Anti-gay, climate change deniers: meet David Cameron’s new friends
The Guardian. Wednesday 3 June 2009
Ian Traynor in Warsaw
Global warming is a lie, homosexuality is a “pathology” and Europe is becoming a “neo-totalitarian” regime, according to one of David Cameron‘s new European allies.
Tory headquarters may never have heard of Urszula Krupa, a militant Roman Catholic and strong Polish nationalist, but at the weekend in Warsaw, Cameron sealed his new alliance in Europe with Krupa’s rightwing party in Poland, the opposition Law and Justice party (PiS) run by twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczy´nski.
Cameron went to the city’s Palladium cinema to stand alongside Jaroslaw Kaczy´nski, the PiS leader, and Mirek Topolánek, leader of the Civic Democratic party (ODS) in the Czech Republic, to celebrate the foundation of a new league of Eurosceptics to be established in the European parliament after elections for the assembly this weekend.
The Tory leader waxed lyrical about the Battle of Britain and how Czech and Polish pilots did their bit in the blitz with the RAF.
“Together we fought for freedom,” Cameron said.
“We are the modern conservatives,” added Kaczy´nski.
Paranoia towards the outside world, ingrained prejudice and discrimination towards homosexuals, fundamentalist Roman Catholicism, climate change denial and hostility towards Germany are some of the views espoused by the Kaczy´nskis’ party, which is out of sync with a dynamic, modernising Poland where 80% of people like the EU.
Krupa and several of her likeminded colleagues wrote an open letter to Polish voters ahead of this week’s election.
“We protest against the rising wave of anti-Polishness and the falsifying of history in Europe,” they wrote. Homosexuality was a “pathology” undermining the sanctity of the family. Christianity was the root of European greatness. “We will not tolerate the Germanisation of western and northern Polish territories under the mask of Europeanisation.”
Krupa worked for eight years at influential Catholic radio station Radio Maryja, whose main political pundit, Jerzy Robert Nowak, was a co-signatory of the letter.
“Nowak goes to church meetings all over Poland, 30 to 40 a year, openly singing his antisemitic melody,” said Tomasz Królak, deputy head of the Catholic Information Agency in Warsaw.
The station is run by Tadeusz Rydzyk, a controversial clergyman who is viscerally anti-German, anti-Russian and anti-EU, peddling a daily diet of bigotry and paranoia which resonates powerfully with mainly elderly rural voters. He also has a TV station, a daily newspaper, and a well-funded media training college. Rydzyk’s role in Poland might be compared with the likes of Rush Limbaugh in the US.
“Father Rydzyk is very successful because he has very simple answers to very difficult questions,” said Królak.
Jaroslaw Kaczy´nski is a regular on Rydzyk’s station. In February the two men are said to have cut a deal, with Rydzyk tacitly supporting PiS in the election in return for several Radio Maryja candidates, including Krupa, being given European parliament seats.
“If you think that David Cameron has an alliance with PiS, you could really say that Cameron has an alliance with Father Rydzyk,” said Olgierd Annusewicz, a Warsaw University political scientist. “Rydzyk is a guy who is against Jews, against homosexuals, against all liberal thinking, against privatisation.”
That view is contested by Michal Kami´nski, the leading PiS candidate in Warsaw who is a former spin doctor and campaign manager for Lech Kaczy´nski, the Polish president.
“Sure, Radio Maryja has candidates that it favours in our party, but we’re a mixture of different groups. I won’t have any dealings with the extreme right.”
He, too, though, is happy to bash the Germans, playing on Polish fears of alleged Berlin plots to reconquer lands ceded to Poland at the end of the second world war.
“The Germans think that anywhere they had German tanks is their homeland. And they want to return,” Kami´nski told a small election meeting of mainly elderly voters in a Warsaw suburb. “It’s a scandal.”
He organised the weekend “convention” with Cameron and Topolánek and is confident that the new caucus of “European conservatives” in the parliament in Strasbourg and Brussels will be squeaky-clean. “Especially our British friends are being very careful about checking up on our allies.”
Apart from the Poles and the Czechs, Cameron needs a further four partners to qualify for official fraction status in the parliament since the rules state that a caucus needs at least 25 MEPs from at least seven of the 27 EU member states.
It appears that the deal is in the bag, although it depends on the results of the election.
“We have our Belgian friends, the Bulgarians, the Latvians and the Lithuanians,” said Kami´nski.
The Tories have been sizing up potential partners since Cameron became party leader in 2005. The expansion of the EU to the former communist east has been the key to Cameron’s and William Hague’s project, with five of the seven named allies from countries that have joined the EU since 2004.
Cameron is ditching two decades of Conservative co-operation with the mainstream centre-right Christian democrats in the parliament, the European People’s party (EPP) – to the fury of centre-right grandees in Europe – on the grounds that it is dominated by European federalists and supporters of the Lisbon treaty which the Tories oppose.
“Cameron’s campaign has been to take his party back to the centre in every policy area with one major exception: Europe,” said EPP leader Wilfried Martens, a former Belgian prime minister. “I can’t understand his tactics. [Angela] Merkel and [Nicolas] Sarkozy will never accept his Euroscepticism.”
In almost four years as Conservative leader, Cameron has never attended a summit of national leaders of the EPP, the biggest grouping in the parliament, which routinely brings together around half the heads of government in the EU.
If the EPP can claim to be an alliance of winners, Cameron’s new caucus looks like a coalition of losers. In Poland, the Kaczy´nskis’ party will lose the election this weekend, taking perhaps 15 of 50 seats. In government from 2005-2007, the Kaczy´nskis’ PiS formed a coalition with extremists and ultra-nationalists, conducted witchhunts of opponents, pursued deeply illiberal policies and was turfed out of office as a national embarrassment.
Its successor, the Civic Platform government of Donald Tusk, looks like a natural ally for the Conservatives – liberal, centre-right, free market. Its foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, was a drinking buddy of Cameron’s at Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club.
In the Czech Republic, Topolánek has just been toppled as prime minister and his ODS will also probably lose the election. The party’s founder and Topolánek’s enemy, President Václav Klaus, is Europe’s leading climate change denier and views the European Union as synonymous with the Soviet Union. Brussels is the new Moscow.
Topolánek spent his last days in office pushing the Lisbon treaty through the Czech upper house, arguing Prague had to support it. But in Warsaw at the weekend, he declared the treaty dead.
The other four parties slated to join the Tories’ new Eurosceptic caucus are tiny and may or may not be in a position to redeem their pledge. In Bulgaria the new Order, Law and Justice party is mustering just over 2% in the national polls. In Latvia, two prospective allies, the Civic Union and the hardline nationalists of the For Fatherland and Freedom party – some of whom celebrate Latvian collaboration with the Waffen-SS against the Russians – are tipped to lose three of their four seats. In Belgium, the partner is the List Dedecker, a small outfit of libertarian Flemish separatists which might get two seats and 7% of the vote in the Flanders half of the country.
Kami´nski could not recall the name of the Lithuanian partner.
For Cameron, Poland is the indispensable ally, given its size, its political weight, and its number of seats. But the Kaczy´nskis are notoriously prickly. The PiS party could turn out to be a fair‑weather friend only.
The new caucus in Brussels and Strasbourg, said Kami´nski, will not be whipped.
“We will try to reach common positions, but we won’t be obliged to follow the other delegations. There will be no fraction discipline.”Author : eurorealist