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Profile: Michal Kaminski MEP

British Conservatives in the European Parliament are now in a new group led by a Polish MEP, Michal Kaminski, who has had a very public row with veteran Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott.

The BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw examines where Mr Kaminski stands politically.

The first thing that should probably be said about Michal Kaminski is that in his homeland he is not considered controversial.

Michal Kaminski (pic: Kaminski website)
Michal Kaminski is an ally of the conservative Polish president

In Poland he is widely known as a "spin doctor" - media-savvy, smartly dressed with fashionable spectacles, one of the masterminds of conservative President Lech Kaczynski's successful election campaign in 2005.

Once in office President Kaczynski gave him the job of bolstering his public image - a task Mr Kaminski found much harder. The president's poll ratings soon plummeted and have stayed there.

In Poland the new leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group is seen as a slick and ambitious political operator, a man who even has an endorsement from the author Frederick Forsyth on his personal website.

Gay rights dispute

Although he is certainly not among the small minority of Polish politicians who regularly make racist or homophobic remarks in public, Mr Kaminski is not above using discriminatory language about homosexuals.

There is a short video clip available online dated July 2000, in which the then MP uses the term "fags" to refer to gays and lesbians. When asked by the reporter if such a term is offensive, he replied, "that's how people speak, what should I say? They are fags".

Edward McMillan-Scott MEP
Mr McMillan-Scott got into a power struggle with Mr Kaminski

Unsurprisingly, gay rights groups here are damning in their appraisal of him.

"Michal Kaminski has become a symbol of homophobia in Poland. As an MEP he consistently voted against resolutions that fight homophobia in Europe," Robert Biedron, a board member of Poland's Campaign Against Homophobia, told me.

But this stance is not as controversial in Poland as it might be further West. Poland is perhaps the most Catholic country in Europe, where many people hold conservative social views. It is not uncommon to hear well-educated people refer to gays and lesbians in a derogatory way.

Shortly before his appointment as prime minister in 2005 Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz described homosexuality as a "disease".

Mr Kaminski dismissed the allegations against him on Wednesday, saying: "I'm not homophobic, it's absolutely not true… I'm opposing the so-called marriages for homosexual couples, but I have a deep respect for the people with a homosexual way of life".

Just a patriot?

The other accusation made against Mr Kaminski was that he used to belong to the neo-fascist organisation Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski - the National Revival of Poland movement.

[He is] flexible in his views, very sociable with a sybaritic approach - he likes good food and drink
Wieslaw Chrzanowski
Former head of right-wing ZChN

Mr Kaminski does not mention this on his official website. A spokesman for the organisation told me that Mr Kaminski had indeed been a member of the group as a teenager briefly in the late 1980s.

According to his website, in 1989 after the fall of communism, the 17-year-old Mr Kaminski helped found the Christian National Union (ZChN), a mainstream right-wing party which promoted Christian values.

"At the beginning of the '90s he understood that by being controversial he would not get anywhere in politics and so he ceased to be controversial," said Bartosz Weglarczyk, foreign editor of the daily Gazeta Wyborzca, who knows Mr Kaminski.

His ambition was noted by his colleagues early on.

"Back in 1992 we attended training for the ZChN youth. During a bonfire Michal said half-jokingly that he would become a politician, a parliamentary deputy and a president," Jaroslaw Jagiello, a fellow party member, recalled in a profile for the daily Rzeczpospolita in May last year.

In 2001, Mr Kaminski teamed up with the Kaczynski twin brothers, Lech and Jaroslaw, when they set up the conservative Law and Justice party. In 2004 he was elected an MEP, and three years later was called back home to work as the president's "spin doctor".

Now 37, married with two daughters and a cat called Little Ears, he describes his passions on his website as books, foreign languages and football.

Mr Kaminski's friends describe him as charming, talented and well-read.

In the same Rzeczpospolita profile, Wieslaw Chrzanowski, the former ZChN chairman, described him as "flexible in his views, very sociable with a sybaritic approach. He likes good food and drink."



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