The Tories were the only governing conservative party in western Europe to support Viktor Orbán in the European Parliament’s vote on the rule of law in Hungary.
At euronews, we believe all views matter. To better understand that vote, its reasons and possible consequences, we asked British members of the European Parliament from different political parties to share their perspective on this subject by answering our questions.
Here are the answers of Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP for the North East of England:
Euronews: The UK is the only Western European country whose almost all representatives of the ruling party in the EP voted against the Sargentini report on the situation in Hungary. As an opposition MEP, what do you think of this choice of your Conservative colleagues?
Jude Kirton-Darling: The decision by the UK government to back Orban’s despotism is absolutely disgraceful and shows how extreme today’s Conservative Party has become - a far cry from Disraeli’s One Nation conservatism. But even knowing this I was genuinely shocked by how many Tory MEPs followed the whip to vote against the report. The fact that the two former-Tory MEPs who voted to investigate the Hungarian far-right leader have now been expelled from the Conservative party is truly appalling. But to their credit, it shows their integrity as individuals in my view.
Euronews: Do you agree with those who say that the main reason for such a vote was Mr Orbán’s support in Brexit talks?
Jude Kirton-Darling: If that is indeed the reason why the Tory MEPs supported Orban during last month’s votes in Strasbourg, then perhaps the UK Prime Minister needs to reassess who she wants backing her in this process. Viktor Orban is no ally to be had. These are turbulent times and the way the UK has conducted Brexit talks is threatening our future relationship with the EU. We can’t afford to alienate ourselves even more by offering Orban political support in exchange for his.
Euronews: What is your opinion on the situation in Hungary and, in particular, on the rule of law in that country compared to other EU members?
Jude Kirton-Darling: Viktor Orban has been systematically dragging Hungary backwards instead of moving ahead with other progressive European countries. Him and his government have repeatedly and severely breached the EU’s fundamental values and made way for attacks on political freedom, equality and human rights, especially those of migrants. The people of Hungary deserve much better than this and I was pleased to hear that our vote as MEPs counted towards escalating these major concerns.
Euronews: Do you agree with what Viktor Orbán wrote in his letter to British Conservative MEPs, saying that the Sargentini report “is a verdict against Hungary and the Hungarian people” and not a critic of his government and his policies?
Jude Kirton-Darling: Absolutely not - the vote was clearly against Orban’s ruling of the Hungarian state, as well as the negative effects this has on its people and their lives. However, the Hungarian Prime Minister strategically turned it around to relieve himself of the blame and paint the EU in a negative light. It’s a textbook spin doctor technique and unfortunately for Orban and his government, everyone - apart from the Tories clearly - can see right through it.
Jude Kirton-Darling is a British Member of the European Parliament representing the Labour Party.
Opinions expressed in View articles are those of the author.