Tea Across the Pond
“A warning from someone whose present resembles your future.”


LOPEZ: You have a whole chapter urging us not to copy Europe: on health care, welfare, immigration, and more. Which front worries you the most?

HANNAN: The economy. In 1970, Western Europe accounted for 36 percent of the world’s GDP. Today, it’s 25 percent; in 2020 it will be 15 percent. Over the same period, the U.S. share of world GDP has remained, and is forecast to remain, stable at around 26 percent. As my American friends say, go figure.

LOPEZ: How is cap-and-trade an example of the Europeanization of America?

HANNAN: Even its supporters don’t claim that it will make a significant difference. If we take their projections at face value, they are proposing something that would slow global warming by perhaps 0.2 degrees over the next century. So why are they doing it? Because it “sends a message”; it signals that legislators are nice people trying to do the right thing.

This is one of the worst aspects of European politics, and it is seeping into the U.S.: a tendency to declamatory legislation, legislation that is intended to strike a pose — with someone else’s money — rather than achieve significant results.

LOPEZ: Why were you fascinated by the Contract with America? 

HANNAN: We are already losing sight of its magnitude. The Republicans did something that no one had thought possible, capturing the House after 40 years. More than this, though, they kept their promises, delivering nine out of their ten pledges. I was convinced that my own party, also seeking to take office after a series of petty scandals in the legislature, could learn from that example. I traveled to Atlanta to meet Newt Gingrich, and to Dallas to meet Dick Armey, and the more I listened to them, the more impressed I became. When the results came in in 1994, journalists kept asking Gingrich what he planned to do next. “Implement the Contract,” he would say. Yeah, yeah, the campaign’s over now, what are you really going to do? “Here’s a copy. Read it.”

The Conservatives took my message on board. Two weeks before polling day in May, our “Contract with Britain” was mailed to nearly 2 million marginal voters. It worked: The polls immediately turned in our direction.

LOPEZ: How does your reaction to the House GOP “Pledge to America” compare?

HANNAN: We’ll know soon enough whether it was successful. My guess is that, once again, the GOP will take the House. But the real test comes with implementation. In the mid-1990s, Republicans reintroduced Americans to an idea that had been almost totally forgotten, namely that politicians can keep their promises.