Tory bosses defend their MEPs for voting against motion of censure against Hungarian government
Conservative Party chiefs have defended their MEPs' decision to vote against a European Parliament motion condemning Hungary's right-wing government.
The party's representatives in Brussels have come in for severe criticism for opposing the attempt to sanction Viktor Orban's authoritarian regime, which has been accused of racism, anti-Semitism, restricting press freedom and undermining judicial independence.
Tory bosses have denied they did it in order to win Hungary's support in the Brexit negotiations.
A call for disciplinary action against the country - which needed a two-thirds majority in the European Parliament to be imposed - was carried by 448 votes to 197 in a vote on Wednesday morning.
But most of the Tory MEPs voted against the move, leading to condemnation from Jewish and Muslim groups.
Mafrie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "It is very concerning that Conservative Party MEPs chose to defend Hungary's appalling track record, rather than supporting a motion to protect the rule of law."
A Conservative spokesman finally issued a statement last night in response to the row.
He said: "Victor Orban has a track record of responding to legal moves not political threats.
"Politicising the issue at this early stage simply undermines any future legal action, while boosting Orban's domestic support."
A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn had urged Theresa May to personally speak out against her MEPs.
"Viktor Orban's government in Hungary has clearly attacked judicial and media independence, denied refugee rights and pandered to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," he said.
"And it was absolutely right that a motion of censure and an investigation under the disciplinary processes of the European Union was launched and voted on…
"Theresa May should condemn the Hungarian government and should support this investigation and action."