Coren launches his own assault on Poland

By Candice Krieger, August 14, 2008

The Federation of Poles in Great Britain has lodged a complaint against columnist Giles Coren, over what it calls an "insulting" and "ignorant" article he wrote about Polish immigrants.

Mr Coren wrote a story headlined Two waves of immigration, Poles apart, in The Times on July 26. He discussed two kinds of migration: economic and humanitarian.

Mr Coren, whose Jewish great-grandfather, Harry, left Poland for the UK, says he had limited sympathy for Polish immigrants in Britain who are said to be returning home because construction work is drying up. 

He wrote: "Harry didn't leave in the hope of finding a better life. Just a life. The option to return was not there for him, for obvious reasons, and by 1945 the Poland he had left did not exist any more.

"My sympathy for the plight of the modern Polack is thus limited, and if England is not the land of milk and honey it appeared to them three or four years ago, then, frankly, they can clear off out of it."

Offended by Mr Coren's comments, the Federation of Poles in Great Britain (FPGB) wrote a letter of complaint to The Times and to the Press Complaints Commission, suggesting that the piece was in breach of the PCC's code.

A spokesperson for the FPGB said: "We were horrified by the Giles Coren article, not only because it was directly insulting to the Polish community in this country, and based on ignorance of the past, but also because it sought to undermine the progress of closer links between our two communities in the UK.

"The piece is just so insulting and we can't bear to let these remarks go by. The Federation of Poles in UK strongly supports a Polish-Jewish dialogue over our common heritage and urges the eradication of misunderstanding and prejudice that has existed between Poles and Jews."

The Times received- and published - several other letters of complaint, including one from the Polish ambassador, Barbara Tuge-Erecinska.

The PCC confirmed it had received a copy of the letter sent by the FPGB to The Times, in addition to a handful of other complaints, and is now investigating whether Mr Coren has breached its editors' code of practice.

The Times acknowledged it had fielded many complaints about the article, but maintained it was up to Mr Coren to respond. A spokesperson for the paper said: "We are going to have to pass on this one."
Asked by email if he had any comment, Mr Coren replied simply: "F*** the Poles", although his version did not include asterisks.

Last updated: 1:35pm, August 14 2008