And so, the 2nd EU leader to be hosted by Boris Johnson in number 10 Downing Street following Brexit was...Hungary’s very own Viktor Orbán. Of course, this being Britain, certain rather odd prisms have to be applied. One of those prisms is the prism of self-assured supremacy. This prism is one which has long been favoured in the UK dating, as it does, from the days of the British Empire. Recalling the glory days, the prism is applied automatically, so that the British instinctively know that they are better than anyone else you care to mention. That’s not to say that there isn’t justification for this arrogance. Certainly Britain has much to point at with pride, it’s just that when a nation is completely saturated with that pride, it automatically and necessarily prevents people of that nation from recognising the talents of others, no matter who they are and what talents they have.
The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán is the longest-serving prime minister in modern Hungarian history. Further, under his leadership, his party has succeeded in the last three elections gaining 2/3 majorities. So, whatever the British (or anyone else for that matter) might think about Hungary and Hungarian politics, it is perhaps worth taking a moment to understand just what the statistics reveal. What they reveal, obviously, is that despite the perpetual criticism directed at Hungary, Hungarians are obviously satisfied with the job their government is doing. Whilst many foreign commentators only reach truly impressive levels of rapture when they are allowed to put the boot into the Hungarians, the Hungarians themselves have elected the same man to lead their country four times now. Doesn’t that imply that they like what he’s doing?
But don’t think that these facts would ever prevent nasty attacks, traditional ‘Hun-bashing’ which sadly, we’ve come to expect from all of those more enlightened souls who live to the West of us. As the Prime Minister was invited to 10 Downing Street, the British media, all following the same line, no matter where they claim to stand on the political spectrum (and yes, I continue to be surprised when a self-defined conservative newspaper launches unjustified attacks on a conservative government), put on their big boots and prepared to stamp on Orbán in a manner which would put a smile on the faces of his enemies. It’s enough to make you think that these journalists are on someone’s payroll to perform hatchet jobs on Hungarians. Either that or they really are the most ill-informed people alive today.
One item of criticism, however, rose above the background noise of the British press. And that’s not a mean feat by any manner of means. The British press derided Mr Orbán as, amongst others: “populist” (The Telegraph), “rightwing populist” (The FT), “an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin” (The FT again), “Far-right” and “autocratic” (The Independent).
Interestingly enough, of all the misinformed rubbish printed about Hungary, it is The FT which takes first prize. Having asserted that Orbán is an ally of Putin’s, The FT then states blandly that Orbán has vetoed Ukraine’s attempts to forge closer links with NATO.
Presumably, journalists at The FT are unaware of the relationships which other European leaders have with Russia and Putin? Presumably, these same journalists are blissfully unaware that when he stepped down, Gerhard Schroeder became (and still is) chairman of the board of Nord Stream? Are these journalists not aware that Merkel’s government pushed the Nord Stream 2 deal through despite complaints from the US Congress and other European states which are of the opinion that the deal is politically and economically ill-judged?
And what of Ukraine? Are these FT journalists so lacking in historical knowledge that they are unaware of the plight of the ethnic Hungarians living in what is presently Ukraine? Following the dismemberment of the country after the Peace Dictate signed at Trianon to mark the end of WWI, many, many Hungarians found that the border had crossed them and that they were now second-class citizens of a country eager to remind them of their low status.
More recently, Ukraine has made it illegal for students to study in their mother tongue, something which has extreme effects for the Hungarians living in Transcarpathia. This is the reason that Hungary has vetoed and will continue to veto Ukraine’s attempts to move closer to NATO. Until Ukraine restores the rights of ethnic Hungarians to learn in their mother tongue, until Ukraine stops harassing Hungarians living in Transcarpathia, Hungary has every right to block their entry to NATO. If Ukraine isn’t mature enough to treat their ethnic minorities in a manner which the Western Europeans would demand of others, then there is surely no place for them at the negotiating table.
Stunningly, however, although The FT tries hard with its mish-mash of half-truths and factually-lacking suggestions, it’s not the worst of those who seek to attack the Hungarian Prime Minister. That rather dubious award goes to someone who considers herself to be a politician.
Lisa Nandy is Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, and the fact that Orbán was invited to meet the British Prime Minister really got up her nose.
