Daniel Hannan is "slightly perplexed" at the viral success of his dressing down of Gordon Brown at the European Parliament, which has now had getting on for 700,000 views on YouTube. It's on course for being the biggest surprise YouTube hit since Tricia Walsh Smith took to cyberspace to highlight her husband's sexual inadequacy.
I have been making similar speeches every week and posting them on YouTube for the past seven months. I made one just now: 60 seconds on how Brussels is spraying money at the European Investment Bank. Perhaps people felt frustrated about the way Gordon Brown had carried on without once asking for their votes. Perhaps they would have loved to tell him what they thought of him, but lacked the opportunity.
That's certainly part of the story. It's hardly surprising that usually only people with a passionate interest in the inner workings of the EU - a minority taste, it has to be said - take the trouble to watch all his clips. Depressing, but true - a truth that the Europhile tendency in the BBC and elsewhere imagines to be indicative of popular assent to (or at least acquiescence in) the continuing process of integration.
But this intervention wasn't, for once, about the wastefulness of the Brussels bureaucrats. It was about Gordon Brown. It was about the manifest disconnection between his frantic gallivanting about the world, telling other countries what they should be doing, even hinting at some form of world government, and the mess he has created.
On the very day that he is lecturing European politicians about their own greatness (and his success) the bank of England governor is telling MPs that the UK couldn't afford the lavish fiscal stimulus that other countries are planning, or have implemented. On the very day he is preaching to New York bankers about their greed and irresponsibility, the Treasury fails to sell the bonds which are supposed to fill the great black hole in the public finances. On the very day that he is hopping around South America asking poorer countries to shoulder some of the burden there's serious talk of Britain losing its credit rating. Which would make Gordon Brown the sub-Prime Minister of an officially subprime country.
So it's not surprising that a huge number of people will have been nodding in agreement with, if not standing and cheering, Mr Hannan's words. His intervention is, apart from anything else, brilliantly succinct, deadly, instantly quotable, a three minute hand-grenade described as a speech.
From "British jobs to British workers" to Britain's being in the "worst condition of any G20 country", he laid into the prime minister who had just finished proclaiming his undying love for all things Brussels. "You have run out of our money", Hannan complained. Comparing the world's major economies to a flotilla of ships, he noted that while other countries had used the good years to "caulk their hulls and clear their rigging", Britain was sailing into the squall in a dilapidated condition.
The last parliamentary attack to go down anything like so well Youtube was William Hague's witty riff on the possibility of Tony Blair being reincarnated as president of Europe. "Picture the face of our poor prime minister as the name of Tony Blair is placed in nomination... the awful moment when the motorcade of the president of Europe sweeps into Downing Street... the melodrama 'when will you hand over to me?' all over again." Hannan has easily surpassed that achievement, though, garnering acclaim from Americans who may still have only the vaguest notion as to Mr Brown's identity.
It is not true that such attacks on Brown's credibility can't be found in the mainstream media. Jeff Randall's repeated and apposite barbs, in the Telegraph and on Sky News, have become required reading and viewing. I particularly relished his comparison the other week of Brown and Bernie Madoff:
What's the difference between Bernard Madoff and Gordon Brown? Answer: one has drained fortunes from gullible victims, plundering their income and savings to create an illusion of prosperity. The other is going to jail....
Nobody knows for sure how much has gone missing, but Wall Street scribes are calling it a $65 billion fraud. Not bad for peddling fresh air. It is, however, a nickel-and-dime swindle when set alongside the 12-year con trick perpetrated by Mr Brown on British taxpayers. That, too, has been a form of Ponzi, but with many more zeroes and little chance of the mastermind ending his days in what Americans call Crowbar Hotel.
The difference in Hannan's case, as well as Hague's, is that on those occasions Brown was forced to listen. It is knowing that he is sitting there squirming, being confronted with the truth about his own punctured pretensions, his own failure, and being unable to do anything about it, that is so wonderful to hear.
But that's about it. Hannan would have said what he said, regardless of whether or not YouTube had been available to spread it abroad. And Gordon Brown would have been forced to listen. True, many people would have missed out on the delight of listening to his discomfiture, not least because the BBC decided it wasn't worthy of broadcast. So the real question is this: once we've enjoyed the cathartic experience of listening to Hannan's tirade, will anything have changed?
Daniel Hannan believes that his new-found Internet stardom demonstrates the changing nature of both news and politics:
The answer is that political reporters no longer get to decide what's news. The days when a minister gave briefings to a dozen lobby correspondents, and thereby dictated the next day's headlines, are over. Now, a thousand bloggers decide for themselves what is interesting.
Breaking the press monopoly is one thing. But the internet has also broken the political monopoly. Ten or even five years ago, when the Minister for Widgets put out a press release, the mere fact of his position guaranteed a measure of coverage. Nowadays, a politician must compel attention by virtue of what he is saying, not his position.
Up to a point. It would be ridiculous to deny that the Web now plays a large part in political communication. Nor that it has much greater potential for subverting the traditional order than any previous medium. Arguably Barack Obama owed his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nomination race to his YouTube popularity, without which his campaign might never have caught fire. But a large number of "hits" doesn't necessarily, or even often, carry over into political influence. The question about Daniel Hannan, then, is whether he's the new Obama, or the new Joe the Plumber.
Hannan's platform is old-time fiscal conservatism. "You can't borrow your way out of debt"; even "you can't spend your way out of a recession", which is more debatable. Though that debate may become rather academic if the country's creditworthiness continues to deteriorate. There's always going to be a ready audience for that kind of language, on both sides of the Atlantic. That's why Hannan has pressed buttons beyond these shores: beyond the pleasure of watching Gordon Brown brought down to size there's also the satisfaction of seeing the whole political consensus discredited. Or at least wittily attacked. A satisfaction, that is, for those who don't share that consensus.
Yet it is possible to speak for a sizeable minority of the population and yet still be ignored. That was the fate of the Conservative Party for ten years following their 1997 collapse. It could well be that Hannan speaks for just such a disenfranchised constituency. The point is that of the thousands who watched and enjoyed his YouTube clip, the great majority will already agree with him. He will not have changed minds, or the terms of the debate.
In his blog today, the BBC's Mark Mardell explains to his many critics why he didn't think Hannan's speech worthy of a mention in his blog. The "Euroblog" "isn't some bulletin of record on everything that is said", he declares. Besides, he was waiting to go on air while Hannan was speaking. Translation: Hannan's perfect little rant simply wasn't newsworthy enough. Well, it's newsworthy now: but what's the story? The fact that Daniel Hannan laid into Brown? The substance of his criticisms, or the strength of his economic analysis? I suspect not. The story, if it breaks cover into the broadcast media in Britain (it has already featured big on Fox News) will be about the YouTube stats. A story, then, but not really a political story.
The question lurking in the background here is whether the current international consensus, such as it is (more spending, more regulation - but not necessarily in that order) is secure. If it is, then it will scarcely matter how many people watch Hannan torpedoing HMS Gordon. On the other hand, if Brown's policy and leadership continue to leak credibility at the present rate, if the G20 summit turns into an embarrassing fudge or the economy continues its slide, then Danel Hannan's pithy demolition job may come to look like a turning-point. But that would be an illusion.