Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Sounds of Silence in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 23rd 2015

Scotland is a land of tolerance and friendliness.

Glasgow is the friendly city, Scottish people chat to strangers, and we are, many think, more convivial than the English. Some believe this the product of tenement living.

There are moments which jar with this. There was the Section 28/Clause 2A battle on ‘promoting’ homosexuality in schools more than a decade ago. There was the revelation of the Catholic Church’s systemic covering up of child sexual abuse in its ranks, for which it apologised this week in the McLellan Commission.

There are many other fissures in our idea of who we are. One is, that like elsewhere, racism and xenophobia exists in Scotland. Hostility to asylum seekers and immigrants is only less potent in our country because of the numbers and visibility factor. Scotland is not that different from the rest of the UK – with 68% of the population wanting much tougher controls on immigration. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Us face the Future: Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and the Power of the Past

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, August 21st 2015

This is the most exciting and cataclysmic Labour leadership contest in a generation.

The nearest comparison must be the Benn insurgency for the Deputy Leadership of the party in 1981, where he narrowly lost to Denis Healey. This marked the peak of the left’s influence in Labour – until now.

What is occurring in the Labour contest, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the diminishing of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, is little more than the passing of a political generation, and the main reference points and ways in which the party has understood itself and done its politics.

The Blairite project is over, with the Blairites now reduced to a tiny rump and a few desperate, intemperate followers (Progress, John McTernan). Labour’s traditional right has been hollowed, out with the trade union leadership and activist base who once gave the party such ballast (and brought it back from the Bennite induced abyss in 1981-82) now firmly on the left.

To illustrate the scale of change in Labour, the previous centre of gravity of the party in the Kinnock years, and even in the early years of New Labour (‘the soft left’) has all but disappeared. Its leading proponents have been tarnished by office (John Prescott), died (Robin Cook), or gone to foreign shores (Bryan Gould) and have not been replaced by a younger group. Read the rest of this entry »

Kezia, Jezza and Indy: Where are the Big Ideas of the Next Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

This week the SNP hit a new high mark in the polls – 62% for next year’s Scottish elections. Elsewhere Kezia Dugdale was elected Scottish Labour leader as the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon came to much acclaim north of the border.

What do you with popularity? It is a question politicians seldom have to answer. The nearest equivalent to the SNP now is Blair’s New Labour – which, less we forget, was once hugely popular.

There is the question of where opposition comes from and what form it takes? The same poll – with the SNP on 62% – put Labour on 20%, Tories on 12% and Lib Dems on 3%. These are the three great parties of pre-SNP Scotland and each is now reduced to tiny, impotent rumps. All are likely to face a difficult election next year.

The Greens are doing well, there will be a new left party and even the attempted return of Tommy Sheridan, but none of these will sweep the board.

The more important challenge is what drives and shapes Scottish politics, and what, if any, are the big ideas which inhabit and inform public life? There is, of course, one indisputable big idea: independence. But this raises the issue of what kind of independence and even more crucially, independence to do what and create what sort of society? Read the rest of this entry »

Time for an Independence of the Scottish Mind

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 9th 2015

A second independence may be off the agenda of SNP conference for now, but Alex Salmond regards it as ‘inevitable’.

Such are the pressures and tensions of success. Where do you take a movement which came close to winning independence last September? How do you balance pragmatic and idealist hopes? What do you after the SNP ‘tartan tsunami’ of May this year which carried nearly all before it – and, when your opponents are so weak and disorientated?

There is talk in places of a second referendum sooner rather than later – of the SNP returning to it in 2016, or of a conditional clause in next year’s SNP manifesto predicated on a EU withdrawal vote in England which clashes with Scotland’s popular will.

These are tumultuous times. First, despite the referendum result, the ‘idea’ of independence won the debate last year – something very different from the SNP’s actual offer. Second, the SNP have dominated and defined the post-indyref environment and transition from Salmond to Sturgeon. They have done so by continuing the ‘Big Tent’ politics which have served them so well. Read the rest of this entry »

A People’s Revolt in Labour but where will it end?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 2nd 2015

‘The Labour Party has gone mad’. ‘It has abandoned its senses’. ‘This is a summer of insanity’.

These and suchlike comments made about Jeremy Corbyn are now familiar refrains in the Westminster mainstream. Before that this disdain was targeted northwards – asking ‘has Scotland gone mad?’

Jeremy Corbyn’s rise and emergence has caught the Westminster bubble by surprise, but isn’t hard to fathom. The other three challengers are dire. What passes for Labour stars are sitting it out. Labour members are dismayed and angry at the state of the country and direction of their party. They want it to stand for something.

They want their leader to be authentic, genuine and true to the party’s traditions and history. Corbyn is the only one providing any distinctiveness and talking straight. It doesn’t matter that his political platform is a bit vague, harking back to 1983, and seems based on promising a better yesterday which is now unattainable. It is also unimplementable and unelectable. Read the rest of this entry »

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