Mar 4, 2013
In my previous article I introduced the European members of ALEC the majority of whom come from the British Conservative Party, the ‘Tories‘ (from the Irish which roughly translates to ‘thieving bastards’).
This link between US and UK right wing lobbyists actually stretches back decades and indeed some groups in the US only exist to help fund UK lobbyists, an example being the American Friends of the IEA. The IEA, Institute for Economic Affairs, was founded in the 1950’s and, although I dislike quoting from Wikipedia, their entry on its founder is particularly succinct:
Sir Antony Fisher (28 June 1915 – 8 July 1988) was a background player in the global rise of libertarian think-tanks during the second half of the twentieth century, founding the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Through Atlas, he helped establish up to 150 other think-tanks worldwide.
His successors seem to have carried on the family tradition and indeed have a direct line to the office of the UK’s Tory Prime Minster!
He was father to Linda Whetstone, who has been involved with many of Fisher’s think tanks, and grandfather to Rachel Whetstone, formerly Political Secretary to Conservative leader Michael Howard, now global head of communications and public policy for Google, who is married to David Cameron’s [former?] Director of Strategy Steve Hilton.
In looking at the specific ALEC links with UK Tories I will present a chronological timeline stretching back around a decade. Due to the amount of information presented comment has been kept to a minimum.
Note: many historical links may not work but are provided for information; the data has been extracted from local copies we hold.
ALEC is also working to promote closer working relations between America’s state political leaders and their foreign counterparts. The underlying purpose is to build a better understanding of America’s political process and maintain an ongoing dialogue of how free-market societies are prepared to meet future challenges and the emerging global economy.
In 2002, ALEC staff held discussions with several international delegations, including British Members of the European Parliament, regional leaders of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, and representatives of the Kosovar Parliament. More recently, ALEC’s Michael Flynn held a briefing at an international conference on federalism sponsored by the German think tank, Friedrich Naumann. Future ALEC activities aim to bring emerging political leaders from other countries into this international freedom exchange.
In 2003, a delegation of European Members of Parliament will be meeting with American state lawmakers at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Just as the White House and Congress gear up for their new electoral cycles, Europe is also at the start of a new 5 year phase. The new enlarged European Parliament is just finding its feet following June’s Europe-wide elections and she has already shown signs that she will fully flex her institutional muscles when needed. Soon the new European Commission of 25 will also take up a fresh term, with a new set of priorities and challenges.
One of the biggest challenges facing Europe is surely its very direction. The new Constitutional Treaty currently undergoing ratification in Member States is by no means a shoe-in and the EU will spend much of the next 18 months trying to establish its exact place on the world stage. Perhaps this is why EU-US relations have become schizophrenic of late. At times Europe and America have acted in complete harmony and presented a united front; At other times, our relationship has been overtly fractious. That is where legislators have a key role to play – in bringing forward a relationship based on co-operation and trust.
ALEC’s EU project is now well under way and we’ve found friends in the conservative delegations of Britain, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We hope to extend this further and establish an on-going dialogue with conservatives across the European Union.
Indeed, the new European Commission is also showing very welcome signs of pragmatism and collaboration. The EU’s incoming Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, says she wants a determined and decisive multilateral effort to fight international terrorism. She has also stressed that the EU must now show support for the broader political process in Iraq. This common-sense approach to the international scene is to be welcomed as a positive sign of things to come.
ALEC will welcome three MEPs to its States and Nations Policy Summit in Washington D.C. this December to discuss the latest aspects of the transatlantic relationship. We also hope to build a firm bridge across the Atlantic for our shared conservative ideas and I know that everyone at ALEC will do their best to welcome our European guests.
Note this phrase: ‘a firm bridge across the Atlantic’. In a future article the ‘Atlantic bridge’ will be discussed further.
Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before I start may I just say thank you to ALEC for inviting me to this excellent conference. It is a great privilege for me to be here with my colleagues from the European Parliament: Martin Callanan, who, alas, returned to the UK last night and Roger Helmer, who I know many of you have met and listened to.
