If you are going to try to put people beyond the pale on the grounds of what they have said it pays at least to be consistent. This week, left-wing MPs were cock a hoop at achieving the required number of signatures on a petition calling for Donald Trump to be banned from the UK for the matter to be debated in Parliament. More than 560,000 signed, with the result that the issue will be discussed in Westminster Hall on 18 January.
There was no visible protest, on the other hand, against David Cameron meeting Hungarian PM Viktor Orban in Budapest this week, no audible call for Mr Orban to be banned from making a return visit to the UK. There was even praise from liberals for Mr Orban’s strong words to David Cameron complaining about negative images of Hungarians in the UK. They are not migrants, said Mr Orban, but EU citizens exercising their right to look for work in another EU state.
Mr Orban has something of a different view, however, of migrants trying to enter Hungary. Last autumn, when the flow of Syrian refugees northwards was at a peak, he closed Hungary’s border with Croatia with a steel fence to keep out the new arrivals. His explanation echoes the statement which spurred British liberals to start petitioning against Donald Trump: ‘I think we have a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country,’ he said. ‘Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian?’ Mr. Orban asked. ‘There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.’ Rejecting the welcome which Angela Merkel was extending to Syrian refugees at the time (since somewhat reversed) he said: ‘Our moral responsibility is to give back these people to their homes and countries.’
Mr Trump, should he be elected US president, would certainly be a more powerful figure than Viktor Orban. Arguably, however, Mr Orban is a more frightening figure. Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslim migration to the States is probably not to be taken all that seriously, given the other off-the-cuff remarks he has made about women, Mexicans etc. Mr Orban is a former Communist youth leader who has flipped to anti-immigration populism.
But either way, there is little to distinguish between the remarks of Trump and those of Orban, yet one is the subject of a vitriolic campaign to ban him from Britain. As for the other, we have heard hardly a squeak of protest against him. If it is so deeply wrong for a politician to want to ban Muslim immigration that they need to be banned from Britain themselves, surely this should apply to all who make that call.