Labour’s Taxing Problems: The Party is fighting for its very existence

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, February 7th 2016

This week Scottish Labour made a move on tax. Is it a daring or desperate move?

It broke with the party’s position since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999 not to propose any tax increases. At the same time, as the SNP retained its stratospheric poll ratings for the May elections, the Tories drew level with Labour for second place, while Labour issued their regional list candidates with an obvious lack of ‘new blood’ or talent.

With the Scottish Parliament gaining more taxation powers now and in the near-future, Labour have decided, along with the Lib Dems, to break ranks, in arguing for an increase of one penny in income tax.

Even the Tories have had a Tax Commission which wants to introduce a new 30p band in-between the 20p and 40p bands. This failed on the first hurdle of what it was meant to be for: tax neutrality, increases or decreases. Read the rest of this entry »

The Herald and Rangers FC:

Noise annoys and listening for the Sounds of Silence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 3rd 2016

A series of illuminating conflicts in the last week – the Graham Spiers sacking from ‘The Herald’ and the J.K. Rowling/Natalie McGarry argument on twitter – show something revealing about modern Scotland.

Spiers sacking from the paper, along with Angela Haggerty’s from the ‘Sunday Herald’, brought up numerous issues. One immediate issue was where power lay in the newspaper group – with open disagreement emerging between ‘The Herald’ and ‘Sunday Herald’ editors. More fundamentally it touched upon the legacy of ‘The Herald’ as one of the traditional bastions of unionist establishment Scotland, and the continued toxic issue of Rangers FC.

The Rowling/McGarry case saw the SNP MP challenge Rowling to condemn the anonymous twitter account of ‘Brian Spanner’ (who has a track record of online abuse) who the author had called a ‘good man’ for donating to her charity. Rowling stood her ground and asked McGarry to show where she had ever colluded or condoned any misogynist or hateful tweet. No answer came from McGarry who went silent and then apologised. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great British Economic Miracle is an Illusion

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 31st 2016

Something is wrong with the British economy.

George Osborne seems to be experiencing his own ‘Boom and Bust’. Just before Christmas he was singing the joys of the British economy on the mend.  Yet a few weeks later he changed his tone talking of the uncertain economic times.

He hasn’t had to look too far for his troubles – from the tax credits’ chaos where he had to do a U-turn, to this week’s judgement that the bedroom tax was illegal and discriminated against domestic violence victims and disabled people.

If that wasn’t bad enough there was his ‘deal’ with Google where Osborne reached an agreement that they pay £130 million in lieu of taxes over the last ten years. This is a paltry 3% corporate tax rate – the lowest in the developed world.

The ghost of a former Chancellor hangs over Osborne – Gordon Brown – the man who said he ‘abolished Boom and Bust’. The similarities are two-fold: political and economic. Both have positioned themselves as the heir apparent behind their more electorally appealing colleague, David Cameron for Osborne and Tony Blair for Brown. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Culture really what makes Britain GREAT?

And does Dominic Sandbrook understand it?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 27th 2016

Everything is culture these days.

It is what supposedly brings about real, lasting change, shifts attitudes, is everywhere and yet often intangible, and has spawned a plethora of ‘cultural studies’ from academics and writers eager for research grants and public attention.

Dominic Sandbrook’s ‘The Great British Dream Factory’ – and the related BBC TV series ‘Let Us Entertain You’ – demands that it should be taken seriously, whilst not as definitive or scholarly, but as an important book and series.

Sandbrook has written a series of impressive guides to late post-war Britain. He started not in 1945, but in Britain post-Suez, and has so far got up to the arrival of Thatcher in No. 10. While not of the breadth and depth of David Kynaston, these are detailed, well written and researched works.

The historian who has written these books is the same person who now writes regularly for the ‘Daily Mail’, turning out increasingly right-wing, caricatured pieces railing against the modern world. In recent times he has turned his hand to the spectre of the left, what would happen if Jeremy Corbyn came to power, and ‘the coming apocalypse’ of the world in 2030. Read the rest of this entry »

The Europe Debate will tell us much about the state of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 24th 2016

2016 will be a turbulent year for Britain and the world.

One issue will dominate the UK political classes beyond economic and financial worries or anxieties about immigration and security, and that is Europe.

Europe will connect with all of the above and more. Cameron’s main impetus is to have a quick referendum, to win it and get on with the rest of his Prime Ministership. It won’t work out that way.

To have the referendum relatively soon (meaning before Scottish school holidays start) a number of pieces have to fall into place. First, Cameron has to go to his EU summit in February and win some semblance of a deal. Then he has to be able to come back and present it to the House of Commons and country as an honourable agreement – more substantive than Harold Wilson’s fig leaf in 1975. Read the rest of this entry »