The Tories came under fresh pressure for allying with two controversial European figures last night after Britain's leading Jewish body admitted it had contacted David Cameron to raise concerns over their alleged far-right views.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to the Tory leader "seeking assurances" over the opinions of the Polish leader of the Tories' EU grouping, Michal Kaminski, who was accused by David Miliband last week of having an anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi past. It has also asked for clarification of the views of Roberts Zile, whose Latvian party, For Fatherland and Freedom, is also part of the Tories' grouping. Last week, Mr Miliband accused some of its members of celebrating Hitler's Waffen-SS.
The party was dealt an additional blow as Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, pulled out of the Tories' first "Pride" event, attacking the party for sharing with politicians holding "extreme and offensive" views.
The board has been split over how to address the issue. While some members believe that Mr Kaminski's views are not anti-Semitic, others have been arguing he has questions to answer over his past and are uncomfortable about the opinions held by some in his Law and Justice party. There are more profound concerns about the Latvian party.
"It is not an accusatory letter," a spokeswoman for the board told The Independent. "However, we take allegations of Nazi links very seriously and we want the party to make clear that the two men do not hold the views they have been accused of holding."
Mr Cameron has staked his party's European credibility on joining the new, fiercely anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group. His commitment to leave the centre-right European People's Party was made in 2005 to earn the votes of Euro-sceptic Tory MPs during his leadership campaign. Tory hopes of keeping a lid on the row had evaporated earlier when campaigners including Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard and Patrick Stewart called on Mr Cameron to reconsider his association with the two parties.
For a venue hosting the conference debut of the controversial Mr Kaminski, the large suite in the Midland Hotel was surprisingly empty yesterday. Perhaps delegates had missed news of his appearance as details of his address at a lunchtime fringe event were curiously absent from the official conference guide book.
When he did speak, it was brief. In his five-minute slot, he described his admiration for Margaret Thatcher. Though he made no reference to allegations of anti-Semitism, he said Israel was Poland's "main ally in the Middle East", adding that it was "the only democracy" in the region. Tory aides then attempted to whisk him away to attend a Conservative Friends of Israel lunch, making clear he was the "honoured guest". After an awkward stand-off at the lifts, a tell-tale gesture from one of his assistants, acutely aware of the Tories' determination not to be embarrassed by their guest, told him to say nothing more to the journalists surrounding him.
Back at the fringe event, Mr Zile was less diplomatic, hitting back at the Foreign Secretary in a surprise intervention from the audience: "What has surprised me was I never thought this would come from a Western, democratic party. I would expect it to come from Moscow or the Kremlin, as it does from time to time."