Jewish groups have called for a Conservative MP’s whip to be removed for speaking at a conference in Rome “packed full of racists.”
Daniel Kawczynski, the MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, was one of 22 speakers at the National Conservatism Conference this week, according to the event schedule published online.
The conference, held in the Italian capital from 3 to 4 February, was entitled “God, Honor, Country: President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and the Freedom of Nations.”
Its lineup included the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, the former French National Front MP and niece of Marine Le Pen, Marion Marechal, and the Polish Law and Justice MEP Ryszard Legutko.
Dame Margaret Hodge, the Jewish Labour Movement’s parliamentary chair (JLM), said on Tuesday the conference was “packed full of racists, homophobes and Islamophobes.”
She added: “If Daniel Kawczynski attends this conference then he must have the whip removed. There can be no place for these hateful views in our Parliament.”
JLM’s national chair Mike Katz said the Labour Party affiliate “can’t be silent when a Conservative MP uncritically shares a platform with those on the far-right who promote equally hateful opinions.”
The JLM launched an online petition on Tuesday, urging the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to remove Kawczynski’s whip, reiterating the demand in a letter to the Conservative chief whip Mark Spencer, released the same day. The letter was signed by Hodge, Katz and Sobel.
Wading into the row, the Board of Deputies’ president Marie van der Zyl criticised Kawczynski on Tuesday over his decision “to speak at a conference alongside some of Europe’s most notorious far-right politicians.”
“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,” she said.
Kawczynski penned his defence in a blog for The Spectator published online on 2 February. “Clearly, offence archeologists have done a thorough job in finding historic remarks from some of the participants that jar with the liberal world view,” he wrote.
“But 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. It would be foolish not to,” he added.