When concerns of Islamophobia within his party were raised prior to December’s General Election, alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was unequivocal in his response: “if anybody is done for Islamophobia or any other prejudice or discrimination in the Conservative Party they are out first bounce”. Sadly for Bozo The Clown, he appears to have failed the first test of that régime, and very publicly too.
Not bouncing at all, or being caused to bounce, is Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski, who appears unrepentant after attending a conference in Rome last Tuesday. As the Guardian pointed out, “Other speakers included Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, Italian leaders closely associated with Benito Mussolini’s fascism, and a member of the Le Pen family”. Not a good look for a supposedly mainstream Tory.
And there was more. “The Shrewsbury MP had argued that Orbán and fellow speaker Matteo Salvini ‘represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK’”. Kawczynski was given a platform by the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, where he “criticised the Guardian after breaking the story about his involvement in the conference”. But the blowback was only just getting going.
Tory MP Andrew Percy, co-chair of the APPG on anti-Semitism, was not happy. “I wrote to Daniel last week asking him not to attend given the presence of the far right … I shall be raising this with the party”. Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, added “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”.
Margaret Hodge, realising that anti-Semitism might just emanate from the same point on the political spectrum as it has done for centuries past, chipped in “No member of parliament should be attending a conference packed full of racists, homophobes and Islamophobes”. Worse, Kawczynski claimed that he met Tory whips before deciding whether to attend. He attended, which suggests the whips did not object too strongly.
David Lammy was singularly unimpressed. “21 Tory MPs lost the whip for trying to block a no-deal Brexit. Daniel Kawczynski still has the whip despite speaking at a far-right conference with Islamophobes and anti-Semites. At least we now know what the [Conservatives] under Boris Johnson care more about”. And it got worse.
Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy added “I’m no fan of the Tories but most of them aren’t like [Daniel Kawczynski]. He is a disgrace and his behaviour is appalling. Right-minded Conservatives should be ashamed to sit on the same benches as him. I’ve signed the petition in solidarity with [The Jewish Labour Movement]”. The JLM, like Margaret Hodge, had woken up to the threat of anti-Semitism from the right.
Kawczynski went to rub shoulders with Viktor Orbán, who dabbles in anti-Semitic rhetoric and peddles the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, a Polish MEP who described homophobia as a “totally fictitious problem”, and Marion Maréchal, who has described France as becoming “the little niece of Islam”. Yet the Tories have taken no action.
Even John Mann has woken up and taken notice. So the Tory Party has no excuse - it’s not if they remove the whip from Daniel Kawczynski, but when. We’re waiting.
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