I have just returned from Warsaw.
I have always found Warsaw a slightly extreme city- the mementoes of the appalling destruction of the city during the second world war are on every street corner. The serenity of the old town -the Stare miasto - is marred by the fact of it having been rebuilt in toto. It seems strangely artificial- beautiful, but almost like a mask- and the reality underneath is, like much of the rest of the city actually pretty ugly. Yet Warsaw is a city of broad shoulders, and talking with friends in my rather rusty Polish, I begin to see the new identity of Poland. As Pawel- a good friend- points out, Poland has become like the mid-west of the USA. Bland, but fairly conservative. When I first went to Poland, Warsaw had three skyscrapers, and dominating them all was the Stalinist wedding cake of the Palac nauki i kultury - now there are over thirty skyscrapers, by my count. In the end we have it- not Chicago, but Cleveland, Ohio.
Yet amongst this evidence of rapid change the state of Polish politics remains poisonous. Instead of the expected coalition of the more conservative right wing party-the P i S- and the more liberal party- the Platforma Obwytelska- the P i S instead is set to create a coalition with the deeply Catholic LPR and the extreme right wing Self Defence. Self Defence is led by the perma-tanned figure of Andrzej Lepper, a mixture of Robert Kilroy Silk and Jean Marie Le Pen, only more right wing. As for the P i S themselves, they have become a totally backward looking party, more interested in commissions' to address the wrongs of twenty years ago, than in addressing the problems of today. They have no answers for the Liberal world in which modern Poland finds itself and from which it is profiting- as the evidence of the Warsaw skyline shows.
As a result the opinion polls are showing P i S falling like a stone, while the Liberal Platforma is making major progress. Perhaps the long awaited realignment of Polish politics, where some elements of the Solidarnosc successors- of which Platforma is a part- will no cooperate with some of the left wing elements. The fact that the P i S has cooperated with the pariah of Andrzej Lepper, suggests that this may now occur.
In any event, the fact that David Cameron believes that his best friend in Poland should be the P i S- who are happy to be coalition partners with neo fascists- is interesting and shows a stunning lack of judgment. As the P i S flail around, it is easy to judge Cameron by his friends- and I do.