I am Chris Heaton-Harris and all three of us were re-elected for our second five year terms to the European Parliament back in June.
The European Parliament has 724 members from 25 countries representing 450m people and using 20 official languages. As you can imagine, it is a very complicated place….
…Now, I can’t claim to be an ALEC member or alumni; in fact it was only a couple of years ago that I was introduced to this organisation and Jeffersonian principles. In the UK I’m pretty well known for my Conservative views – it seems to me that no matter where you are true Conservative will always stand for the same things:
- To limit government
- For lower taxes
- For free trade and open markets
- Individual freedom
- Showing respect and taking personal responsibility.
But I didn’t know these core values as Jeffersonian principles – to me these were Thatcherisms…
…And there’s worse yet to come… many of you will have heard of the European Constitution – and just by its name you might think, well this is a good thing.
But whereas your Constitution is a truly enduring historical document based on life, liberty and limiting government; ours is a socialist manifesto.
Let me list some things it calls “fundamental rights”:
- The freedom to form trade unions.
- The right to collective bargaining and action.
- The freedom to choose an occupation. (I want to be an astronaut and I’ll sue you if you don’t let me be one!)
- The right to have fair and just working conditions.
- The right to reconcile family and professional life.
And these rights will all be interpreted by our version of your Supreme Court – the EU’s Court of Justice….
…But why should you all care about what’s happening over in Europe? Surely, if Europe’s economy goes downhill it won’t effect America.
Well do remember that the EU is one of the biggest markets for American produced goods.
And also remember what Ronald Reagan once said in one of his radio commentaries back in the 70’s: “we should always be wary and watch out for government’s communications grapevine. When one set of jungle drums is pounded by a group of bureaucrats” he said “another group of bureaucrats will be listening.”
That’s how regulation spreads: from you to us, like smoking bans, or from us to you! And trust me – those jungle drums are beating hard and fast in Europe.
To me the solution to all these problems I’ve outlined seems obvious – Europe needs Jeffersonian principles/Thatcherisms.
In fact we must really start by helping Europe’s Conservatives remember what being a Conservative is all about – and to do that I believe we need a role model.
And actually I think we have a ready-made role model here today in ALEC and all of you.
You understand what Jeffersonian principles are all about and you deliver policy that makes them work and improves peoples’ lives.
But alas, in Europe, we have no organisation like ALEC – and we really need one.
That is why I am so glad you have started your international program – that will help us true believers out there fight the good fight.
Over the past couple of years it has been really tough being a Conservative in Europe. Coming here this week has been like taking a bottle of political Viagra – I feel completely re-energised!
So I’d like to thank you all – for your friendship, your hospitality and your inspiration…
Roger Helmer – Speech to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – Washington DC – December 1, 2004
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As always, it’s a huge pleasure for me, and my colleagues Chris Heaton-Harris and Martin Callanan, to be here with you at another ALEC Conference. I’d like especially to thank Duane Parde, and his fellow officers at ALEC, for the invitation, and I’d also like to thank ALEC staffer Sally McNamara for organising our programme. Sally previously spent five years working for Chris Heaton-Harris and me in the UK and Brussels, before coming to Washington.
In a world where globalisation is accelerating, and where we all face the common threat of terrorism, I believe that the transatlantic relationship, which has underpinned our security for all of my life-time, is becoming more, not less, important. I very much regret the apparent lack of commitment to this relationship from Brussels, with its constant sniping and posturing on transatlantic trade and security issues.
In these circumstances, it is crucial to maintain and strengthen links between conservative politicians and thinkers on both sides of the water. I believe that ALEC has a vital role to play in this dialogue, and this is why it is such a great pleasure, and privilege, for me and my colleagues to be here with you today….
…While we enjoy coming to Washington, we also do our best to maintain transatlantic relations in Brussels, and we always look forward to events organised by the American Chamber, which has a high reputation over there. Indeed I sometimes think they know more about what’s going on in the EU institutions than we do!
