A Tory Brexiteer MP has been criticised for sharing a platform with the far-right in Italy at a conference which featured anti-Semites, Islamophobes and homophobes.
Daniel Kawczynski has been criticised by anti-hate campaigners, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Labour Party for attending the National Conservatism conference in Rome alongside Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban and the niece of French far-right leader Marie Le Pen.
Others speaking included Hermann Tertsch, an MEP for the Spanish anti-immigrant Vox party, who has argued that General Franco was not a fascist and treated Catalans well, along with Ryszard Legutko – a Polish MEP – who has described homophobia as a “totally fictitious problem”.
Defending his decision to attend the conference he told the Mirror that his attendance was to offer “an analysis of Brexit”.
“People who make statements like that should attend the conference and see for themselves, quite frankly
“We were talking about the sovereignty of nations and how we can regain control of sovereignty from the European Union.”
He told the Shropshire Star it was to “share an Anglo-Polish perspective on Brexit and what it signifies for the future of Europe”.
He added: “Clearly, Messrs. Orban and Salvini are not to everyone’s tastes. But they represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK.”
When asked why he appeared alongside a far-right political leader, the Brexiteer replied: “He’s a democratically elected Prime Minister of Hungary. I’ve got no comment on that.”
Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge and the Jewish Labour Movement wrote to Tory chief whip Mark Spencer calling for the party to withdraw the whip from Kawczynski.
In a letter alongside Labour MP Alex Sobel, she said Kawczynski was “sharing a platform with a number of far-right European politicians who have made deeply offensive and dangerous comments”.
“The Conservative Party now has a choice. It can demonstrate that there are lines that should not be crossed by Conservative MPs,” they wrote.
Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s shadow communities secretary, said: “It’s disgraceful that just one week after Holocaust Memorial Day Daniel Kawczynski has shared a platform with anti-Semites, Islamophobes and homophobes.
“He should be immediately suspended from the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson must answer questions about whether or not he was given permission by the Tories to attend.”
Anti-racism campaigner and Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “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.”
Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl said: “We condemn the decision by Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski to speak at a conference alongside some of Europe’s most notorious far-right politicians.
“Mr Kawczynski’s defence, that ‘it is only common sense to talk with parties and politicians that are either leading their respective countries, or will perhaps take power in the next few years’, is a specious one, for the simple reason that the MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham is not any sort of Government representative.
“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.”