On February 28, an extraordinary meeting took place in a crowded room in Brighton on the south coast of England. The tea party movement, scoffed at by much of the British establishment, quietly arrived in the UK. With little publicity, and certainly none of it positive except on the blogs, Kenny Irvine arranged a successful event for the Freedom Association in two days time.
So successful was the tea party gathering that the 300-person capacity of the room was reached quickly and people had to be away. This was a British event, so the tea was consumed and not tossed anywhere. There was a cash bar as well for those wishing to have something a bit stronger — another British tradition.
In both of these interviews, Hannan was keen to assure people that no tea would be harmed in any way. American observers found the fact that a tea party event in the UK was being planned both ironic and amusing. However, the problems discussed were as serious as the ones with which American tea party attendees are concerned: high taxes, bloated government, and fiscal irresponsibility.
ToryDiary reports and responds to potential criticism of a UK-based tea party movement:
To those who might criticize him for aping a foreign idea in Brighton today, he said that there is nothing foreign about meeting to say that we as a people should have a say over what revenue is taken from us. Mr. Hannan repeated his oft-made call for a complete rethink of the role of the state in Britain today and said that it was vital that ministers push powers downwards and outwards and restoring democracy.
Hannan makes the case yet again for the need for such events to call attention to what is going on via his own blog.
Let me say it one more time. Gordon Brown has doubled the national debt. Every second, it rises by another 5,000 pounds. Our deficit is 12.6 per cent of GDP compared to Greece’s 12.7. All this despite the additional trillion pounds taken in taxation since 1997.
Surprisingly, there have been calls in the UK press for just such a tea party organization. Simon Jenkins made a strong case for such a movement to help bring Conservative leader David Cameron to sanity on the issues.
Why is there no British Tea Party? Where are the crowds of revenue slaves flocking to London to demand redress for the squandering of their money? Marginal tax is rising to 50%, VAT to 17.5% and state spending towards half the national product. The Treasury has lost control of public finance. So why no furious blue-rinses, bail-out haters, bonus-bleaters and embittered VAT victims storming parliament? Has a corrupt political class reduced the British people to quiescent gerbils?
Janet Daley in the Telegraph echoes this sentiment and calls for a return to passion in politics:
The two sides hurl knowledgeable quotes from the founding fathers and the Constitution at one another. Where is the major British party that will engage in an argument of such force and scope? Who will question the received wisdom of the middle-ground consensus?
The Freedom Association, which sponsored the tea party event, had several good reports on the goings-on. Alan M said this about it all:
The best news of the evening was simply that it was very crowded, Dan had to stop speaking after a few minutes to allow the audience to shift around so they could fit everyone into the room, there were so many that they had to fill up the area behind the podium as well as the room in front. The amount of CO2 in the room was getting decidedly dangerous towards the end and was undoubtedly causing a warming spike in the local climate.
There were some who urged caution about lumping it into the whole tea party meme:
The trouble is that this was not a tea party organized by local activists as they have been doing in the United States for a year or so; it was a fringe meeting at a party conference and that party is hoping to win the next election. Mr. Hannan is an active member of that party and eventually he had to face that and talk about what the Conservatives are going to do about all these matters, in particular about the fact that we are Taxed Enough Already.
Debate if you must whether it’s a proper tea party or whether it was just another fringe event at a Conservative conference. What was being said and discussed was probably unique to that room. While the Conservatives are worried about making any fuss over the rate of taxation, the choking state, and the burden of out-of-control government, people who attended the tea party meeting cared about these issues.
Simon Richards, in an email chat, informed me that this is just the start of such events. There are rallies planned before the imminent election in London. I suspect that if the election results in a hung parliament, and there is no change in prime minister or policy, the movement will really take off in a big way.
If the Conservatives do succeed in getting a majority, the tea party movement will be waiting to see how Cameron manages all their concerns. They will give him time, but I can assure you they will be back in a big way if the status quo remains. It might be a tea party with a British twist, but the attendees’ basic concerns are the same as those of any tea party protester across the U.S.