On Nov 17th we were guests at the American Chamber dinner in Strasbourg, where David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, was the keynote speaker. I met a charming, tall, elderly Polish MEP, whom I had better not name…
…It is easy to ridicule, but dangerous to ignore the threat. There is a world of difference between the EU we have today, and the EU of the Constitution. Today, at least in theory, the EU is a Treaty-based organisation linking independent, democratic sovereign nations. Under the Constitution, it becomes for all practical purposes a country in its own right, with its own legal personality.
What do you call an organisation that has, or is putting in place, a Constitution, a currency, a central bank, a supreme court, a President, a Foreign Minister, an elected parliament, common external borders and tariffs, border guards, an army — not to mention a passport, a flag and an anthem?
Ladies and gentlemen, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ….. !
And in that new country called Europe, the ancient nations of our continent will be little more than provinces.
Does this matter to America? You bet it does! Too many of the Chancelleries of Europe are animated by an endemic Anti-Americanism, heightened recently by the Iraq war. They speak of a euro currency, and EU armed forces, to “counter-balance US dominance”. They are developing their own Global Positioning System, Galileo, not because they need it — you make your own system available free of charge — but to assert their growing confidence as a global power. In doing so, they threaten the strategic balance, and the vital transatlantic flow of military and security intelligence.
My advice, which I have offered whenever I have been this side of the water, is that the US should know its friends in Europe, and work with them country-by-country, rather than seeking to deal with the EU as a single entity. I am delighted to see that this view is catching on in Washington, and I particularly commend the Heritage Foundation briefing paper of October 2004 by John C. Hulsman and Nile Gardiner, entitled “A Conservative Vision for US Policy Toward Europe”, which takes exactly this position.
I and my colleagues are convinced that the EU Constitution is a profound threat to the prosperity, the democracy and increasingly to the security of our country. But we also to believe that an assertive, unified, Constitution-based EU is not in America’s best interest either.
Our great task for the next couple of years is to campaign in the UK against ratification of the EU Constitution. We think we can win this battle, and we would be hugely encouraged to have your moral support in our campaign. Thank you.
Having been recently appointed ALEC National Chairman, I am delighted to see our international relations project now moving full steam ahead. I have asked my immediate predecessor as National Chairman, Senator Billy Hewes, to Chair the ALEC Board of Director’s Committee on International Relations, while Ken Lane of DIAGEO will co-chair in a private sector capacity. These gentlemen enjoy my full support, and I believe that we have a strong a team to lead from the front & move forward with our international coalition-building.
Anyone who attended our States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington this month knows just how important it is to have friends across the Atlantic. Chris Heaton-Harris MEP delivered a remarkable speech, which directly addressed our principles. He asked for our help and mutual support – and ALEC is delighted to offer it. Not least because the threats posed by the European Constitution can easily be transported over here – the threats to free trade, free markets and individual liberty.
These debates about the future of Europe & its international status are increasingly relevant to America and to our companies who operate inside the EU. That is why I am so happy to see ALEC taking the lead in shaping the policy debate for the future of transatlantic relations.
Think tanks have become somewhat part of the establishment in Washington. In fact, it would be fair to say that there’s a healthy amount of competition among DC’s thinkers; competition for the best people, for the best promotional tools and for the best access to the Nation’s policy makers. And there is little doubt in the conservative movement that this has been a good thing – that new think tanks have increased the strength of existing think tanks, attracting new activists and advancing “the movement”.
But what about Europe? Brussels has previously been marked by its very lack of free market think tanks, and its proliferation of EU funded “groups”. It is a fact that virtually all government funds which flow into lobbying/pressure groups go to leftist organizations. This fact underlies the damaging economic road the EU has chosen to go down in recent years, spurred by its “consultations” with these elite, quasi-independent interest groups.
