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Downing Street defends rolling out red carpet for Hungarian homophobe Viktor Orban

Emma Powys Maurice May 28, 2021
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Boris Johnson is welcoming Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban to 10 Downing Street (Getty)

Downing Street has defended its decision to roll out the red carpet for Hungary’s extreme anti-LGBT+ prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Prime minister Boris Johnson will welcome his Hungarian counterpart to Number 10 on Friday (28 May) as one of the first EU leaders to visit since Brexit.

Asked about the visit on Thursday (27 May), a spokesperson for Johnson claimed that cosying up to the right-wing autocrat is “vital to the UK’s prosperity and security”.

The talks are intended “to promote UK interests in the area and discuss wider issues,” they said, prompting critics to raise questions about the nature of the UK’s relationship with Hungary.

LGBT+ Hungarians are currently leaving the country in droves thanks to a vicious “hate-mongering campaign” led by Orban’s Fidesz party after he was granted the right to rule by decree at the beginning of the pandemic.

Queer people are now routinely vilified, scapegoated and condemned as enemies of the state in a bid to strip them of their basic rights.

A wave of discriminatory, homophobic and transphobic new laws has seen transgender and intersex people legally erased, same-sex adoption outlawed and the constitution amended to state that “a mother is a female and father is a male”.

Johnson’s decision to meet with Orban has sparked serious concern among human rights advocates, with Budapest Pride calling on LGBT+ allies to urge the prime minister to challenge Orban.

“We ask you to publicly call out Boris Johnson if he has brought up the oppression of Hungarian LGBTQ persons during their meeting and if not, ask him not to post celebratory tweets about Pride Month on his social media,” they wrote in an open letter.

“Boris Johnson must be reminded that he cannot celebrate Pride Month while simultaneously buddying up with Europe’s most homophobic leaders.”

Downing Street insisted that the prime minister would “not shy away” from raising human rights issues with the Hungarian prime minister.

Asked about the PM’s position on Orban’s comments about “Muslim invasions” and migrants being “poison”, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “On all human rights issues we do not shy away from raising them. The PM has condemned those specific comments, which were divisive and wrong.”

However, many have questioned Johnson’s commitment to challenging Orban’s views.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Tomorrow Johnson welcomes Viktor Orbán to Downing Street, a leader who has attacked press freedom and democracy, called refugees ‘Muslim invaders’ and is a cheerleader for Putin and Lukashenko,” she said.

“What are the chances he’ll be challenged on any of this?”

The journalist and LBC presenter James O’Brien hinted at Johnson’s own problematic record, tweeting: “There’s a lot of speculation about whether Boris Johnson will bring up Viktor Orban’s disgusting comments about Muslims. But very little about whether Viktor Orban will bring up Boris Johnson’s.”

Related topics: Boris Johnson, viktor orban

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