3 may 2015, neither a n g e l o r d e v i l

I remain in mixed feelings mode about my adopted quasi-homeland of hungary. On the one hand my honorary consul role firmly co-opts me into supporting trade, investment and the large local hungarian community, with events such as a recent one in cheshire I anchored. Of course though the support is seen as wider, and indeed a couple of weeks ago I was a special guest at the house of lords where hungary took over the chairmanship of the international holocaust remembrance alliance from the uk. To hungary's credit there were many survivors, who pulled no punches, and a contrite and sensible minister who was ruthlessly frank about both the past and the present. Taking into account the extensive programme, of many years in hungary, I do feel this is all more than a foreigner-facing front, and a genuine attempt, at many levels of governance, to confront the past. However, the problem is how little that bleeds into the rather shocking present, where most hungarians still consider themselves victims: of the nazis, the communists and many now of the eu and western financial world. That is the foundation stone on which the brutal, nationalist, revanchist and blatantly racist jobbik party is built. Attempts to adapt to its move into the mainstream, dissolving its violent militia and claiming to have moved on from anti-semitism, are unconvincing. Its growth is frightening: coming third in the general elections, second in the european elections and recently winning an unprecedented by-election. Yes, across europe, not least with france's national front, extreme right wingers have been on the march for some years (see 21 september 2013, europe is not (too) right), but none are quite so disgraceful as jobbik, and none have marched so far. As in most european polities, the extreme is pulling the centre-right with it. As to my own role, in every world there is good and evil, but the worst of all I used to say was the vaguely-hungarian elie wiesel's silent observer.