If you haven’t already seen the speech of Daniel Hannan – a hitherto little-known Conversative MEP – attacking Gordon Brown’s economic regeneration policy (and more), you’re in for a treat. It’s a wonderful piece of rhetoric, whether you support Hannan and the growing list of Brown’s detractors, or the Labour Government, or neither. Even Gordon Brown laughed – a nervous laugh, I think, since it’s deadly serious – and every effective. It earned its applause. Here it is.
There are two notable things about Daniel Hannan’s speech. The first is that it wasn’t picked up by the mainstream media in the UK – that is, the news channels and cultural affairs programmes – until it became an internet phenomenon on YouTube. It’s certainly not the first time this has happened, but it’s a major development because the mass media is now reporting on an internet meme. The net got their first. Long live the net.
The second point is that its success largely depends on creating an extended metaphor which is, unlike many of the attempts made by the mainstream media to describe the economic crisis, is successful. Its success depends upon the application of a conventional trope – the idea of failure as represented by a sinking ship – but skewed to address the particularities of this sinking ship – that is, the UK economy.
It’s so inventive, in fact, that it was most likely prepared for the occasion. This is at odds with the delivery, which seems natural and restrained. If it sounds churlish to suggest it was written and therefore of lesser value, then this is not the intention. Rather, I mean the very opposite: it is carefully hewn yet passionately delivered, artificial – as it were – and perfectly natural. (I’m assuming here, I don’t know for sure.)
There is a touch of the ad hominem about it – a last bastion of the fraud, the uncertain – and would appeal to those who instinctively find Brown wooden at the best of times. But after watching Hannan’s attack on Brown in the context of the division in Europe over whether it’s right to spend your way out of a recession, it feels like it has distilled a moment in the history of attempting to overcome what threatens to be a damaging economic slump.