Britain’s Guardian, the voice of Labour, has a very good, very long article by Sam Knight, paying tribute to Daniel Hannan as the key figure responsible for the recent referendum victory taking Britain out of the EU.
Hannan was part of a particular generation of young Conservatives deeply marked by these events. He was in his first term at Oxford, studying history at Oriel, when Thatcher resigned on 23 November 1990. Twenty-three days later, John Major approved an early draft of Maastricht. The sense of a mighty mistake being made has never left Hannan. By the end of term, he had founded the Campaign for an Independent Britain, or CIB, at the Queenâ€™s Lane cafe on Oxford High Street.
â€œI remember swearing what the old adventure stories would call a terrible oath to do something,â€ he told me. …
At Oxford, Hannanâ€™s screeds on Maastricht quoted Aristotle, Shakespeare and William Pitt the Younger. But he also had an eye for a stunt. Conservative ministers visiting the CIB were ambushed and photographed with anti-EU T-shirts, while Hannanâ€™s speeches â€“ as his writings are now â€“ were littered with arch, aphoristic observations. Lord Salisbury was able to run the British empire with 52 civil servants. Kingâ€™s College, Cambridge, has produced more Nobel prize winners than France. The worldâ€™s oldest parliaments all hail from small islands. Goldman Sachs wants you to vote remain. â€œA Hannan soundbite does stick with you,â€ said Littlewood. â€œHe does make you think.â€ …
[W]orking to another order of events, separated Hannan and the other Maastricht diehards â€“ even from fellow Tories who might otherwise agree with them. â€œThe view at the centre was these were the people who had kept the Conservative party out of power for years,â€ said Gove. â€œWhatever they are most passionately in favour of must perforce be at best eccentric, at worst electoral disaster.â€
One new MP in 2005 remembered being lobbied to support the move out of the EPP and asking an older colleague for advice. â€œHe said, â€˜You just cannot. It looks good. But you cannot give an inch to these guys because they will never, ever accept it. They will take and take and take until they have won.â€™â€ Several Conservative MPs I spoke to for this article compared Hannan and his set to â€œentryistsâ€ and â€œTrotsâ€ for their ideological purity, their quest to reassert what they regard as Britainâ€™s lost place in the world. â€œThey are grammar-school imperialists,â€ one MP told me. â€œA hundred years ago Hannan and his ilk would have been able to vent their rather bizarre beliefs bullying people in a nether-province of India.â€
Hannan says such insults have never bothered him. â€œIt passes by as the idle wind that I respect not,â€ he said. He simply regards himself as a different kind of a politician. â€œI think public life for me has a slightly didactic role, OK,â€ he said. â€œYou should be trying to shift the centre ground of public opinion.â€ …
In November 2009, though, the Conservatives abandoned their own manifesto promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Hannan called Cameronâ€™s office to resign from his duties in Brussels â€“ he was the partyâ€™s legal affairs spokesman in Europe. A senior aide picked up the phone. â€œI said â€¦ I just think youâ€™ve made the most terrible mistake,â€ Hannan recalled. But he promised to step down without publicity. The adviser thanked him, and asked Hannan what he planned to do next. â€œIâ€™m going to devote myself full time to securing and then winning a referendum on leaving the EU,â€ Hannan replied. The aide laughed down the line. â€œGood luck with that.â€
Hannan put the phone down. He was in his office in Brussels. The Macauley poem, Horatius at the Bridge, entered his mind: â€œWho will stand on either hand / And keep the bridge with me?
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Frank A. Dobbs.
Hannan is a brilliant conservative who knows what he is talking about, as this video of Hannan in action in the EU Parliament demonstrates.