A couple of days ago, as he does most days, MEP for South East England Daniel Hannan posted on youtube snippets and videos of his deliberations in the European parliamentary chamber. What made this different to the other videos he has posted was that it was as direct and as forthright an attack on the PMs economic decisions as I have ever seen by an opposing politician.
At one point in the video, it is like he is one exclaimation away from going over to Mr Brown, grabbing him by the collar and shouting ‘LOOK! LOOK AT THIS MESS! WHY CAN’T YOU ACCEPT YOU WERE WRONG!?’ such is his flabbergastedness at times. The Prime Minister hasn’t helped himself by allowing a wry, if embarrassed, smirk come across his face as he takes notes, which has angered a fair few in the Conservative blogosphere. I can’t imagine he’s been described in person as a ‘devalued Prime Minister’ before.
First the Americans caught wind of it, with Fox News and that long time bastion of Internet news media, The Drudge Report, spreading the Hannan gospel. Due in part to this widespread coverage, at the time of posting, the YouTube video has garnered over 895,000 views and is one of the most popular videos of the week. This is all before it has even hit the mainstream media such as television and the newspapers.
The popularity of the speech has gone hand in hand with the praise reserved for it and Mr. Hannan. Republican centric Rush Limbaugh is offering up Hannan as an example as to how the GOP should act in opposition to Obama’s spending plans. It is quite funny then, that someone seen as the opposite to Obama is carrying very similar traits to that man.
On YouTube, many of the comments on the video are in full praise of Hannan’s frankness; praising his bravery, championing him for election to the Commons and even (though tongue-in-cheek) as a candidate for the U.S. Presidency. Obviously these may be far fetched, but the effect of this video is that it has channelled the grievances that the Middle-England, Express-reading conservative reserves for this Government into one politician. And that politician isn’t even the leader of the Opposition.
So what does Mr. Hannan say in his speech which is so crushingly honest, so unequivocally damning, so unnervingly right (according to his supporters) that a 3 minute video of the Euro Parliament chamber has managed to obtain nearly a million viewers, when most of his other videos hovver around the 10,000 hit mark?
Essentially the people, Conservative and not, are just pleased that Hannan gave Gordon a bit of a shoeing (As you can see, these three blogs let the video do the talking). The actual content of the vid follows pretty familiar ground in terms of what Brown has been criticised for:
-Increasing debt in the boom years when he should have been saving.
-Keeping spending despite the lack of money in the coffers
-Insisting that the UK is ‘well placed’ despite the IMF and the European Commission saying otherwise.
These may be quite acceptable and reasonable enough arguments, but they are still flawed at heart. As has been demonstrated elsewhere on the blogosphere (Liberal Conspiracy, Next Left, Dan Hannan didn’t exactly have foresight on these troubling economic times in October 2004…
Being outside the EU, Iceland has been able to cut taxes and regulation, and to open up its economy. For 70 years the Althing has been dominated by the splendidly named Independence party, which has pursued the kind of Thatcherite agenda that is off limits to EU members
Icelanders understand that there is a connection between living in an independent state and living independently from the state. They have no more desire to submit to international than to national regulation. That attitude has made them the happiest, freest and wealthiest people on earth.
Aye, fat lot of good all that reduction of spending did them, eh? And something tells me they might have an incey wincey desire to ‘submit’ to regulation at the moment. Indeed, a few months ago the Industry Minister seemed rather keen for the IMF to get involved.
The speech itself has a few inconsistencies. Firstly, he says that the UK has ‘subsidised where he has not nationalised swathes of our economy, including the car industry…’. Well, that isn’t true is it? Subsidies have been promised to the car industry but they have yet to be forthcoming. They certainly haven’t been nationalised either.
