Here is a rather curious thing about the highly polarised debate over the new European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, and the political history of its leader Michal Kaminski.
With one side mostly shouting "smears" at any questions about Kaminski's history and the other seeming to shout "extremist" in interrogating it, the surprising thing is there is relatively little disagreement about the facts of Michal Kaminski's history, nor even too much dispute about what the major British parties think about most of those controversies.
It remains true that Left and right are not going to agree about the political sense of making Michal Kaminski the leader of a European Parliament group, detached from the major west European centre-right parties.
Even so, there may be more common ground about the case of Michal Kaminski than you would think. Here are six things which I do not think many on the right or left or independent media voices could seriously dispute about Kaminski, though they do disagree about the weight to give to these facts.
1. Michal Kaminski was a member of a far right group in his youth.
This seems to be undisputed. The Polish Chief Rabbi today said on the Today programme: "as a teenager [Kaminski] did join an organisation in Polish known as NOP which is unfortunately openly anti-semitic and neo-nazi. He also quit that organisation as a teenager."
(There is a disagreement over calls for David Miliband should apologise for pointing to Kaminski's history. The Foreign Secretary can legitimately argue that his description of Kaminski as "a man denounced by the Chief Rabbi of Poland for an anti semitic, neo Nazi past" is consistent with the Chief Rabbi's new comments, as well as his earlier July statement).
(There remain contested issues over details of the timing, and the nature of the group at that time: Kaminski's official account has been that he was only a member aged 15 to 17, when it was part of the anti-Communist underground; but the Daily Telegraph reported that he was a member aged 17 to 20, so between 1989 and 1991 after Communism. This is also part of the argument about the nature of the NOP, discussed in this Left Foot Forward thread).
2. * Michal Kaminski opposed the Polish government's apology over the Jewadbne massacre and all major British parties - both his allies and opponents - oppose his position and would contest his language over this.
The fact of Kaminski's campaign in opposition to the Jewadbne apology now appears entirely uncontested, after he dropped his claim to The Observer in July that he always supported the apology and "never tried to stop the commemoration". He has dropped his denial this summer that he "never gave an interview" arguing that an apology depend on “someone from the Jewish side will apologise for what the Jews did during the Soviet occupation", instead repeating (in slightly gentler language) the argument of an analogy with an apology "from the whole Jewish nation" in his Jewish Chronicle interview three weeks ago.
It is also clear that the major British politicians disagree with and disapprove of Kaminski's position on the Jewadbne apology - and that the Conservatives do not agree with or condone his language about a Jewish apology (though that latter criticism has been more muted than it might have been).
(So the disagreement here is about how strongly this Kaminski argument is criticised; which is linked to some disagreement about how far the 2001 campaign had anti-semitic undertones or links, given that there were both mainstream and extremist arguments about the apology).
3. Michal Kaminski has stated his clear opposition to anti-semitism now; the Jewish Chief Rabbi has welcomed this, stating rather carefully that "I have heard from Mr Kamiński in public and in private. I certainly see him as a man that today is against antisemitism," while not withdrawing his earlier remarks about Kaminski's regrettable associations.
The fact of Kaminski's public opposition now to anti-semitism is not contested by Labour voices. Denis MacShane writes that he does not accuse Kaminski of anti-semitism now, though he does strongly challenge his Jewadbne position, especially calling for a withdrawal of the calls for Jewish apologies.
All of the British political parties share a commitment to challenging anti-semitism, and believe that it is important to maintain this. Denis MacShane worked on a cross-party basis to chair a Parliamentary group inquiry on anti-semitism which reported in 2007 on how to tackle a rise in anti-semitism, and which forms the basis of his recent book Globalising Hatred.
Critical media voices like Martin Bright of the Jewish Chronicle who find some of Kaminski's views alarming, are not accusing him of anti-semitism. Bright wrote that "I have no reason to believe he is an antisemite or to doubt his commitment to the state of Israel. But I also have a much clearer idea of precisely what he is: a socially conservative east-European Catholic nationalist with all the unfortunate baggage this entails".
