Michal Kamiński tells ConservativeHome that the smears against him come from a "desperate" Labour Party and those seeking to "smash" the new group he leads as it challenges the European establishment
What a difference a decade makes: the last time that Michal Kamiński attended a Conservative Party conference was in Bournemouth in 2000 when he was the youngest member of the Polish Parliament. Nine years later, he was in Manchester this week as leader of the newly-formed European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, of which the British delegation of Conservative MEPs forms the largest national group. Yet he has also found himself at the centre of numerous allegations and smears emanating from Left-wing and Europhile politicians and commentators - from David Miliband downwards - claiming that he is variously an anti-Semite, a Neo-Nazi and a homophobe.
When I met him in the conference hotel, he expressed his delight at and gratitude towards the vast number of Conservatives have sprung to his defence and suggested that if the British Foreign Secretary is using his conference speech to attack MEPs allied to the Conservative Party, "it shows that he is absolutely desperate and that the Labour Party is absolutely desperate". He has previously rebutted suggestions that he is an anti-Semite in an article on ConservativeHome and of the claim that he is a Neo-Nazi, he told me:
"Both my grandfathers fought in the Second World War, the Nazis killed members of my family, my country was destroyed by Nazis, so calling me a Neo-Nazi is really offensive... it suggests how unaware of the history of our continent some people in the Labour Party are and how insensitive they are, especially when taking into account that the guy who was speaking about me is a top British politician... If I were as bad as Mr Miliband described me, why has the British Embassy been inviting me for years to events organised at the Embassy in Warsaw? I don't think that British embassies across the world invite Neo-Nazi politicians to their events."
And as to the charge that he is a homophobe, he retorts:
"We are just opposing gay marriage, that's all, as are many people in Europe, including parties in the EPP. I have nothing against homosexual people. It is deep in my beliefs that in a free society, you can perform your sexual life as you like it; it's up to a citizen to decide whether he is gay or straight or whatever he wants and I don't think there is a place for the state to interfere in the sexual lives of citizens. I'm not homophobic, we have to respect every minority community in our societies, including obviously the gay community."
He then makes the point that the accusations now being thrown around about him are only being made because of the threat which the new group he leads is posing to the political establishment in Europe.
"My party was in the EPP, I was in the EPP and no-one was [then] raising any questions about me. I was the leader of my party in the EPP group, but at that time I was not [accused of being] a Neo-Nazi... All of these accusations including homophobia and all of the other stuff are not made because someone is really concerned there is something dangerous about Kamiński and his party; they just want to smash this new initiative and its chairman - that's the basic point... We just made a first step and some people on the Left are just angry that already we have made a tectonic change in the European Parliament."
The 37-year-old politician does, however, acknowledge that parties from across the whole continent sitting in groups together are not going to share exactly the same worldview - and he wouldn't have it any other way:
"Obviously there are differences, which are based on the cultural differences we have in Europe. One of the things our group is about is that we believe in differences in Europe: we don't believe in one pan-European society with the same customs from Ireland to Bulgaria. We have different religions, different histories, different backgrounds... we believe in differences. In Poland we are more socially conservative, I would say, than Britain, but you have many models in Europe. You have a more conservative society in Italy, Greece, and Poland for example, and you have a liberal society in Holland. Our attitude is that we if European societies are making a choice to be more progressive in a cultural sense, we have to respect it; but when the society is conservative, we have also to respect that."
He is very optimistic for the future of the new group in Brussels - which he describes as "a very refreshing movement" - and says that he and colleagues remain in discussion with various potential allies across Europe with a view to enlarging the group over time. He summarises its aims as:
- seeking to accept culture differences across Europe and resist the unification of countries into "one European society and state";
- proposing a "more democratic, more flexible, more business-friendly union";
- promoting transatlantic co-operation;
- promoting the new democracies in central and Eastern Europe.
In conclusion, Mr Kamiński repeated his oft-paid tribute to Britain [and the United States] as "a shining example of democracy" and "a leading force against an empire of evil" in the 1980s when he and millions of others were living beyond the Iron Curtain. And he is looking forward again to seeing British Conservatives playing a key role in fighting for the kind of Europe that we want to see:
"As it was 25 years ago when the Tory Party was leading western civilisation against the challenges we faced at that time... now it's another phase of the Conservative revolution, I hope."