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Tories under pressure over MP who spoke at event with far-right figures

Daniel Kawczynski said Orbán and Salvini represented ‘serious ideas and concerns’

Tories under pressure over MP who spoke at event with far-right figures
Daniel Kawczynski appeared at the National Conservatism conference in Rome. Photograph: Chris McAndrew/Wikimedia

The Conservatives are under pressure to discipline the MP Daniel Kawczynski for speaking at a conference alongside some of Europe’s most notorious far-right politicians.

The Tory co-chair of the all-party group on antisemitism, Andrew Percy, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews have asked the party to investigate his appearance on Tuesday at the conference in Rome.

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.

Tory MP criticised over plan to speak at event with far-right figures

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”.

In a blog on the Spectator website, Kawczynski criticised the Guardian after breaking the story about his involvement in the conference.

He wrote: “The paper has suggested a Tory MP should not speak at an event ‘with far-right’ figures on the subject of nationalism. But they are wrong … Clearly, offence archeologists have done a thorough job in finding historic remarks from some of the participants that jar with the liberal world view.”

Percy, the Tory MP for Brigg and Goole, said Kawczynski’s involvement was wholly inappropriate. “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,” he told Matthew Harris, a Newsnight producer.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews called on the Conservatives to discipline the backbencher. Marie van der Zyl, president of the board, said: “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.”

Orbán has been Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, and in 2018 he won a third consecutive term. He has been accused of promoting conspiracy theories, usually with antisemitic undertones, about the influence of billionaire philanthropist George Soros in Hungary and across Europe. He has also tapped into another far-right conspiracy theory, that of the “great replacement”.

Another fellow speaker, Ryszard Legutko, is a Polish Law and Justice MEP who has described homophobia as a “totally fictitious problem”.

Also on the line-up was Marion Maréchal, the niece of far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Marechal has described France as becoming “the little niece of Islam”.

In a statement issued by the Jewish Labour Movement, its parliamentary chair Dame Margaret Hodge said he should have the whip removed for attending the conference. “No member of parliament should be attending a conference packed full of racists, homophobes and Islamophobes,” she said.

In Rome on Tuesday, Orbán closed the National Conservatism Conference with a debate championing national sovereignty, while Maréchal, of France’s National Rally, said a “coalition of governments could bring about a new equilibrium” in the EU.

Maréchal said that those governments could include a “Latin alliance” of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, together with the Visegrád group – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League, did not attend the event, after suffering an embarrassing defeat in regional elections. Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party is supported by members of Mussolini’s family, gave a speech on Monday in which she defended “national identity”.

The Conservative party has been approached for comment.

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