It was in the Brooklyn GOP Radio party on Saturday night that the Brits and Europeans who ventured to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) really made their mark. Okay that’s probably not fair, since Daniel Hannan, Syed Kamall and others rocked the show for the entire weekend. But it was nice to see that when a staff member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) walked through the door, the arrival was met with a loud cheer and the host of the party announcing, “Our European and British friends are here!”
CPAC is traditionally an all-American affair, but in recent years both British and European conservatives have gone to great lengths to attempt to (rebuild) trans-Atlantic bridges. While Daniel Hannan MEP has featured several times over the years, the appearances of former Polish foreign minister Anna Fotgya as well as others were more than welcomed.
The highlights included several speeches on the trans-Atlantic movement at the Americans for Tax Reform ‘International Event’, as well as the AECR group’s main showcase in front of a capacity crowd in the Chesapeake Rooms of the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor, Maryland.
The Heritage Foundation’s Ted Bromund opened the discussions, stating that “the security problem in Europe has not been solved [by the European Union]. In fact it is getting worse”.His words had a chilling effect as news trickled in over the weekend of further disturbances in Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Fernand Kartheiser, a conservative from Luxembourg and former CIA double agent, reiterated these comments calling NATO “weak” and reminding the crowd that the Russian Federation is not a new Soviet Union: “It is no longer the evil empire,” he said, explaining that the tensions between Ukraine and Russia would take delicate handling to ease.
The crowd seemed to greatly appreciate the experts from Britain and Europe, and none more so than Hannan, who told Americans to “act worthy of themselves” in his rousing speech on the main stage a day later. Hannan stated that conservatives need to cast their breath with a little warmth – a warning that unless positive messaging was improved, Republicans would be regarded by the electorate as acid tongued and generally pessimistic.
“We have won the battle of ideas, but lost the battle of implementation,” he suggested, before announcing that if Brits were to vote to stay in the European Union at a prospective 2017 referendum, he would retire from public life. He said if Brits choose to stay in the EU, “…I will grit my teeth… and retire from public life, and won’t be speaking at your CPAC conferences any more”. The crowd was audibly saddened.
Asked by Breitbart London to clarify this comment, he said: “I will have been in public life for 20 years”. We asked in response, “No run for the [the British] parliament?”
“No,” he replied. A great shame.
Hannan also called for agreements between the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) and his own Conservative Party. “If we were rational human beings we would have already done this deal,” he remarked. Without electoral pacts at local levels, he warned, the Labour Party could easily find themselves in power in Britain in 2015.
Hannan defended Cameron’s ‘U-turn’ on a European referendum, stating, “There is no dishonour in an elected leader who listens to the electorate”.
Syed Kamall, who is working to empower charitable organisations without using government funding, noted jokingly in his speech that the BBC should stand for the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation, rather than the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“They say they’re British. We know they’re Bolsheviks,” he teased, before claiming that the Left and the Right of European politics have failed the poorest in Europe and Britain. “It’s not so much that we need to ween the poor off the state,” he said, “but that we have to ween the state off the poor”.
Anna Fotgya spoke to Breitbart London after the event, and raised the issue of Christians being oppressed and massacred abroad. She said she didn’t know or understand why the media and politicians pay such little attention to the fact, but that her group in Poland was desperately trying to raise the issue, albeit from a position of opposition.
The AECR delegates’ conference climaxed with Daniel Hannan MEP’s appearance on the main stage, where he implored the audience to “act worthy of themselves”, taking them through a brief history of the English-speaking people – a reference to his latest book, “How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters”.
Hannan said the English-speaking world was “being polite” in calling the ideals of liberty “Western, or universal values”.
“The reason they became Western values if we’re blunt about it, was as a direct result of a series of military victories by the English-speaking people.”
Hannan also warned that the best way to solve the issue of America’s decline on the world stage was by “restoring order and sanity to the federal budget.”
“When your debt touches 17 trillion dollars, that becomes a question of national security… My friends, when we are talking about numbers on that scale it’s not just your problem anymore, it becomes a problem for the western world in general.”
Immediately afterwards, Hannan spoke to Breitbart News Radio where he expanded on ideas from his earlier speeches.
All in all, the European contingent proved that there is both a demand and indeed a necessity for their presence at CPAC. Some Conservative Party members may however be concerned that increasingly, CPAC delegates are keen to hear from UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage – perhaps the biggest chink in the Tory Party armour.