The Big Stakes at Play in the US Presidential Election
October 20th 2016
The US Presidential election has been mesmerising, compelling and a warning from a future that doesn’t work.
As with every recent US election we have had wall-to-wall UK broadcast media coverage. Often this has been presented as a fantasyland larger version of Britain – something which is getting less and less plausible given the differences between the two countries politically. There is something increasingly questionable about the time BBC, ITV and SKY spend on covering US elections compared to say French and German elections (both coming up next year): something which aids the whole Eurosceptic climate which led to Brexit.
Yet, the US election, its politics and public sentiment matters not just for the UK but entire world. For the next three weeks I will be in the States – so here are some brief thoughts – after the three Presidential debates and with three weeks to go to Election Day. Read the rest of this entry »
High-wire Politics, the SNP after Conference and the Next Independence Campaign
Open Democracy, October 17th 2016
The SNP’s rise to become Britain’s third party – in parliamentary seats and mass membership – has corresponded with its annual conference adopting the importance, scale and feel of one of the two UK big parties
This is of course fitting and appropriate, but still something of a transition given the SNP are obviously a Scottish-only party, and in places maintain the feel and ethos of a party which for decades has defined itself as a family and community.
The mood of a party of 120,000 plus members and such a large conference gathering is difficult to tell – but what can be gauged is that it is a complex one. Many, if not most, members have a whole host of different emotions – a sense of pride at the SNP’s successes and achievements, a qualified upbeatness about some of the challenges ahead, and awareness of the huge storms gathering post-Brexit.
It is self-evident that Nicola Sturgeon as leader, and the leadership of the party in general, are trusted by the party’s grassroots to make the right calls and judgements navigating the wreckage of Brexit and deciding the timing of indyref2. Read the rest of this entry »
The SNP has got us where we are, but the SNP on its own isn’t enough in the future
Bella Caledonia, October 12th 2016
The SNP have played a huge role in getting us to where we are today. They are central to where Scotland goes in the future – but they on their own are not enough.
Without the SNP there is significant doubt that we would ever have got a Scottish Parliament. It is true that Labour legislated for it, but they were first brought back to devolution in the 1970s by the electoral threat of the SNP. Without the SNP there would have been no indyref1, and without them there will be no indyref2.
Therefore Scottish politics owes a great deal of gratitude to the SNP. Just for one second imagine politics over the last 40 years without the SNP. All Scotland would have available to show any dissatisfaction with Westminster and desire for self-government would have been to vote Labour or Lib Dem (with the Greens under FPTP remaining a minuscule force, and without the SNP there being no guarantee Labour reverted to its earlier home rule stance).
All of the above is increasingly important as the SNP prepare to meet for its Annual Conference in Glasgow, but it is also true that the SNP on their own are not enough. And blind loyalty to one party is different from passionate support for ‘the cause’ and, even at times, counter-productive. The SNP contributed hugely to getting us where we are. But they are not enough to take Scotland to the next stage: winning an indyref and making the politics of a new independent state. Read the rest of this entry »
Theresa May, the End of Empire State Britain and the Death of Unionism
Open Democracy, October 7th 2016
The Tory conference tried to sail on as if the sea wasn’t turbulent and choppy, with the ship heading for the rocks.
Tory statecraft, élan, even class confidence, have all contributed to this along with the vindication of the long held faith and religious zeal of those of a Brexit disposition. Many have come late to the latter, while Theresa May has embraced this dogma with the zeal of the new found convert.
You don’t have to look very far from the Tory bubble to find a very different mood and Britain. The pound at a 31 year old low, economic and financial jitters, Renault-Nissan warning about future investment in North East England, and wider business decisions being mothballed.
Tory chutzpah won’t be enough this time for the Theresa May land grab on UKIP and Labour territory. There is a new populism in town, alert to the concerns which produced the Brexit vote, but one which attempts to promise certainty, stability and security in a world of uncertainty – part of which was created by the Brexit vote. Read the rest of this entry »
Where is the Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party revolution going to end?
Scotttish Review, September 29th 2016
Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have some major positives going for them.
He has been re-elected Labour leader with a huge majority in an election in which over half a million people voted. On the wave of a surge of excitement and engagement, Labour’s membership has risen to 650,000 – over four times that of the Tories, and representing the largest political party in all Europe.
On top of that Jeremy Corbyn is clearly a different kind of politician. He is untainted by the Blair years, numerous wars or parliamentary sleaze. All of this counts for something.
Yet saying all of the above the party faces huge challenges which cannot be wished away. Its electoral prospects are currently dire and going backward, after two election defeats. What it stands for is unclear or vague beyond the most generalist sentiments and platitudes, with no evidence of major economic policies or ideas emerging from the Corbyn leadership in the last year. And the party leadership has no real idea what to do with all the enthusiasm and anticipation it has unleashed.
The recent leadership contest was the perfect anecdote for Corbyn and his allies: it turned Corbyn back into the insurgent who won in 2015, and allowed him to run on an anti-establishment ticket. It brought people flocking in their droves into the party, further galvinised Momentum (the pro-Corbyn grass roots group), but it begs the question – what now? It isn’t easy to turn that energy outwards to the country because everything in argument, message and tone would have to be different. Read the rest of this entry »