UK prime minister Boris Johnson welcomed his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán to Downing Street on 28 May. In doing so, he made Orbán just the second leader from the EU to visit Britain since it left the union.
The official visit has sparked controversy, partly due to Orbán’s alleged antisemitism. Indeed, according to London School of Economics & Political Science professor Jonathan Hopkin, Orbán is “Europe’s biggest antisemite”.
In light of the visit, Hopkin directed the following tweet to the UK government’s ‘independent adviser on antisemitism’, John Mann:
So after all the outrage over antisemitism in the Labour Party, we now invite Europe’s biggest antisemite over for tea at Downing Street. Any thoughts, @LordJohnMann ?— Jonathan Hopkin (@jrhopkin) May 28, 2021
Mann had not tweeted about Orbán’s visit at the time of writing.
Hopkin also criticised other figures and organisations that had been vocal about antisemitism in recent years but had apparently not yet condemned Orbán’s visit. Because for him, the Hungarian leader is:
a right-wing autocrat whose antisemitism is longstanding and crude beyond belief
I've dug out this picture of antisemitic roadside propaganda from my trip to Budapest in 2017 to fill in the gaps in your knowledge pic.twitter.com/W1nD4xCGwB— Jonathan Hopkin (@jrhopkin) May 28, 2021
Johnson and Orbán
The ruling Conservative Party has been close to Orbán’s government in recent years.
In 2018, for instance, EU members voted in favour of a proposal saying Hungary was “at risk of breaching the EU´s founding values”. This related to allegations of Islamophobia and antisemitism, along with attacks on press freedom and judicial independence. (Hungary’s government has also targeted the LGBTQIA+ community.) This 2018 vote was the first time the European parliament had taken such a step. Conservative MEPs, however, sided with Orbán.
Downing Street insisted that the visit on 28 May 2021 was “vital”. But amid criticism, Johnson’s spokesperson said past comments from Orbán calling Muslims and immigrants “invaders” and “poison” were “divisive and wrong”. Orbán denies being antisemitic.
Johnson himself also has a long record of offensive comments. Those on the receiving end have been Black and queer people, women and working-class people, and religious minority groups. The Conservative Party, meanwhile, has developed links with far-right antisemites across Europe; and has faced numerous accusations of antisemitism at home too. That’s on top of widespread Islamophobia, and what former Conservative minister Andrew Lansley once called “endemic racism”.
Main article image via screenshot/AFP News Agency