By Stephen Pollard
October 6, 2009
Oliver seems to have taken no account of the real world in his arguments. Citing as evidence of Michal Kaminski's unfitness to be linked with a mainstream party such as the Conservative Party, he writes of Kaminski's trip to the UK in 1999 to pay tribute to General Pinochet:
Kamiński and his associates bore Pinochet a gift: a silver-framed religious painting. And Kamiński told the Sunday Telegraph
(10 January 1999): "For my generation of Poles, Gen Pinochet is a hero. We see him as a man who saved his country from communism - a system
which plagued our country for so many decades."
This was not some youthful indiscretion. Kamiński was 26,
and a member of the ruling Electoral Action Solidarity coalition. There
is much, much else
to be said about the man, his type of nationalism and his views, and I
haven't touched any of that story. For one thing you can say for
certain, killing the discussion immediately, is that Kamiński is no
more a living representation of liberty than my cat.
Oliver, Oliver: the words which you quote from Kaminski are precisely the point:
For my generation of Poles, Gen Pinochet is a hero. We see him as a man who saved his country from communism - a system which plagued our country for so many decades.
Those of us who never had endure communism simply cannot compare our view of Pinochet with that of those who saw from afar a man who "saved his country" from the communism under which they had to live.
That is not to condone Pinochet; it is to understand the mindset of those who were, and are now, above all anti-communist. To them, he was and remains a hero, distasteful as that may be to us. And, let's not forget, there are plenty of mainstream UK politicians who have the same view of Pinochet. Would you say, Oliver, that Baroness Thatcher was unfit to be linked with a mainstream party such as the Conservative Party, because she, too, held Pinochet in such esteem? Or Lord Lamont?
But where Oliver's argument really falls apart is in his final assertion:
It's transparent that the Tories, who are in many respects a more
serious party and a more civilised force under David Cameron's
leadership, have allied with this fringe and extremist Polish party
purely because of its opposition to the Lisbon treaty.
No! Lisbon has nothing to do with the formation of the ECR and the alliance with Kaminski's party. The ECR is a response, rather, to the fact that most Conservative MEPs and the mainstream of the Conservative Party have almost nothing in common with the European People's Party, and haven't had for many years. The EPP is deeply federalist, corporatist and solidly in the European Christian Democrat tradition of statism. The Conservative Party now stands opposed to that almost to its core. It has been bizarre that the Conservatives should take the same whip as those whose central views it opposes.
That's not to make a judgment about whether the EPP or ECR is 'better', more mainstream within the European Parliament or the right tactics for the Conservative Party to adopt. It's simply a statement of fact about political reality within the EP.
Lisbon might be critical to the current UK political debate, but it is almost entirely irrelevant to the formation of the ERC and the alliances - whether or not they are sensible alliances - formed by the Conservative Party.