As far as Nandy is concerned, there is a problem with Orbán referring to the hordes of illegal migrants who trampled through Hungary in 2015 (and who have been trying to do the same ever since), encouraged to risk life and limb to reach a continent far away by a single European leader, Merkel, who had the audacity and arrogance to not bother asking anyone else in the EU if she had the right to speak for them, too.
But, what of Orbán’s words? What of the words he used: “Muslim invaders”? What is it, in actual fact, that the shadow foreign secretary finds so repellent? Is it the truth of the phrase? Were these people not Muslim? Are the vast majority of those attempting to gain illegal entry into Europe today not Muslim? So, by stating a fact, what is it that Mr Orbán has done wrong? Do we not continually berate politicians for not stating the truth 100% of the time? If that’s the case then surely the Hungarian Prime Minister deserves recognition for doing that which others don’t. He called a spade a spade. Nothing more.
And what of the other word which stirs up the hornets of the Leftwaffe? “Invaders”. That’s the word the Prime Minister used, and...that’s what we were exposed to. After Merkel’s haughty nature encouraged her to speak for all without authority, Europe was invaded. Hungary was invaded. The EU has been invaded. What other word would the shadow foreign secretary think would fit the bill? Let’s not forget the situation: an army of young men, all without paperwork (having burnt their identification to increase their chances of being able to pull the wool over the EU’s eyes), demanded to be allowed to settle in a continent to which they had no connection. An illegal army of Muslims arrived at the gates of Europe and forced their way inside. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the verb to invade means:
“Enter or make an incursion into (a place, country, etc.), esp. in a hostile manner, in large numbers, or with an armed force; attack”
Again. Which part of that doesn’t represent what we have witnessed in Europe since 2015?
What the shadow foreign secretary has a problem with is that, unlike in the UK, in Hungary we still remember how to call a spade a spade. The Brits may well have chosen multiculturalism as a poultice to the ills of the world. They have every right to do so, as repeatedly attested to by the Hungarian government which rarely seeks to judge others. But the same is expected in return. The British may reserve arrogance for themselves, but they should perhaps occasionally remind themselves that others maintain the right to decide things for themselves, rather than merely asking the British what to do.
As for Nandy’s accusations of anti-Semitism in Hungarian politics, the events of British life in the last few weeks, to say nothing of the anti-Semitism which flourished in the party she calls home, render her attempts unworthy. As a member of the Labour Party, she hasn’t got a leg to stand on.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into the reluctance of the Labour Party to tackle anti-Semitism within the party, related numerous examples of “unlawful acts, harassment and discrimination”.
Typically of modern, Western left-wingers, Israel is the Devil, and they see far better returns promised in the Muslim vote that is increasing daily. These are the reasons for the wholly unwarranted attacks on Hungary’s Prime Minister. It was in Britain not Hungary, after all, where cars decked out with Palestinian flags paraded through Jewish neighbourhoods, occupants screaming that they were going to “Fuck the Jews... Fuck their mothers... Rape their daughters.”
Strangely enough, British society has evolved in a way which means that the police, fearing escalation, didn’t intervene, but merely recorded images of those involved for later action. If that is how you have chosen, then so be it.
Thankfully, the Hungarians are always ready to go their own way. We do not tend to follow like sheep, nor do we preach water whilst drinking wine. That accusation can be levelled at many leaders in Europe, but it’s way off target when it comes to Orbán. Friend to Israel, not afraid to call a spade a spade, and without a national demographic makeup which demands that we tread on eggshells all the time. We, unlike the British, have no need of false words and spin doctors. Maybe this is one occasion when we’ve outplayed the British.
Naivety is not my strong suit, however, so I will not expect that British journalists or their bosses will suddenly realise how much they have wronged us. Neither does my naivety extend so far as to think that Labour’s shadow foreign secretary will realise the error of her ways in throwing stones from within her own glass house. You do your thing. We’ll do ours. We have not the slightest desire to become a mirror image of all that you have achieved. We mean no disrespect, but expect to be treated as any other guest. You may not approve of what we have done, but keep your arrogance in check by reminding yourselves that the same can doubtless be said of many others, even concerning your good selves.
And, in the spirit of good manners...do us all a favour, and stop knifing us in the back.