But it seems that the conservatives are fighting back. On my recent trip to Brussels with ALEC, I attended a conference entitled Does the West Know Best, organized by The Stockholm Network. SN is a network of 120 market-oriented think tanks, working with Europe’s brightest policymakers and thinkers. Does the West Know Best examined the new EU member states’ more radical approaches to social and economic reform, such as flat taxation, the privatization of social security and moves towards more market-oriented health systems. I was awed to meet people from think tanks in places such as Croatia and Estonia, who have literally lived (or indeed still living) through the transition from communism to democracy. Their determination to pursue the ideals of the free market – regardless of the current political climate or pressure – amazed me. Newly elected Polish MEP Michal Kaminski frequently relays the story about how he learned about conservatism by listening to Mrs. Thatcher & President Reagan on the BBC World Service on a clandestine radio, hidden under his bed covers, for fear of the authorities.
Free market think tanks are now converging on Brussels, either directly or indirectly. The Center for New Europe, a non-profit, pro-market research foundation is headquartered in Brussels, popping up everywhere with its well-researched publications and arguments; SN’s Europe-wide network is rapidly developing into a formal arrangement of academics, policy practitioners, journalists and business people, exchanging market-oriented policy ideas and reform strategies right across the EU. The conservatives are seemingly back in Brussels. Lets hope for good.
Sally McNamara has been invited as a regular columnist for the London-based think tank, The Bruges Group. The Bruges Group is an independent all-party [exclusively Conservative Party] think tank, founded in February 1989 with the vision of a free trading, decentralized, deregulated and democratic Europe of nation-states. Its inspiration was Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech in September 1988, in which she remarked that, “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level.”
(The Bruges Group can be found at http://brugesgroup.com)
ALEC was privileged to host five conservative legislators from the European Parliament at a roundtable discussion on June 27th. Martin Callanan, Chris Heaton-Harris, Roger Helmer, Dan Hannan and Michal Tomasz Kaminski MEPs briefed ALEC members on a range of topics, including REACH, the draft European Constitution and the precautionary principle.
ALEC’s Executive Director, Duane Parde, was invited to visit London last month in order to attend a gala dinner in honor of former Prime Minister, Lady Margaret Thatcher. At the personal invitation of British Conservative MEP Chris Heaton-Harris, Mr. Parde met Mrs. Thatcher, who later addressed the dinner, speaking through an aide.
ALEC’s International Relations Project Director, Sally McNamara, attended the Heritage Foundation’s conference “Is the European Union in the Interests of the United States?” Speakers included Christopher Booker (journalist and editor, UK Daily Telegraph), Judge Robert H. Bork (Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute) and The Rt. Hon David Heathcoat-Amory MP (British parliamentarian). [Conservative Party, naturally]
ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar Roger Helmer MEP produces a monthly e-update on his parliamentary activities, entitled Straight Talking on Europe. To receive Straight Talking, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEC was delighted to welcome Czech Republic MEP, Dr. Ivo Strejcek to its 32nd Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Dr. Strejcek spoke about the importance of the Transatlantic Relationship and the role of legislators in preserving the alliance. Christopher Horner, of the European Enterprise Institute, then spoke about the precautionary principle and the EU’s attempts to make it the international standard.
For copies of Dr. Strejcek or Mr. Horner’s PowerPoint presentations, please contact Sally McNamara – email@example.com
As part of its International Relations Project, ALEC took a group of legislators and private sector members to Strasbourg and Prague last month, and met with leading members of the European public policy community to debate various issues on the current global agenda. In Strasbourg, we were hosted at both the European Parliament and the U.S. Consulate General; In Prague, we were hosted at the Czech Parliament, Senate and the American Embassy. We were personally welcomed by Consulate General Frankie Reed and His Excellency William Cabaniss in Strasbourg and Prague respectively.
For more details and a full report on this educational exchange, please contact Sally McNamara – firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEC was privileged to attend the Autumn Strategy Meeting of the Transatlantic Policy Network in Washington D.C. this month. Entitled “The United States and the European Union: Working Together to Solve Global challenges”, TPN is a non-governmental, public-private network working for a stable, strong transatlantic partnership. Hosted at the Capitol, successful sessions were held on financial services, the digital economy and intellectual property rights.
