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Stockholm hotel apologies for hosting right-wing gala

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Stockholm hotel apologies for hosting right-wing gala
Stockholm's Grand Hotel looks over the harbour in central Stockholm. Photo: Alexandar Vujadinovic/Wikimedia Commons
15:22 CET+01:00
Stockholm's Grand Hotel has issued an unprecedented public apology for hosting an awards ceremony for European right-wing politicians, following a storm of angry protest.
“In hindsight we can state that we never should have taken the booking,” the hotel said in a press release issued on Sunday.  “We can also state that we should have broken the contract as soon as we we understood that this arrangement was going to create strong reactions, both among our guests and our co-workers.” 
 
The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party hired the upmarket hotel, which boasts views over the Royal Palace and Gamla Stan, for its “European Freedom Awards” on Friday evening. 
 
As soon as the news became public, the hotel faced a storm of angry protests on Twitter, with thousands protesting by giving it one-star reviews on its Facebook page. Meanwhile, hotel staff gave anonymous interview criticising the event, and several customers cancelled event contracts. 
 
Mattias Karlsson, who leads the Sweden Democrats in Sweden's parliament, called the hotel's apology "bizarre" and "hypocritical". 
 
"The strong left-liberal forces that you find in Stockholm and on Twitter have huge power over companies and institutions in a way that is disturbing," he said.
 
"Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are the cornerstones of democracy. Even if you dislike someone's opinions, we are on a dangerous path if you start to campaign so that someone else does not get hold meetings and speak." 
 
On Friday, the hotel was still defending its decision to host the awards, which included speeches by Nigel Farage, the unofficial leader of the campaign to bring Britain out of the European Union, and Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats. The award, styled as an "alternative Nobel", was won by the Czech politician Václav Klaus. 
 
But on Sunday the hotel issued a public apology, or “did a poodle” to use the Swedish expression.
 
In the press release, the hotel's chief executive Pia Djupmark claimed that managers had tried to wriggle out of hosting the event as far back as seven weeks ago, but had been unable to do so due to the contract they had signed. 
 
“One of the most difficult things about all of this is that so many people thought that we didn't understand, that we had no moral compass whatsoever,” she said. “Breaking a contract is a big step, and we decided to stick with our tradition of fair-dealing, that a contract should not be broken. In this case, we should have broken it.” 
 
The hotel claimed that this was the first time in its near 150-year history that it had made a public comment on any of its guests. 
 
“We have always wanted to be a neutral meeting place that does not judge our guests or their opinions and use that to decide whether they are welcome or not,” it said. “At the same time, there is a limit.” 
 
The hotel is putting in a new booking process, with all big contracts in future to be reviewed by the chief executive. 
 
According to Swedish tabloid Expressen, the event was paid for by European think thank IDDE (Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe) and pan-European party ADDE (Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe), which both SD and UKIP are members of.
 
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