speakers were Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s far-right prime minister who has been accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Britain's Conservative party MP Daniel Kawczynski speaks during a Prime Minister's Questions session in Parliament in London, Britain January 29, 2020. ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Daniel Kawczynski in the Commons last week (Reuters)

Mr Kawczynski has defended his attendance, dismissing “hysterical” criticism. Yahoo News UK has approached the Conservative Party for comment.

The Jewish Labour Movement on Tuesday wrote to Mark Spencer, the Tory chief whip, urging him to remove the whip from Mr Kawczynski.

Signed by chair Mike Katz, as well as MPs Margaret Hodge and Alex Sobel, it read: “He is sharing a platform with a number of far-right European politicians who have made deeply offensive and dangerous comments and engaged in a sort of politics that should have no place in a tolerant and democratic society.”

It goes on: “The Conservative Party now has a choice. It can demonstrate that there are lines that should not be crossed by Conservative MPs.

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“This is an opportunity for the Conservative Party to follow through and demonstrate that it does not tolerate its elected representatives sharing platforms with figures who represent far-right parties and pose a threat to minority groups.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews also called for action. President Marie van der Zyl said: “We condemn the decision by Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski to speak at a conference alongside some of Europe’s most notorious far-right politicians.

“Mr Kawczynski’s defence, that ‘it is only common sense to talk with parties and politicians that are either leading their respective countries, or will perhaps take power in the next few years’, is a specious one, for the simple reason that the MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham is not any sort of government representative.

“If the Conservative Party fails to discipline Mr Kawczynski, it runs the serious risk of the public assuming that they share his views on association with such people.”

Muslim Council of Britain spokesperson Miqdaad Versi said: “It is unacceptable that anyone holding the position of MP speaks at a nationalist conference alongside Islamophobes and anti-Semites.

“It is even more disturbing that the Conservative chief whip appears to have known that Daniel Kawcyznski MP was going to speak at a nationalist conference alongside far-right, racist politicians, and yet chose to take no action.

"This demonstrates an active tolerance for those supporting the far-right in the party, and highlights how the 'zero tolerance' approach to racism can only be seen as electioneering."

Other speakers at the conference included Ryszard Legutko, the Polish Law and Justice MEP who described homophobia as “fictitious”, and Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party who has promoted anti-Semitic figures.

In an open letter published in his local paper, the Shropshire Star, Mr Kawczynski said: “Add in the names of the political leaders due to attend the conference, such as Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and former Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, and organs like The Guardian turn apoplectic.

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“Clearly, messrs Orban and Salvini are not to everyone’s tastes. But they represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK.

“They have certainly proved electorally attractive in their own countries and have every right to speak at a conference on the subject national sovereignty, the very thing they have pledged to defend and which accounts for their popularity with voters.

“If it were to take a more inquisitive approach rather than trolling it, even The Guardian might discover why the vast majority of Europeans feel stronger loyalties to their countries than the abstract idea of a federal European super-state.”

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