Just a few days ago, not many Americans knew about Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament. However, after a three minute speech on March 24 in which he confronted British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Hannan has become an international sensation. His YouTube video “The devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government” is already an internet success. It has become the most viewed political speech faster than any other in internet history, with almost two million views in its first week, and it has been the number one viewed video for several straight days. As a principled politician, Hannan has been widely praised by conservatives in the United States and was recently featured on Fox News, the Drudge Report and various important conservative radio talk shows, including the Rush Limbaugh Show.
Hannan has been writing in Britain's best-selling quality newspapers for 14 years. When first elected to the European Parliament in 1999, Hannan was its youngest member. Then in April 2008, he was pushed to the top of the Conservative candidate list for the 2009 European elections, making it almost certain that he will be re-elected to the European Parliament next June.
American interest in Hannan´s short video and speech rests on a simple premise: what Hannan said in the video to Gordon Brown could have easily been said to Barack Obama by any of the true conservative members of the Republican Party in the U.S. Congress. After all, our new American president is pursuing the same or even larger massive spending policies which will lead the United States down the path to unprecedented debt and financial ruin. In his video, Hannan tells Brown: “I have long accepted that you’re pathologically incapable of accepting responsibility for these things. It’s that you’re carrying on, willfully worsening our situation, wantonly spending what little we have left.” American Conservatives feel exactly the same way about Obama, and Hannan is a reminder of that. Daniel Hannan’s brilliant oration –reminiscent of William F. Buckley´s accent– has produced a new European conservative star. Conservatives should take note of the need to develop a true transatlantic alliance with their European conservative brethren.
Conservative principles are as true today as they were at the founding of our country in 1776; they were laid out by political philosophers and thinkers throughout the nation´s history such as Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, Russell Kirk and upheld by notable politicians such as Barry Goldwater, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Just as Mark Levin outlined in his recent conservative manifesto, conservatism is rooted in the ideas of the framers of our founding documents. Both in the United States and in Europe, all that is really needed is a group of politicians willing to articulate those principles. Hannan is an example of how it is indeed possible to do so. He represents a clear example of how bridges between American and European conservatives can be built. It could also create a platform for rising conservative political figures such as Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Mark Sanford, Eric Cantor and others.
Before Hannan´s video shocked the viewers in the United States, he had already made some waves within European politics. Armed with his knowledge of the French and Spanish languages, he has closely followed the political atmosphere in Europe and, particularly, in Spain, a country where several hundreds of thousands of British citizens live and also vote. Hannan specifically asked those British living in Spain to get out and vote conservative in the next European elections this coming June. Hannan´s point was that as Brits in Spain are one of the least represented communities in Western Europe (most of whom are conservative), the importance of voting is particularly relevant. The interesting aspect in Hannan´s position -- as well as in the position taken by the Tories in the Conservative Party in England -- is the clear attempt to form a new conservative bloc of parties within the European Parliament. David Cameron has already given formal notice of his intention to leave the “European People´s Party” grouping to set up a conservative bloc: the “European Conservatives,” a political group in the European Parliament that will attract members from the Czech governing party -- Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s Civic Democrats (ODS). Topolanek, who commands particular influence because his country holds the EU presidency, recently asserted that extra spending was “the way to hell”. Others likely to join Cameron´s organization include the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS), Spain´s Alternativa Española (AES), led by Rafael López Diéguez, and several other political parties from Romania, Bulgaria, and other Baltic states that have become uncomfortable with their existing affiliations.
Undoubtedly, this is good news for American conservatives. Further, it is a blow to several European leaders who are part of the “European People´s Party” but who, unfortunately, seem to be more interested in keeping their place in politics rather than implementing true conservative values: Angela Merkel in Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy or Mariano Rajoy in Spain. Those who want to stop the creation of the new Conservative bloc in the European Parliament are already carrying out a dishonest campaign of propaganda against these European parties, calling it a “far-right” or a “fascist” coalition of parties: the same old insults that we see in the United States against conservatives.
Cameron, Hannan and most of the British Tories disagree with the European People´s Party views, which include advocating for closer integration in Europe in matters of economy, immigration, defense, big government and foreign policies. As it stands now, the European Parliament lacks official opposition. Cameron will lead this much needed conservative crusade for real reform in Europe. It is within this context that Hannan´s recommendations for British expatriates living in Spain should be considered. His suggestion as a conservative was not to vote for the usual Spanish “Partido Popular” (PP) or the “Partido Socialista Obrero Español” (PSOE), but rather to vote for a new, vibrant and pro-life Spanish conservative party, “Alternativa Española” (AES), which openly defends its Western Christian roots. Hannan defines this Spanish party as a Euro-sceptic anti-corruption party that has broken away finally from both the socialist PSOE and the centrist PP (which has lost the credibility, principles and stature it once had under José María Aznar´s leadership). Hannan argues that without dodgy mayors to defend, AES is keen to address the concerns that Spanish as well as expatriate British residents have about land security and other important issues for conservatives.
Furthermore, as Hannan points out, AES was the only party to campaign for a real “No” vote on the European Constitution and an active party that encouraged Ireland to stand up to the Euro-bullies. Hannan´s pick of AES makes sense if one considers that for Spain it takes only 300,000 votes to return a Member of the European Parliament.
Some conservatives in the United States are already paying close attention to the activities within the conservative movement in Europe and alerting the Republican Party to the need to consider the suggestions made by Hannan and look at parties in Europe with which alliances and partnerships can be created. Hannan arrives into the political scenario at a time when the Republican Party can lay no legitimate claim to being for limited government after eight years of being just the opposite, ending with bailouts of banks and car companies. This is precisely why the Republican Party should take a close look at the vibrant Spanish conservative party “Alternativa Española” as a first step to creating a true Transatlantic Alliance of Conservatives. While the other two major parties in Spain were and continue to be mesmerized by Obama and openly supported his campaign, “Alternativa Española” stands on principles and defends conservative values: individual freedom, limited government, free markets, individual responsibility, an unequivocal pro-life stance, lower taxes and the implementation of a practical flat tax, school vouchers and, very importantly, the defense of the Judeo-Christian roots of the Western civilization.
Cameron and the European conservatives seem to be decided on firm principles (with the exception of some mistakes on Cameron´s part regarding his positions about the dangers of the so-called man-made “global warming”). In the final analysis, the alliance could be a stepping stone to subsequent conservative realignments and alliances at the transatlantic level. British Conservatives have been in opposition to the ruling party since 1997 but, according to opinion polls, they are very well placed to defeat Brown´s Labour Party at the next election in mid-2010. In the middle of the outrageous financial interventions by the governments of Spain, England and the United States, European voters who believe in limited government will have a say. If we consider that in November of 2010 the United States has its midterm elections, we may be witnessing a reemergence of conservatism in Europe and the United States. Cameron and Hannan's strategy may work in Europe and it is even possible that, contrary to what many believe, we may also be making history as part of a new conservative revolution on both sides of the Atlantic.
Alberto Acereda is a Professor at Arizona State University and a Member of the “North American Academy of the Spanish Language.” He is also a columnist for several newspapers in Europe and the United States.