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William Hague accuses David Miliband of insulting the Latvian Government

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David Miliband's speech to the Labour conference this morning in a graveyard slot has been met with anger by his Tory shdaow, William Hague.

The Foreign Secretary - whose speech is reproduced in its entirety here - said that Conservative MEPs in Brussels were sitting "with a collection of outcasts" and went on:

"Last week on the BBC, and you should go through the transcript, Eric Pickles, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, explained without a hint of shame that we should not condemn one of their new allies, the 'For Fatherland and Freedom' party, who every year celebrate the Latvian Waffen SS with a march past of SS veterans, because they were only following orders."

Mr Hague has responded thus:

“David Miliband’s smears are disgraceful and represent a failure of his duty to promote Britain’s interests as Foreign Secretary. He has failed to check his facts. He has just insulted the Latvian Government, most of whose member parties have attended the commemoration of Latvia’s war dead. Just because Latvia is a small country does not give the Foreign Secretary the right to put cheap party spin before the national interest. It is also indecent to allege that Eric Pickles, who has an admirable record campaigning against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, was defending the Waffen SS. Mr Miliband should withdraw that suggestion.”

The Latvian Govenment's website includes here an explanation of how the smears being repeated by Miliband et al originate from Soviet propaganda. The Conservatives are contending the Foreign Secretary is inslulting the Latvian Government since most Lativan partes, including that of the country's Prime Minister, attend the annual commemoration.

Miliband went on to claim that the Chief Rabbi of Poland had described the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists, Michal Kamiński, as having "an anti semitic, neo Nazi past". This too has been swiftly attacked by Mr Hague: 

“His accusation of anti-Semitism against Michal Kaminski is shameful and is based on remarks which the Chief Rabbi of Poland has said were misrepresented. This kind of shoddy politics should be beneath a Foreign Secretary."

Mr Kamiński has previously comprehensively rebutted the accusation of anti-Semitism here on ConservativeHome.

> 4pm update: Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, has described David Miliband's smear as "contemptible". Click here to read his reaction.

> 6.30pm update: Stuart Polak, Director of Conservative Friends of Israel, has issued the following statement:

“David Miliband’s comments about the Conservative Party and their European allies are frankly preposterous. His suggestion that the membership of the European Conservatives and Reformists are anti-Semitic and Nazi sympathisers is unfounded and outrageous. This offends me, both as a Conservative and as an active member of the Jewish community. It is shocking that Mr Miliband is using anti-Semitism to play political games and this does nothing for his credibility as Foreign Secretary – in his words it is he who is a ‘national embarrassment’. I would like to see Mr Miliband check his facts and then retract his comments at the earliest opportunity.”

Jonathan Isaby

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