Dan Hannan: Britain is as European as Australia is Asian

Fresh from his speech at CPAC ’14 in Washington DC, Daniel Hannan speaks from the Capitol to Paul Nizinskyj about the culmination of his Anglosphere tour.

Sunday InterviewIt’s hard to think of a serving British politician who commands as much respect in the United States as Dan Hannan – at least among conservatives. From his ‘devalued prime minister of a devalued government’ speech (which has had almost three million views since it was posted on YouTube in 2009), to his regular warnings to American television viewers about the NHS, to his barnstorming CPAC speeches, a regular sight in any comments section is “I wish we had politicians like that here.”

Well, so do we, folks, so do we. But, although a member of the European Parliament, Hannan’s primary preoccupation is always and everywhere the Anglosphere – that group of nations which share a common language, history and, perhaps most importantly, law. Nowhere is this more evident than the United States, where Hannan speaks to me from, and the relationship is, of course, aided by the abundant cultural exchange between the two nations – which will always be more ‘special’ than anything the current president and prime minister of the day pretend they have going.

And as, by proxy of being world leaders, Americans are essentially leaders of the Anglosphere, Hannan urged them to act “worthy” of this role in passing on the freedoms they inherited when he spoke at CPAC on Saturday morning. But if his assessment of the mood of the conference is anything to go by, American conservatives are feeling pretty confidant of their ability to do this, at least after the next presidential election.

“It was a much more optimistic gathering than the only other one I’ve been to, which was 2012,” he says. “At the time they were looking at who their presidential candidate was going to be later that year and there was a lot of half-heartedness about it whereas, this time, there’s been a real enthusiasm. It’s always a libertarian crowd and Rand Paul was always going to win the straw poll, as his father used to, but many of the other candidates were received with genuine interest, too. There’s a feeling of a much greater choice of talent.”

But while largely European-descended states like the US are obvious candidates for Anglosphere status, it also includes nations you may not immediately think of, that were nonetheless must-see stops on Hannan’s tour.

“Singapore is quite a powerful demonstration of Anglosphere institutions,” he says. “It was my last stop before travelling to the States and one of the arguments I’ve been pushing strongly on this tour is that firstly Britain, then the Anglosphere, is unusual in defining nationality in civil rather than ethnic terms. These are common law, property rights, a common language and individual freedom. I don’t think you get a more textbook example than Singapore which, along with Hong Kong, ranks as the freest economy on the planet.

“Yet it’s a city state which, if you count all the Chinese language groups as separate, has no dominant group. It has Tamils, other Indians, Malay and Chinese but they have common law, the English language, a reverence of property and free contract. It’s an absolutely amazing success story, almost without parallel, but it has the absolutely defining Anglosphere characteristic, which is that law is seen as an instrument of the individual seeking redress rather than of state control.”

Another stop on Hannan’s journey to DC was Singapore’s neighbour Australia, which he says is suffering from its own internal attacks on its Anglosphere status from people who consider it an Asian country. But, as bizarre as this might sound to us in the UK, he says they are people who should very familiar to us.

“They are the exact equivalent of European fanatics and hold exactly the same positions in academia and the media,” he says. “They hold the same false beliefs that everyone thinks the way they do with the same contempt for public opinion. They make the same error that geography trumps everything else – language, law, history. It was a stupid argument even half a century ago, when journeys were long and phone calls expensive, but it’s a ridiculous idea now.”

This was demonstrated, he says, no more powerfully than the way Anglosphere governments reacted to the Snowden affair – in stark contrast to Europe. “It revealed how incredibly natural and intimate Anglosphere security systems are,” he says, “which has no parallel in the rest of the world. We don’t have anything like that level of confidence in the European agencies and I think one of the reasons France and Germany were so upset about the spying allegations is that they were annoyed at not being a part of it.”

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