4. Michal Kaminski supports Israel
The Economist intelligently discussed the need to make a distinction "between attitudes to Jews and attitudes to Israel".
The case of Nick Griffin, and his support for the Gaza operation, clearly shows that anti-semites can be vocally pro-Israel.
But Kaminski is not Griffin, and his support for the state of Israel is not contested.
5. Michal Kaminski has given contradictory accounts of his own political history.
The Economist's argument that "even his denials contain suspicious self-contradictions" also seems to me to be entirely uncontested, given how many times he has had to reverse the facts of his public account.
This may explain why the Conservatives' "due diligence" process uncovered no issue of concern, and why it remains difficult to get at the truth. I think it certainly shows that simply taking Kaminski's own statements at face value, and charging those who scrutinise them as smearing him is unwise and unfair.
It may be part of the reason why some relevant questions - such as Kaminski's role in promoting anti-semitic rumours about President Kasniewski having a Jewish grandmother during the 1995 Presidential campaign - remain unanswered.
But Kaminski's shifting accounts do not prove that he is a secret extremist. A (relatively) more benign explanation is that some of the answers would be inconvenient or embarassing, and that he hoped the questions would go away if dismissed. That was unwise, and the failed cover up is a legitimate reason to question the quality of his leadership, while his supporters may question how far these evasions were fundamentally important untruths.
6. Michal Kaminski has operated in democratic politics for several years.
Kaminski has been a mainstream politician on the Catholic nationalist Polish right, known primarily for bringing in modern media 'spin' techniques, though several of his statements would never be made by a British or west European context, such as those about gays, which he has appeared to regret in more recent intervews.
There are many reasons why British politicians may criticise the authoritarian populism of the Law and Justice party. He has not been a pariah politician as an MEP since 2004, and the party was part of the EPP group. (There were many protests including in Britain in 2005-6 at some outlandish homophobic statements, and the banning of pride marches, while ConservativeHome readers were divided with 36% polled in 2006 feeling the party's homophobia meant it would not be an appropriate partner, with a narrow majority being supportive of an anti-federalist alliance). But Law & Justice are generally accepted to be a democratic right-wing party even if, in Polish domestic politics, most British Conservatives would almost certainly be closer to the Civic Platform governing party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Polish domestic politics. (Daniel Hannan is a strong advocate of Kaminski).
The challenge from the centre-left is not that Law & Justice are entirely beyond the pale - but about the political sense or strategy of preferring these new right-wing allies to the centre-right mainstream including all of the major west European conservative and Christian Democratic parties.
So that is the history of Michal Kaminski.
I do not think much of the account above is contested as a matter of fact, as opposed to debating how much weight the different aspects of his complex and sometimes contradictory political history should have in judging a leader of a democratic right-of-centre alliance.
Kaminski is not a neo-fascist, but he has had several political associations he now wishes to avoid or play down; the evidence that this involved making at least opportunist use of anti-semitic arguments or links in the past is strong; I also find the evidence that he has substantially changed his views fairly convincing.
So opponents of the Conservative Party will continue to question whether he was a good or appropriate choice to lead a modern Euro-reformist or Eurosceptic group. Many will agree with the judgement The Economist's Bagehot column of Kaminski that "at best he is a distastefully cynical demagogue", and will not think the (undisputable) fact that "there are viler and more extreme politicians in both these countries" is a recommendation for a pan-European leadership role.
Conservatives will argue that the politics of post-Communism are complicated, and that
their political opponents are mostly concerned that the new group will break the mould of European politics; while Labour will argue that the more likely outcome is that the new group will be cut off from power and influence and will risk isolating the British centre-right.
These arguments have often centred on the personal history of Michal Kaminski. Those issues matter - though, barring important new revelations, there may not be much more to add to the arguments on either side. That might mean that more attention is paid to the much broader political argument about the wisdom or folly of the Conservatives' new alliances - and what that might reveal about the different political visions of Britain's role in the European Union.