POLITICS: by Jeffry Babb News Weekly
Daniel Hannan: future prime minister of Britain?
, March 17, 2012
The visit by Daniel Hannan to Australia in February was a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stuffy atmosphere of non-Labor politics in this country.
Hannan is Conservative member of the European Parliament (MEP) for South East England and is said by pundits to have the makings of a future prime minister of Great Britain.
Daniel Hannan MEP.
His visit, which attracted wide media coverage, including a stint on the ABC’s Q&A program, was arranged by the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne. The IPA has undergone a remarkable revival under the leadership of John Roskam, following several near-death experiences under the directorship of several past and aspiring West Australian politicians.
Hannan makes no bones about the fact that he is a party politician. He freely admits that being in the public eye gives him a certain sympathy for others in the business of government, even if they are his ideological opposites. Bill Shorten, Labor member for Maribyrnong, seen by some as likely to inherit the poisoned chalice of the Labor leadership sooner rather than later, is someone he empathises with.
Hannan was born in Peru, where his family had a property, and can speak fluent French and Spanish. His father was an Ulster Catholic, who served in the Northern Irish regiment in Italy. His mother is Scots Presbyterian.
He has a profound interest in Ireland and its history and laments the many missed opportunities for reconciliation between Britain and Ireland. He points out, for example, that Queen Victoria was met with cheering crowds when she visited Dublin to thank the Irish soldiers who fought so bravely for Britain in the Boer War.
The Irish, he says, now regard Britain as their best friend in Europe. The French, in particular, want to “normalise” (i.e., increase) the rate of Irish company tax to the European average. This would deprive Ireland of its competitively low company tax rate that has induced so many foreign high-tech firms to establish their European headquarters in the Republic.
The best thing for Ireland, says Hannan (and he adds that most Irish support him), is for Ireland to leave the euro and for its currency to be supervised by the Bank of England. With Ireland struggling with unemployment at near 20 per cent and the old pattern of job losses and emigration blighting the country again, a friend at court is a friend indeed.
Britain is fortunate, says Hannan, in that it kept its pound and stayed out of the euro. It should get out of the European Union altogether and participate in a European free trade union, he says. It hasn’t done Norway any harm, and Switzerland has one of the strongest currencies on the planet. Instead of artificially reorienting its economy towards Europe, Britain should reorient its trade towards its natural allies in the Anglosphere, including Australia, he says.
British politicians have been promising a referendum on Europe for years. This commitment was recently reaffirmed by Prime Minister David Cameron. Is it likely to happen? Hannan isn’t confident.
With the centre-left Guardian newspaper cheerleading the Europhile elite, the thought of taking on the United Kingdom’s governing class and “opinion-makers” tends to make prime ministers queasy.
The Guardian waxed indignant when it was revealed that the Internet was allowing anyone with a modem to follow whatever news they liked, and they were much more interested in the Australian elections than European ones, not least because the Australian prime minister was born in Wales! This, the Guardian said, was a betrayal of the ideal of a united Europe.
The truth is Britain has always has three major trading and cultural allegiances. The first is America, the second is the Commonwealth and the third is Europe. I can well recall being told by a senior British diplomat some 30 years ago, when the European venture was in its initial stages, that Britain was a middle-level power with its destiny in Europe and that the Commonwealth was of little interest to it.
But it has proved harder to convince the common man of this than the Europhile elite. While Manchester United and Liverpool’s soccer forays into Europe might enthral a great many people, the Ashes series every four years and tours by the Wallabies are fixtures that serious sports fans would not give up easily.
These Anglosphere links are far more important to the average Briton than some artificial construct imposed by Brussels. And the endless stream of idiotic regulations emanating from the EU seem to provoke more humour and derision than anger these days.
Will Daniel Hannan be prime minister one day, as the pundits say? First, he would have to be elected to the House of Commons — he is now a member of the European Parliament (despite his being a Eurosceptic). Second, Hannan says he isn’t interested. “I have enough trouble running my three-person office, let alone running the country,” he says. “I’m a thinker, writer and agitator, not an executive.”
But he is also a brilliant speaker; he has no rival in Australia for eloquence and wit. And although he freely admits he is a party politician, he also has a generous heart. We shall see.
A political manifesto Daniel Hannan co-wrote with a fellow British Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell, titled The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain (2008), was reviewed in News Weekly (October 3, 2009).