The Conservative Party is under pressure to remove the whip from one of its MPs after he spoke at a conference alongside notorious far-right politicians who have been previously accused of islamophobia, antisemitism, racism and homophobia.
Daniel Kawczynski was condemned by both the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain after appearing alongside the likes of far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Italy’s Matteo Salvini at a National Conservatism conference in Rome.
Others included former French Front National politician Marion Marechal who described her country as “the little niece of Islam” and Polish Law and Justice MEP Ryszard Legutko, who reportedly said homophobia was a “totally fictitious problem”.
Mr Kawczynski defended his decision to appear at the event saying its speakers “represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK” – adding that it was important to talk to politicians from across the world.
However the president of the Board of deputies said such a claim was “specious”.
Board 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.”
Meanwhile Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Miqdaad Versi said the Tory MP should have been admonished by the party whip.
“It is unacceptable that anyone holding the position of MP speaks at a nationalist conference alongside Islamophobes and antisemites”, he said. “It is even more disturbing that the Conservative chief whip appears to have known that Daniel Kawczynski MP was going to speak at a nationalist conference alongside far-right, racist politicians, and yet chose to take no action.”
In an explanation to his constituents published in the Shropshire Star ahead of his trip Mr Kawcynski, a Polish-born Brexiteer, said he would defy those who had “deplored” him by speaking at the conference regardless.
“Clearly, Messrs Orban and Salvini are not to everyone’s tastes,” he wrote.
“But they represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by many citizens of the UK.
“They have certainly proved electorally attractive in their own countries and have every right to speak at a conference on the subject of national sovereignty, the very thing they have pledged to defend and which accounts for their popularity with voters.”
“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, added: “It’s disgraceful that just one week after Holocaust Memorial Day Daniel Kawczynski has shared a platform with antisemites, 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.”
Additional reporting by PA.