An Empire in Decline: Hillary Clinton, Trump, ‘Nasty Women’ and Kabuki Politics

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, October 26th 2016

The US Presidential election is everywhere you turn in the States. That much is familiar and reassuring, but so much else this year – and in the longer-term -points in the exact opposite direction: a country not at ease with itself, a failing economy and imperial over-reach.

On Monday this week I went to an election campaign rally in the beautiful grounds of St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire and heard Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren speak. The latter touched the crowd’s emotions much more than Clinton with fighting talk and calling out Trump on behalf of ‘nasty women’ (which Trump had called Clinton the previous week in the last debate) saying ‘nasty women vote’ and ‘nasty women have really had it with guys like you.’

The atmosphere at this rally was warm and welcoming, but hardly ecstatic for Clinton. The biggest cheers were for Warren’s more partisan, fiery oratory, or for the points various speakers, Clinton included, made against Trump. There wasn’t any sense of electricity or expectation of far-reaching change. Not surprising, perhaps, when the crowd was overwhelmingly white, with the solitary black person, predominantly female overall, middle aged to elderly, and professional. Missing were the old faces and voices of the Democrat coalition such as trade unions and marginalised, poorer America: a fair representation of today’s Democratic Party. Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Stakes at Play in the US Presidential Election

Gerry Hassan

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

Gerry Hassan

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

Gerry Hassan

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

Gerry Hassan

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 »