Saturday, February 27, 2010

Going International: UK's First Tea Party at Brighton Today (Updated)

Hey, a great idea is a great idea.

Daniel Hannon has invited British opponents of excessive taxation to join him at Great Britain's very first Taxed Enough Already Party. The demonstration, UK style, will take place in Brighton, a city on the south coast of Great Britain, which Hannon represents as a Member of the European Parliament (Conservative Party), and will start at 5:30 p.m. GMT (12:30 p.m. EST).

Taxes are undeniably high in the UK, and British membership in the democratically unaccountable EU raises that historically thorny issue of "no taxation without representation."

A commenter to Hannon's UK Telegraph blog named Y Rhyfelwr Dewr asked his American wife what Americans would do if a state charged 17.5 percent sales tax at the till like they do in Cardiff, Wales, and she replied, "There'd be a revolution." Some British folk (I'm predicting a number that will surprise UK politicians as much as their US counterparts were surprised by the growth of the Tea Party turnouts here) are more than ready. A commenter who calls herself UK Debt Slave is rising to the challenge: "It's going to be an uphill struggle. There's no time to waste. You have 2 choices: 1. Do something. 2. Accept slavery."

But Hannon's also been having to defend his plan from criticisms that the first Boston Tea Party was directed against the British Crown. The comments of Torchlight are one particularly polite example:
How sad that you can’t find an authentically British way of expressing your political dissent. Instead you give us imported American theatrics inspired by what, historically, was an attack on a British ship, a prelude to an attack on the British state in a war that cost many British lives.
The fact is, of course, that most of the American Revolutionaries started out as loyal subjects of the British Crown. As Hannon pointed out:
In their own minds, all they were asking for was what they had always assumed to be their birthright as freeborn Englishman.
Part of that birthright was liberty from unjust, arbitrary or punitive taxation.


The American Revolution, in other words, was inspired by British political philosophy and – more to the point – by British political practice. American patriots saw themselves as part of a continuing British tradition, stretching back through the Glorious Revolution, back through the agitations of Pym and Hampden, back even through the Great Charter to the folkright of Anglo-Saxon common law.
Naturally enough, once the fighting started, the rebel leaders began to use nationalist arguments, and subsequent historians in the US have tended to play these up. But the idea, in 1773, that Britain was a foreign country would have struck most Americans, patriot or loyalist, as ridiculous. A large majority of the British population sympathised with the arguments of the colonists. So, indeed, did the greatest British parliamentarians of the age.

“I rejoice that America has resisted,” proclaimed William Pitt the Elder setting out the case against the Stamp Act in 1766. “Three million people so dead to all feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest [of us]”
Famously, Benjamin Franklin himself sought relief for the colonies from the Stamp Act when he appeared before  the British Parliament in 1766. A record of his testimony is available here. Below is an excerpt:

Q. What was the temper of America towards Great Britain before the
year 1763? 

A. The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of
the Crown, and paid, in all their courts, obedience to acts of
Parliament. . . . 

Q. What is your opinion of a future tax, imposed on the same principle
with that of the Stamp Act? How would the Americans receive it? 

A. Just as they do this. They would not pay it. 
This is the kind of history that gets remembered when people get pushed too far. There is undoubtedly much encouragement for the British Tea Partiers coming from this side of the Pond, even if the chief organizer is a politician. As commenter Beloved wrote:
Whatever it takes, do it. I started out as a lone tea partier at town halls in Aug 2008, before we took up the name tea party. One Tea Partier becomes five, then 500, then 5,000 etc…The message resonates across party lines with thinking people. 
The Tea Partier writing this blog just wants to add (in American lingo): Go for it!

Update: Early reports: The place was packed. No visuals yet, though.

Update:  From Conservative Home via Autonomous Mind:
It was standing room only at the Boston Brighton Tea Party organised by the Freedom Association early this evening at which Dan Hannan was guest speaker. He said that it was time to "bring sanity and order back to the public finances" an that had to be done by reducing expenditure rather than increasing taxes.
He referred to the time when Ronald Reagan was asked how he could  justify cutting taxes when the deficit was so large, and he recalled the President's reply:
"I'm not worried about the deficit - the deficit is big enough to look after itself".
In other words, if you bring down taxes there will be economic growth, revenues will rise and the deficit will be reduced. Reagan took a massive gamble, he recalled, and it worked, with Margaret Thatcher doing much the same thing in Britain. "We have lost sight of that wisdom," he lamented.
Hat tip: Backyard Conservative

1 comment:

  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all as you begin this fantastic journey!
    God bless-