Email exposure: Kaminski and anti-Semitism

Time to set the record straight

Just when you think the uproar over the Conservative Party's relationship with Michal Kaminski has fizzled out, it is set alight again by claims from the Tory-supporting right.

Into my inbox today came a press release from Total Politics, the outfit funded by the controversial Tory fundraiser Michael Ashcroft, advertising an interview by the Tory candidate Iain Dale with Michal Kaminski, chair of the new Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, which includes the 24 Tory MEPs.

Referring to a story I wrote, which I see is reproduced here by the European Jewish Congress, which provided some of the quotes, the release says Kaminski "accuses the New Statesman of shoddy journalism over its recent story attributing comments to Rabbi Schudrich [Chief Rabbi of Poland], which he says he never made",

In the interview itself, Kaminski says that the chief rabbi "has nothing against me and does not regard me as an anti-Semite".

So, did I make up the quotation? It is time to reproduce the email in full:

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From: Michael Schudrich [mailto:xxxx]
Sent: 27 July 2009 18:21
To: James Macintyre
Subject: Re: Quote request

 

Dear James,

 

I do not comment on political decisions. However, it is clear that Mr Kaminski was a member of NOP, a group that is openly far right and neo-nazi. Anyone who would want to align himself with a person who was an active member of NOP and the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne (which was established to deny historical facts of the massacre at Jedwabne) needs to understand with what and by whom he is being represented.

 

Michael Schudrich

 

While we're at it, here is the email from Rabbi Marcus, one of London's most influential rabbis:

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Rabbi Marcus [xxxx]
Sent: 28 July 2009 15:43
To: James Macintyre
Subject: RE: Quote request

 

Dear James,

I would be happy to say the following-

Any politician of any political party should have the moral courage to clearly distance themselves from those who espouse and promote anti Semitism, racism or any attitude that fosters intolerance.

Regards,

Rabbi Marcus.

Here, finally, is the quotation from the European Jewish Congress:

We remain extremely vigilant. We have communicated [our concerns about] this to the president of the EPP [Wilfried Martens] and the new elected parliament president [Jerzy Buzek, the former Polish prime minister].

We know [politicians such as Kaminski] to make racist comments even in parliamentary gatherings. We are alarmed at the fact that they are given a venue to be outspoken. I would call on the British Jewish community to contact David Cameron over this.

It should be noted meanwhile that, in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle today, Kaminski "stands by" his attack on Poland's apology over the 1941 Jewish massacre at Jedwabne.

Now, I know the Conservative Party's press officers have been doing all they can to persuade Jewish leaders to retract their statements. I know at least one Tory press officer has been attempting dishonestly to smear me personally as a result of this story: a seperate tale for another time. And I know Daniel Hannan, the Tory MEP, has been pretending the Jewish statements only come from "Labour". But, given these emails above, can we now just accept that the quotes speak for themselves?

 

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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The problem with grammar schools – and the answer to Labour's troubles

This week's news, from Erdogan the despot, to memories of Disraeli, and coffee and class.

Whom should we be cheering in Turkey? Coups are by their nature ­anti-democratic, whatever the rhetoric of their instigators, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist president, is about as much of a democrat as Vladimir Putin. Once he regained power, he dismissed several thousand judges, putting some under arrest. A large number of journalists were already in prison.

As recently as 1990, nearly half of Turkey’s employed population worked on the land and, even now, the proportion is more than a quarter. Erdogan has ruthlessly exploited the pious, socially conservative instincts of his people, who are rarely more than a generation away from the peasantry (and therefore politically “backward” in the Marxian sense), to win elections and push through economic liberalisation and privatisation. His foreign affairs ministry claims that the aim is to confine the state’s role to health, basic education, social security and defence. That is good enough for most Western governments. Provided he also co-operates in limiting the flow of Middle Eastern migrants into Europe, Erdogan can be as Islamist and authoritarian as he likes.

 

Quick fix for Labour

I have an answer to Labour’s problems. Its MPs should elect their own leader while Jeremy Corbyn continues as party leader. The former, recognised by the Speaker as the leader of the parliamentary opposition, would get the usual state aid for opposition parties. Corbyn would control Labour Party funds and assets.

He and his hardcore supporters should welcome this arrangement. Their aim, they say, is to build a new social movement. Relinquishing the burden of parliamentary leadership would leave them free to get on with this project, whatever it means. Corbyn could go back to what he enjoys most: voting against the Labour front bench. He would no longer have to dress up, bow to the Queen or sing the national anthem. This, I grant you, would not be a satisfactory solution for the long term. But the long term is more or less extinct in British politics. If Labour had peace for a few months, it might be enough. The situation would be resolved either by Corbyn falling under a bus (preferably not one driven by a Labour MP) or the Tory government collapsing in the face of a mass people’s uprising demanding Corbyn’s installation as supreme ruler. Don’t tell me that neither is likely to happen.

 

Divide and rule

The choice of Birmingham as the location to launch Theresa May’s leadership campaign, combined with proposals such as worker representation on company boards, has drawn comparisons between the new Prime Minister and Joseph Chamberlain.

Chamberlain, who as mayor of Birmingham in the mid-1870s tore down slums, brought gas and water supplies under public control and opened libraries, swimming pools and schools, was a screw manufacturer. There was an Edwardian joke – or, if there wasn’t, there ought to have been – that he screwed both major parties. He became a Liberal cabinet minister who split the party over Irish home rule, putting it out of power for most of the next 20 years. He and his followers then allied themselves with the Tories, known at the time as the Unionists. He duly split the Unionists over tariff reform, excluding them from office for a decade after the Liberals won the 1906 election.

Chamberlain was a populist who brilliantly combined patriotic imperialism with domestic radicalism, proposing smallholdings of “three acres and a cow” for every worker. One can see the appeal to some Brexiteers but he was also divisive and volatile, making him an odd role model for a supposedly unifying leader.

 

Mind your grammar

Justine Greening, the new Education Secretary, is the first to be wholly educated at a mainstream state secondary comprehensive. Pro-comprehensive groups were almost lyrical in praise of her appointment. Yet, unlike her predecessor-but-one, Michael Gove, she declines to rule out the ­return of grammar schools.

To understand how iniquitous grammar schools were, you need to have attended one, as I did. Primary-school friendships were ruptured, usually along lines of social class. The grammars were rigidly stratified. I was in the A stream and do not recall any classmates from semi-skilled or unskilled working-class homes. They were in the C stream and left school as early as possible with a few O-levels. No minister who wants a “one-nation Britain” should contemplate bringing back grammar schools.

 

Living history

Simon Heffer’s recent account in the NS of how his father fought in the Battle of the Somme led one letter writer to ask if anyone alive today could have a grandparent born in the 18th century. Another NS reader replied with an example: John Tyler, a US president of the 1840s, born in Virginia in 1790, had two grandsons who are still alive. Here is another possibility. “As Disraeli said to my husband . . .” If you hear a 94-year-old say that, don’t dismiss her as demented. Disraeli died in 1881. A 71-year-old who married a 24-year-old in 1946 (not impossible; the actors Cary Grant and Anthony Quinn both married women 47 years younger) could have spoken to Disraeli as a boy.

The past is not as far away as we think, though many politicians and journalists behave as though anything before 1980 happened on another planet.

 

Milk money

The class system is alive and well in parts of England. On a family weekend walk, we came across a small village with two adjacent pubs – one clearly for the toffs, the other more plebeian. This was most evident when ordering coffee. The downmarket pub told us that it served only UHT milk with its hot drinks. The other was ostentatiously horrified at the suggestion that it might serve any such thing. 

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt