“Americans! Please stop calling us Europeans!” pleads MEP and occasional Tory Dan, Dan the Oratory Man as he tells readers that Ronald Reagan would never have called his friend Margaret Thatcher a “European”. Hannan makes an awful lot of assumptions about Thatcher and Europe, and as Margaret Thatcher Day (Falklands only, folks) was yesterday, perhaps they could be examined more closely.
Hannan clearly admires Thatcher unequivocally: he quotes Henry Kissinger telling that Britain “has sunk to borrowing, begging, stealing until North Sea oil comes in”, and then manages to miss that this was a significant part of the supposed Thatcher miracle – along with increasing the country’s stock of debt by selling off council houses and making mortgages easier to obtain.
He carries on blustering about anyone opposing him having “the rage of Caliban” when celebrating 30 years after her first General Election victory. The authority to do so had been vested in him by sitting near her at a dinner party not long before. He has, moreover, suggested sincerely that a Nobel Prize for Thatcher would be A Very Good Thing. So what she says is clearly OK.
Sadly, what Margaret Thatcher said does not always match the favoured line of Daniel Hannan. For him, the EU is all about mythical “elites” (which of course somehow do not include him) and staying in is not a credible option. His great friendship is with the USA, except when Barack Obama is concerned, because, well, you don’t get on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) liking him.
So what did Mrs T say about the EU? Well, her most quoted speech – and, one has to say, the most selectively quoted – is that made in September 1988 to the College of Europe in Bruges. Most of the anti-EU brigade lap up her warning of the possibility of “A European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels”, while missing that part of the speech which does not suit their agenda.
She also said this: “let me be quite clear. Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community”. And she also said “We Europeans cannot afford to waste our energies on internal disputes or arcane institutional debates”. Yes, Daniel Hannan, Margaret Thatcher identified herself as a European.
Moreover, Margaret Thatcher, unlike her latest successor, always stayed in the room: she played hardball, but she never ran away. Perhaps, if Daniel Hannan is so sure that she was such a damn fine politician, he could figure out at the outset just where she stood on the issues of the day, and that her constructive stance on the EU does not match his shrill, defeatist cowardice.
So, Dan, exactly how was Margaret Thatcher wrong on staying in the EU?