SALLY MCNAMARA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROJECT DIRECTOR
As part of its annual exchange visits with European legislators, a bi-partisan, high-level ALEC delegation visited Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czech Republic last month.
Meeting in Strasbourg during the plenary session of the European Parliament, ALEC met with 20 European legislators, from several EU Member States and, in keeping with our non partisan philosophy, from differing Parliamentary parties. During this session, we were particularly proud to welcome Roger Helmer MEP as the first member of our new for international legislators membership program. Roger has served as ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar for several years and will also attend our upcoming States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington D.C. next month. ALEC is delighted to continue this successful public policy exchange with Europe’s legislators.
ALEC’s Prague program was equally as exciting. It began with a series of meetings with representatives from the ODS Party, the Czech Republic’s conservative party and major opposition to the current left-wing government. We were welcomed by leading legislators, including Mirek Topolanek (Chairman of ODS) and Ivo Strejcek, Member of the European Parliament. Ivo addressed ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Texas earlier this year, and reminds us that the diversity and vibrancy of the European Parliament has been vastly enhanced with the inclusion of several hundred legislators from Eastern and Central Europe.
ALEC was also exceptionally privileged to be hosted at the American Embassy in Prague, to be personally welcomed by His Excellency, Ambassador William J. Cabaniss. In the spectacular surroundings of the Ambassador’s private residence, former Alabama State Legislator Mr. Cabaniss enthusiastically greeted ALEC and encouraged the continuance of deep bi-lateral relations between our two nations.
The ultimate mission of the international relations project is: “To foster a policy-based program for the promotion, exchange, and implementation of Jeffersonian principles at the international level.” With a varied program, meeting all levels of policy-makers, ALEC’s international visit successfully continues our dialogue with like-minded legislators, as well as establishing new working relationships throughout the international policy community.
The tragedy of the terrorist bombings in London seem all too vivid this side of the Atlantic – and not just because of our own recent experiences; the ‘special relationship’ that defines Anglo-American relations means that we have a shared understanding that these attacks are attacks on the liberty and freedom we fight together for, at home and abroad. We know that the sympathies and resolve of the American people are with the British people right now then – just as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the wake of 9/11.
I visited London for the second time this June, to meet with conservative legislators from both Westminster and Brussels. Newly elected Conservative Party MPs Robert Goodwill and Peter Bone both talked about the domestic policy scene in England, including the problems of devolving power down from the national governmental level. Although the Conservatives are in a minority at a national level, they are in the majority at the local level. But in the absence of any sort of ALEC model, they often have trouble benchmarking conservative policies or sharing information. Chris Heaton-Harris MEP, who stood for local election several times before entering the European Parliament, believes that ALEC’s formula of sharing model legislation and meeting on a consistent basis to share best practice is one that British Conservatives should now start to imitate.
I also met with several British MEPs in London, including Michal Tomasz Kaminski (Poland) and Roger Helmer (UK and ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar). With the emergence of strong ‘new” member states in the European Union, like Poland, they too are having trouble bringing together genuinely conservative legislators to form international alliances. Michal Kaminski talked extensively about how well organized the left is, and how they bring fresh impetus to their work across the world with mutual support and information-sharing; he too is keen to use the ALEC model to bring international leadership to the conservative movement.
The highlight of the trip though had to be a gala dinner hosted in honor of former Prime Minister, Lady Margaret Thatcher. Despite turning 80 this October, the Iron Lady is still an imposing figure on the world stage; and our brief meeting seems all the more poignant now as America and Britain once again fight together to preserve our way of life – just as she did with such conviction throughout the Cold War with President Reagan.
Our two countries have shared the greatest of triumphs and the greatest of tragedies over the years, from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Iraq. My visit to London highlighted to me that this alliance is one that we conservatives must fight to preserve. ALEC’s model of sharing information and promoting policies rooted firmly in our Jeffersonian principles is surely the best place to start then.