Prisoners of the Past: Tony Blair, Trump and Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack
Scottish Review, February 22nd 2017
The past is a powerful force and that is even more true in the strange times we are living in.
Take the waves of reaction and revulsion emerging last week after Tony Blair came back from the cold to announce his new initiative on Brexit. Blair’s intervention took place at the start of the 20th anniversary of the first New Labour landslide, but also bizarrely after the Commons voted to trigger Article 50, and six days before two critical by-elections for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. (The latter, allowing the Labour leadership if they lost one or both to blame Blair and deflect blame from themselves.)
The Blair clarion call was that we should as a people rise up against Brexit and demand the right to think again. It met a mixed response. There are few people who openly admit to being Blair believers in Britain. Indeed, he seems to have fewer supporters in this country than even Trump and his pals Nigel Farage, Arron Banks and Piers Morgan. How the popular have fallen. Read the rest of this entry »
The Day Britain Died: Brexit, Trump and Scottish Independence
Scottish Review, February 15th 2017
Last week a Rubicon was crossed as the House of Commons voted 494 to 122 – a government majority of 372 – to give a third reading to triggering Article 50.
Just as seriously on the same day – Wednesday February 8th 2017 – the UK Government reneged on its promise to take 3,000 child refugees (what was called the Dubs amendment) and slashed the number to 350. If that wasn’t enough the Commons at the same time voted to refuse to offer any guarantees to EU citizens living in the UK: content to use them as pawns in a high power poker game.
It is going to be difficult for many in Scotland, and for many ‘Scottish Review’ readers, but Britain is over. There is no way back. Last week the very idea of Britain as outgoing, welcoming, doing the right thing, looking after the most vulnerable and being driven by a sense of humanity, was not only trashed but finally and fatally died.
All of this requires that we get real about the debate here and recognise that we need to be tolerant, serious and embrace detail and facts, not faith and assertion. Unless the UK does an about turn on Brexit and Scotland, indyref2 is inevitable. The only issue will be timing and context. Read the rest of this entry »
Trump, Political Violence and when is it right to punch Nazis?
Scottish Review, February 8th 2017
It is a season of heated tempers and invective across the political world. One that matches the widespread atmosphere of confusion and disorientation.
This is a mood in which there are winners and losers: people who crave this kind of moment, and many who lament the passing of the previous era. Mainstream political sentiment is uncomfortable and on the defensive. But radicals of the right and left celebrate this new found chaos as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Are they right to do so, or just showing an immaturity which is self-evident across most Western societies?
The rise of the populist right – Trump, Farage, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and more, has brought forth a similar angry spirit in parts of the left. It asks liberals and centre-leftists whose side are you on, invokes a new spirit of protest and resistance, and even considers (with the spectre of fascism threatening) whether, in certain circumstances, the use of violence is sometimes justified. Read the rest of this entry »
Scottish Independence has to move with the times
Scottish Review, February 1st 2017
Scotland has in recent times liked to see itself as progressive, democratic and European. What’s so special about that you might think? A bit like apple pie and being kind to animals. But these undoubtedly mainstream values were rightly seen as increasingly at odds with the direction of the UK in the last few decades. The UK wasn’t any of these things and this has become even more pronounced and obvious post-Brexit vote.
The Scottish case for these three qualities in 2014 was about something more than their individual characteristics. Instead, they weaved together into a story about Scotland as a modern nation – unlike the seemingly backward, reactionary UK – and presented a picture of a normal country which aspired to be part of the European mainstream. All of this suggested that independence was the natural state of affairs, the direction of travel and the future – whereas the UK was the problem and the past.
However, it was even clear in the midst of the 2014 campaign that there was a problem with these aspirations. Scotland had come to them late in the day of their development. Thus, we aspired to be ‘progressive’ and social democratic, when this tradition has been in retreat and crisis for decades, including within the Nordics. Read the rest of this entry »
Despite Trump and Brexit there are still Reasons to be Cheerful
Scottish Review, January 26th 2017
A haunting refrain echoes around the globe. The world, many emphatically say, has gone to pot what with Trump, Brexit, terrorism, ISIS, the march of the far right, fake news, alternative facts and more.
This miserablist take on modern times has a familiar refrain in Britain. It states that the country has gone in entirely the wrong direction these last 30 to 40 years. ‘Margaret Thatcher / poll tax / Tony Blair / Iraq war’ has become a spellbinding, intoxicating description of recent British history for many.
These appear dark times. There are numerous threats and challenges. When the British public were asked in 2015 if the world was getting better or worse, 71% answered worse, a mere 5% better, with 18% saying it hasn’t changed. Similar findings can be found in the US and most Western countries.
Then there is the Trump phenomenon that isn’t going well. However, it isn’t clear how much of a political black swan he is, compared to a potential harbinger of a dystopian future. But even in the week after the ascendancy of Trump to the US Presidency, everything isn’t falling apart whether globally or in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »