A furious war of words broke out between Labour and the Conservatives after David Miliband branded a key Tory ally in Europe a former “neo-Nazi”.
The Foreign Secretary’s provocative attack – in which he claimed the Tories sat in Brussels with a “collection of outcasts” who made him feel sick – brought a blistering retort from the Conservatives.
They said his “smears” demeaned him as Foreign Secretary and undermined the national interest.
Mr Miliband’s attack on the Tories, on the last day of the Labour conference, was the most outspoken of the week in Brighton.
He seized on the creation of a new right-wing grouping in the European Parliament, which includes the Conservatives and parties from seven other nations.
Mr Miliband said that its chairman, the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, had been “denounced by the Chief Rabbi of Poland for an anti-semitic, neo-Nazi past”.
Seizing on the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom Party’s membership of the grouping, he condemned Eric Pickles, the Tory chairman, for trying to justify its sister party’s participation in the annual commemoration of dead SS soldiers. Mr Miliband evoked the notorious Nuremberg defence as he claimed Mr Pickles argued they were “only following orders”.
The Foreign Secretary said he was sickened by Mr Pickles’ remarks, adding: “And you know what makes me sicker? No-one in the Tory Party batted an eyelid.
“What do they say in the old saying? All you need for evil to triumph is for good men to stay silent. I tell you – we will never stay silent on this issue.”
His onslaught brought an angry response from William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary.
Mr Hague said: “David Miliband has just insulted the Latvian government, most of whose member parties have attended the commemoration of Latvia's war dead.
“Just because Latvia is a small country does not give the Foreign Secretary the right to put cheap party spin before the national interest.
“His accusation of anti-semitism against Michal Kaminski is shameful and is based on remarks which the Chief Rabbi of Poland has said were misrepresented. This kind of shoddy politics should be beneath a Foreign Secretary.
“It is also indecent to allege that Eric Pickles, who has an admirable record campaigning against anti-semitism and other forms of racism, was defending the Waffen SS. Mr Miliband should withdraw that suggestion.”
Last week Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, dropped an attack inferring that the new Tory allies in Europe had Nazi links
He had planned to label Mr Hague a 'skinhead who has toured the beer cellars of central Europe, and has come up with the dregs'. But the words were dropped from the final version of his speech to the Lib Dem conference.Reuse content