Dan Hannan: Leading Europe’s Dramatic Shift to the Right
A politician on the rise has some clear advice for American conservatives.
June 25, 2009 - 12:32 am
Despite finishing at the top of June’s European election in his region of the U.K., Dan Hannan is probably still more of a “star” in the U.S. and the rest of the Anglosphere than in his native Britain. This fame resulted from his rip-roaring roast of Gordon Brown at the European Parliament that became a huge hit on YouTube.
Hannan is rather blasé and philosophical about the patronizing treatment he receives from British media. Hannan quoted Dr. Seuss — his daughter’s favorite author — in his acceptance speech, which had BBC host David Dimbleby remarking to Hannan that he “didn’t know Dr. Seuss’ work.” Hannan kept his cool.
Hannan conducted the following interview with me via email:
How do you feel about being part of what seems to be a return of the Right against the forces of socialism (in contrast to the recent election in the U.S.)?
Do you have any advice for those on the Right in the U.S. who are feeling down in the dumps because of the state of the Republican Party and the movement in general?
Now that the Conservatives are finally leaving the EPP do you think it’s a load off your mind? How will this affect how you operate?
In the light of a “move to the Right” in the last set of elections, how do think this will affect the parliament and the E.U. as a whole?
Hannan: Yes, Europe has swung away from socialism. But it’s important for Americans to realize where Europe is starting from — it is quite normal on this side of the Atlantic for governments to take 45 or 50 percent of GDP in tax. So Europe’s swing to the Right and the U.S. swing to the Left still leave America less socialist than Europe.
None the less, the swing is significant for this reason. Voters are now way ahead of their politicians on the issue of tax and spend. While the political parties dance about trying not to use the word “cuts,” the electorate has clocked that reductions are urgent. The recession is forcing everyone to make economies: every business, every household. Do we really need two cars? Is there a cheaper mobile phone package? Can we get a better deal on insurance? They can see that it is possible — necessary indeed — to cut spending, but that such cuts need not have too deleterious an impact on our quality of life. And they simply can’t understand why the same logic doesn’t apply to the government. It is outrageous to exempt the public sector from the shrinkage of the economy — i.e., to tax the wealth creators even more in order to cushion the rest.
One of the reasons we Tories are leaving the EPP, and forming a new alliance of Euro-skeptic parties, is to make these arguments. We will put together a coalition of Atlanticist, free-market conservative parties that believe in national independence and parliamentary democracy. In doing so, we will break the monopoly in Brussels. Because, I stress this again, the “swing to the Right” was, in many cases, a swing to pantywaist Christian Democrat parties whose politicians, in the U.S., would be bang in the middle of the Democratic Party.
Advice for American conservatives? Only this. The Republican Party’s success depended on its becoming a popular party — that is, a party that was for the people against the governing elites. Half a century ago, it was a party of big business and old money, and it kept losing: it was in permanent opposition in both houses, and tended to win the presidency only when it fielded a non-partisan Ike-type candidate. Then it changed: it embraced localism, small government and states’ rights. It went from being a New England, preppy, country club party to being a Sun Belt, anti-Washington mass movement. And you know what? It started winning.
My worry is that, in recent years, the party has gone into reverse. It has become, as in pre-Goldwater days, the party of federal spending, budget deficits, external protectionism (the steel tariffs), overseas garrisons, the denial of states’ rights (the gay marriage amendment) and, latterly, bailouts and nationalizations.
I speak as someone who has a more uncomplicated loyalty to the GOP than to my own party, and I desperately want it to start winning again. But that means getting back to basics: to the basic idea that informed the U.S. Constitution, namely that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect.
If you like what Dan Hannan MEP has to say, you might want to follow him on his blog. He always makes a very good case for his positions.
I would like to thank Dan — who is a rather busy man — for answering my questions in such a detailed manner.