Secondly, he bemoans the loss of 100,000 private sector jobs and the creation of 30,000 public sector jobs as “squeezing the productive bit of the economy in order to fund an unprecedented engorgement of the unproductive bit.” Well let’s see. Private sector jobs are shed for a reason – mainly, in these heady times, in order for a business to keep afloat. As income falls , so will in turn the wage bill as frankly, you won’t have the money to keep everyone employed and service yourself as a business. At least in creating public sector jobs Labour are trying to get people back into work – what about the idea of getting ex-traders to do fastrack teacher courses and become maths teachers?
And the big one, as always with the Conservatives, is…what would you do then? Hannan offers no indication of what needs to be done, but instead focuses on slaughtering Brown. One can only assume he means the complete opposite, which could well have seen banks like ‘Northern Rock’ and ‘Bradford & Bingley’ go under had the Conservatives been in power.
Yet all of this pales into insignificance when you consider that Hannan has accidentally orchestrated what appears to be one of the biggest political rallying calls in recent memory.
Indeed, the only thing that rings a bell at the minute is Mr. Obama’s ampaign for the Presidency of the United States. Both his ‘Yes We Can’ and Election Night videos surpass the million viewing mark on YouTube, something Mr Hannan’s recent video will surely do. Consider that the most viewed video of Gordon Brown, behind the Hannan shoeing, is one of him picking his nose in the Commons at around 360,000 views. The highest viewed video on webcameron is, by comparison to Hannan and Obama, a paltry 39,000. Whether you like them or loathe them, people actively want to hear what the likes of Obama and Hannan want to say, whereas with our current PM and Leader of the Opposition, we either want to laugh at them or don’t simply care.
So, how has Hannan done this? It is all in the method, my friend.
Let us not forget that Daniel Hannan has been caught in the eye of political storm before. He was in rather hot water last year after comparing the German EU President to Hitler. After being expelled from the European People’s Party due to this, he became an independent. Subsequently, as he explained in an interview for Newsnight recently, he has been able to partake in many more debates than usual. If anything, it is worth noting that this is a man used to courting controversy and coming on the other side in a stronger position than before.
Yet it isn’t just luck, as Hannan has been gifted with the nous and skills of a politicians. He is articulate, an excellent orator and clear in his beliefs – Obamaesque qualities you could say. As well as mimicing Obama’s viewing numbers on YouTube, he is also good at offering people bitesize chunks of his views and not long, drawn out and boring debates. 1 to 2 minute clipsof his speeches are regularly updated, very clear and concise and, most importantly, memorable. His referencing of historical incidents, past theorists (in likening the EU President to Hitler, he recalled the 1933 Enabling Act before beginning a lecture on the ideas of founding conservative thinker Edmund Burke) and penchant to finish nearly all his speeches in latin (“Pactio Olisipiensis censenda est” – “Lisbon must be put to a vote”) can all be seen as quite pretencious in a way, but the important thing is that they lodge in your mind. It has taken this one spark to ignite it, and now around a million more people than before are aware of his videos. Indeed, following on from the runaway success of the Gordon Brown denouncement, his latest video is also one of the most viewed clips today, attracting nearly 30,000 viewers. I would quite happily wager that as of right now, most people in Britain only know 1 MEP, and that that MEP would be Daniel Hannan.
Hannan’s message may not be perfect, but he has the oratory skills to deliver it and deliver it convincingly. The success of his attack on Brown has brought him out of the shadows in Brussels and into the spotlight in Britain. He clearly has supporters; in Europe, the UK and USA, and on the back of this wave of support, could quite plausibly nab a Commons seat at the next election if he wanted to.
On top of all of this, he has also shown a mastery of the new media not seen by many British politicians. In being an active blogger, posting digestable online videos, and having the political skills to utilise these to the max, he undestands that it’s how you get the message across that counts, not necessarily what you say – lest we forget, he is in effect merely repeating the bullets shot at Brown by David Cameron on a regular basis. The medium in this case, most certainly is the message, and an idea he may have just got from a certain man over in Washington D.C.