On Thursday, 29 October 2009on BBC Radio 4’s Today program James Naughtie interviewed the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the Conservative shadow Foreign secretary William Hague. Mr. Miliband accused the Conservatives of allying themselves with a far right party in Poland and based this on comments in the New Statesmen magazine by Polish MEP, Michal Kaminski from the Law and Justice party.
Mr. Miliband quoted The New Statesman and Mr. Hague quoted Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich and cited the Israeli government as two sources who supported Mr Kaminski.
Mr. Milband would not back off and pushed home his accusation that the Tories were fraternising with Nazis.
The following day on the Today program James Naughtie interviewed Poland’s Chief Rabbi where he admitted that Mr. Kaminski had been a member of a far right party in his youth but had more recently rejected that path and was now “a strong friend of Israel”.
He went on to say that the “no one here in Poland would consider the Law and Justice party as a fringe far right party”
Mr. Naughtie asked whether the question over an apology for the massacre of hundreds or thousands of Jews was, for Poland, akin to the questions over whether Britain should apologise for the colonial era or the crusades and Mr. Schudrich agreed that this was the case although he obviously had reservations regarding “the way it was expressed”
Mr. Schudrich suggested that this attack on Mr. Kaminski played to the stereotype that all poles are anti-semitic which he claimed was false.
On Thursday the new Statesman had placed an article on it’s web site defending it’s report and suggested that Mr. Schudrich has been under pressure from the Polish authorities.
So what are we to make of this? Is Michal Kaminski a member of a far right party or did Rabbi Schudrich, shoot off an angry email and then regret it afterwords?
We should remember the context of this debate. The Labour government is trying desperately to defend itself from accusations that it’s reputation on the economy is in tatters and simultaneously Labour is finding it hard to score hits against the Tories.
We should remember that New Labour came to power on a wave of media manipulation and spin. Over ten years later, it is obvious that this is all they ever had. Their ideas and judgement has been proved worthless (No More Boom and Bust!).
When Gordon brown called upon his arch-enemy from the Blair years, the twice disgraced Peter Mandelson to rejoin the government he was signalling that he needed Mandy’s manipulation skills back in the government for, without that, they had nothing.
I suggest that this palaver over this Polish MP is more of Mandelson’s spin. With Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time fresh in the public consciousness Mr. Mandelson decided to play the race card. He thought that he could smear the Tories. Remember that this is Mandelson’s profession. He was not brought in to government for his knowledge of business or economics; the only career he knows is the media. A basic rule of journalism is “simplify and emphasise” and this is what he has done in relation to this Polish politician.
The politics of all countries are complex and a country such as Poland, newly emerged from occupation and which sees itself as conquered by the Germans and betrayed by the British and the Russians must be tortuous. To pick up on a one paragraph email to a pro-Labour magazine and use this for a public accusation of fraternising with Nazis shows to what levels new Labour will sink as they thrash around to stay afloat.