Tories side with far right in EU Parliament in support of Orban

26th Oct 2018
Tories side with far right in EU Parliament in support of Orban

The UK’s Environment Secretary, Michael Gove (L) has repeatedly refused to criticise Hungarian PM, Viktor Orban, who has presided over a climate of rising Islamophobia (Photo: Wiki Creative Commons)

Hamed Chapman

Conservative Members of the European Parliament failed last month to prevent a procedural motion against Hungary’s lurch towards authoritarianism despite siding with some of the most the far-right and populist groups in western Europe.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, repeatedly refused to criticise Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who has presided over a climate of rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in his country, saying instead he believed “in the generosity of spirit towards our EU partners.”

“It’s not for me to rank a league table of EU leaders and to say that one is my favourite or that one I have less time for because I believe in cooperative diplomacy,” Gove told the BBC’s, Andrew Marr Show. Prior to the 448 to 197 vote at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that backed a report calling for Hungary to be sanctioned, Orban told reporters that the EU shouldn’t “punish the Brits just because they have decided to leave.”

The UK was “a great nation, so we should have a fair approach to have a good deal with them over Brexit.”

Pressed by Marr about the Hungarian Prime Minister’s record in calling Muslims “invaders” and describing immigrants as “poison,” Gove insisted it was a “longstanding principle of a number of MEPs from different countries and from different parties not to believe that the European Parliament should interfere in or censure the internal democracy of a particular country. I’m not going to be drawn on my views about individual European leaders,” the Environment Secretary said.

“I think that it would be wrong for me at a time when we need solidarity against a number of different threats.”

“It’s not the case that we’re actually supported him (Orban), it’s the case that the MEPs declined on this occasion, as they have on a number of occasions in the past, and there were people from a variety of different parties and a variety of different countries that declined to do so. It’s very far from endorsing or supporting the position that he takes.”

Prime Minister, Theresa May’s office tried to distance itself from the vote, insisting that MEPs make their own decisions, but some members of the party were openly critical of the decision, including the Conservative Peer Daniel Finkelstein, who described the move as “very distressing”.

Baroness Nosheena Mobarik MEP was the only Conservative MEP to have voted for action against the Government of Hungary; two Tory MEPs, Charles Tannock and Sajjad Karim, abstained.

Jon Trickett, the Shadow Lord President of the Council, said it showed an “acceleration of extremist rightwing tendencies in the Conservative Party”. He also criticised Gove for refusing to condemn Orban, whose government he said was “pandering to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, attacks on judicial and media independence, and abhorrent treatment of refugees and minorities.”

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