This is the world of little Britain and Scotland wants no part

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 26th 2016

This is what the death of a nation looks like – petty nationalism, populism, fact-free politics, and surprises everywhere. This is the world of ‘little Britain’ – and it isn’t pretty.

These are unpredictable times. There is anger and frustration. Whole sections of British society feel that politicians, elites and experts don’t understand them. Such is their desperation and feeling of powerlessness that many felt that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are the answer.

This referendum is about Europe, and has been a long time coming, but is also a proxy about so much more. It’s about the right-wing English press, the media and public obsession with personalities (even in politics), immigration, austerity and the ‘left behind’ working class.

Cameron gambled a second time for high stakes in a referendum and lost. That is bad enough, but he has lost the main strategic union for the UK internationally, and may have brought the union between Scotland and England to a bitter end. Read the rest of this entry »

Whatever happens, Britain has already left the building

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 22nd 2016

The UK has already left Europe. It never really joined in any real sense.

National debates like this reveals much about the psyche of a country, and how it sees its collective hopes and fears. For one, it illuminates a lot about the ghosts of the past that haunt a country. In the Scottish indyref, for example, a great deal of this focused on the perceived legacy of Thatcherism and deindustrialisation.

In this European debate, the ghosts seemingly ever-present are those of the spectre of German dominance of the continent and the dark empire of the Nazis, Hitler and World War Two. Further proof, if it were needed, that this has a vice-like grip on the British imagination, was given by the recent controversy over anti-Semitism sparked by Ken Livingstone, which revolved around Hitler’s relationship with Zionism, lacking any sensitivity or interest in historical accuracy.

The 1975 referendum campaign, 41 years ago and 30 years after World War Two, had little to no references to the Nazis and Hitler. People were too close then to the horrendous, murderous events of the war, and careful to not appear tactless or make offensive comparisons. Read the rest of this entry »

The Historic Tragedy of Jo Cox and the European Referendum Campaign

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 21st 2016

Sometimes we should struggle to find the appropriate words. This is such a time and moment. A campaign that has already reached new lows plummeted to depths previously unimaginable with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Two thoughts. First, this is a much more exceptional tragedy than commentary has so far stated. The killing of Jo Cox is rightly said to be the first murder of a British MP since Ian Gow at the hands of the IRA in 1990.

Historically, eight MPs have been murdered in the history of the UK – six at the hands of the IRA/INLA and Irish Republicans. This underlines the unique awfulness of the death of Cox. She is the first national politician to be killed – other than by Irish Republicans – since Spencer Perceval who was assassinated in the House of Commons whilst Prime Minister in 1812. Read the rest of this entry »

This campaign is a future warning from a British Trumpland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 19th 2016

The Euro campaign has been without any joy or love, and has reached depths unseen for decades in British politics – reducing complex subjects to the gutter.

This last week has been a humbling one. The tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox, the UKIP poster ‘Breaking Point’ on the threat of mass immigration coming to the UK, and the disgraceful antics of Leave.EU (the UKIP dominated Leave campaign) linking the Orlando massacre to Muslim immigration.

It has been a long low road to this sad point. Left-wingers and liberals have for decades evaded talking about immigration. Labour, in particular, have avoided any real conversation with its voters for the last fifty years on the subject. As a result, UKIPers and right-wingers have burst through this spiral of silence, claiming ‘politically correct’ censorship, and ended up using a language of stigmatisation, populism and cheap solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Better Than This? The Tragic Killing of Jo Cox

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 17th 2016

This is an attack on all of us. The murder of Labour MP Jo Cox is an assault on parliamentary democracy but disgracefully not as much a shock as it should be. Part of British politics have sunk that low.

This is an age of anti-party politics – of anger at the political classes and of populist indignation and cynicism. Across Europe, there has been the rise of racist, xenophobic and anti-immigration parties, and even the re-emergence of neo-Nazis as electoral forces in Greece and Hungary. And that’s without mentioning the hideous phenomenon of Donald Trump in the US.

The centre-left and political establishments across the developed world have not known how to respond, and whether to appease or engage with their voters – or to take them head on.

Britain’s European referendum, called by David Cameron, was meant to lance the boil of the Euro issue in the Tory Party, and the threat from UKIP. It has worked in complete reverse, and little more than a year after the unexpected 2015 Tory election victory has galvinised Cameron’s critics, UKIP and Eurosceptic Tory opinion, and helped consolidate a hard right populist politics. Read the rest of this entry »