The Tories are shrinking the state while Labour go back to the 1980s

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, November 29th 2015

These are tumultuous times.

Chaos in Syria. Complex and shifting alliances. The Turks shooting down a Russian plane. There is disarray in the Labour Party on Syria and Trident. And all in the week of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on public spending.

The Tories appear dominant in British politics only six months after they won their surprising majority: based on 24.3% of electors and a narrow parliamentary majority of 12 seats.

Osborne cleverly positioned himself retreating from his own unpopular positions. Tax credit cuts were abandoned, while police cuts were reversed. A number of popular looking policies were giving priority such as a business tax for apprentices, £27 billion ‘magically’ found, and soothing rhetoric used about the importance of social justice.

None of this can hide the fundamental shift taking place. ‘Never waste a crisis’ is a political truism. Osborne has used the bankers’ crash and ballooning of public spending from the banking bailout to make the state the problem, and to embark on an ambitious strategy to dramatically shrink and reframe what it does. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP need to get back to governing – and being bold and honest with us

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, November 22nd 2015

Nicola Sturgeon this week marked her first year as First Minister.

The SNP is hugely popular, Labour flatlining, the Tories marginalised and the Lib Dems irrelevant.

The SNP-Labour relationship now seems a reverse of the 1980s. Then Labour sat for most of the decade on 50% in the polls with the SNP on 20% or less. Labour then was Scotland’s party; that mantle has now fallen to the SNP.

No one is quite sure how we got where we are. That’s true of the benefactors (the SNP), the vanquished (Labour) and the on-lookers (everybody else). A common remark about how our country has changed is to say ‘Labour abandoned us. The SNP express the traditional values of Labour at its best’. It is a sentiment often heard, but seldom reflected upon.

The SNP has become the party of mainstream Scotland. Like Labour before it, the party talks a radical game, one with a distant inspirational vision: once the battle cry of socialism, now the clarion call of sovereignty. Read the rest of this entry »

The European Debate has only just begun for Scotland and the UK

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, November 15th 2015

Europe has returned to the centre of British politics. The phony war within the Tories is over as David Cameron revealed his want list from European leaders.

It wasn’t exactly long or substantial. He wants change in four areas – exempting the UK from ‘ever closer union’, boosting economic competitiveness, protection of the non-euro countries from further integration, and restrictions on EU migrants drawing UK benefits.

These requests are not far-reaching, leading Tory MP Bernard Jenkin to ask ‘is that it?’ and others dismiss them as a ‘rag bag’. Only the last negotiating point is going to cause Cameron problems. But the debate and referendum won’t be about these small details. Read the rest of this entry »

If Independence is a State of Mind then we have to fundamentally change

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, November 8th 2015

Years ago the dream was that the Scottish Parliament would usher in a new politics.

It was going to be different from adversarial Westminster – consensual, caring, thoughtful, leading to better debates and laws.

Much of this was wish-fulfillment. There has always been mutual scorn between Labour and SNP – aided by the fetishisation of tiny differences, given they agree on so much. But in recent years all of this seems to have got worse. And the last week in particular, was a new low.

In the previous seven days, Labour and SNP crossed swords on the replacement of the UK nuclear ‘deterrent’ Trident. Scottish Labour debated the issue at their conference for the first time since 1998 and came to the same result – opposing nuclear weapons and voting for disarmament. Read the rest of this entry »

Will the Real Scottish Labour Party Finally Stand Up?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, November 1st 2015

Scottish Labour met this weekend. This used to be the key political gathering in Scotland. No longer. But the party is in better spirits than many would think after the May 2015 wipeout.

It is a party changing. It has a new leader. Lots of new members. And more autonomy after a ‘concordat’ was signed last Monday with British leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The party hopes that the tide is turning against the SNP and that its Teflon quality and Sturgeonmania have finally peaked.

If Labour is to come back from its wilderness years, it has to understand why it has ended up where it has – when it once seemed so powerful? It has to ask why do Scots not trust or listen to Labour? And what, realistically, can the party do to change all this? Read the rest of this entry »