Conservative MEPs have voted in support of Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, and against the activation of Article 7 by the European Parliament, which enables it to take action against Hungary.
According to The Independent the nineteen Conservative MEPs were the only representatives from a governing conservative party in Western Europe to vote in Mr Orban’s defence. Mr Orban has led a deeply antisemitic campaign targeting controversial philanthropist George Soros, whilst also inciting hatred against Muslims and other minorities.
The vote, which was carried with the support of 448 MEPs, triggers Article 7 for the first time against a member state. The decision comes as a result of increasing concern about some of Mr Orban’s policies.
Leaked messages suggest that the Conservative MEPs felt that taking disciplinary action against Hungary would be counter-productive and a breach of democracy. It has also been implied in the past that the MEPs have shown support for Mr Orban in exchange for his backing in future Brexit talks. The Conservative Party has denied that this is the case.
According to WhatsApp messages obtained by Buzzfeed News and reported in The Independent, Downing Street has tried to contain the fallout from news of the vote by demanding that MEPs share a tweet that distances them from Mr Orban and any suggestion of support for his government and policies.
We are alarmed and appalled by the decision of Conservative MEPs to vote in defence of the antisemitic government of Viktor Orban in Hungary. Its campaign to vilify controversial George Soros went beyond legitimate political debate and has repeatedly strayed into antisemitism. It was therefore entirely right for the European Parliament to vote to censure the Hungarian government, and entirely wrong for Conservative MEPs to endeavour to frustrate that effort. If it is true that the Conservative Party has now tried to cover up their MEPs’ actions, that is doubly wrong.
There is a pressing need to promote tolerance and not give political credence to blatantly racist and antisemitic views and behaviour. At this time more than any other, British politicians should be setting an example by standing firm against antisemitism and racism, not defending it.