Archive for the ‘Short Essays’ Category
Dreams of my Father and an Elegy for a Lost Scotland
Sunday Herald, January 5th 2014
Twenty years ago last October, my father, Edwin, died.
I was a young man at the time, in my late twenties, and my dad’s death was a major moment in my life, of maturing, of putting life in perspective, and of sadness.
In the months coming up to the anniversary of his death this year, his memory came more to the fore, as I reflected on his life and influence on myself. Truth be told, my father had in his last years not been an easy person to be in the same room with, and as well as loss I felt a sense of release when he passed away. As twenty years have passed, I am now more able to understand my father and the man who contributed to making me the person I am today. And I think that the values and ideas he represented can shed some light on where we are now and the choices we face next year in Scotland’s big debate.
My father was very political: a member of the Communist Party in Dundee in the 1970s and a NCR shop steward when that had a kind of status and power. He wasn’t a very active Communist; in fact, my mother, Jean, was the motivated one in our household, a community activist, organiser of rent strikes and protests and an editor of the local newsletter (where I began my first writing with a regular music column at the age of 14). Read the rest of this entry »
A Post-Nationalist Politics for the Nationalist Movement
The Scotsman, October 22nd 2011
The SNP gathering at Inverness is an historic occasion for the party with a discernable feeling that this is their moment and that nearly anything, including independence, is possible.
International dignitaries, corporates and lots of hangers on are evidence of the SNP’s importance. Even the UK media in one of their episodic fits have noticed Scotland and the SNP with various correspondents scuttling north and dusting down their clichés.
Inverness catches the SNP in transition. They have mastered the art of government and even more impressively, the balancing act of modern successful government. This entails, as Thatcher and Blair did, being in government and opposition at the same time; taking credit for all the good things, while blaming others (usually Westminster) when things go wrong.
The SNP were for years outsiders, defining themselves as not part of institutional Scotland and as an anti-establishment force. This still shapes the party’s attitudes; they don’t like the entitlement culture of institutional Scotland and bodies like CBI Scotland who think and act like they have an innate right to inflict their prejudices on the rest of us. Who they do like are independent minded, self-made people and entrepreneurs such as Jim McCall and Tom Hunter. Read the rest of this entry »
The Second Big Debate
The Scotsman, April 23rd 2010
The dynamics this week were very different: Clegg, the new favourite, Cameron, the previous frontrunner, and Brown, the supposed steady incumbent.
Nick Clegg had to navigate difficult terrain between being an ‘outsider’ and emphasising his experience, including drawing on his work for EU Commissioner Leon Brittan. When we got to Afghanistan and nuclear weapons, the temperature changed, and Brown told Clegg to ‘get real’ and Cameron said ‘I agree with Gordon’.
Brown was better than the previous week, avoiding mentioning no percentages or three point plans, and even cited the occasional human being. Cameron challenged Brown to withdraw ‘Labour lies’ in its leaflets alleging that the Tories would take away free bus passes from pensioners. Read the rest of this entry »
Who Benefits from Future Labour or Tory Governments?
Fascinating figures from YouGov’s Sunday Times weekend poll – which as far as I can find are only available online and not in the newspaper version (at least north of the border) (1).
When voters were asked who they thought would most benefit from a Conservative Government they responded:
The rich 47%
Married couples 37%
Hardworking men and women 30%
The poor 11%
Single parents 8%
Immigrants 7% Read the rest of this entry »
A Tale of Two Labour Manifestos: ‘Choice’ and the Absence of England
Open Democracy. April 12th 2010
The Labour manifesto has been launched finally today – the 25th British election manifesto according to BBC lunchtime news. It is a day of multiple Labour manifesto launches with the main British programme, and Scottish and Welsh versions, published.
I am going to focus my attention here on the British and Scottish editions, as these are the ones I am familiar with, so apologies to Welsh readers.
The British Labour manifesto, ‘A Future Fair For all’ (also the title of the Scottish and Welsh versions) has already won the battle of the pre-election slogans. The document itself is a strange mix, harking back in its images, colours and iconography, to a ‘brave new dawn’ and to the spirit of 1945 (as well as apparently the ‘New Jerusalem’ millennial hope of Labour in 1923 which had the theme, ‘Greet the Dawn’). George Eaton on the other hand in the ‘New Statesman’ thinks it draws from Maoist imagery (1).
Yet in content, this is a strange document with the sense of a transition from one age to another. In numerous places it makes the claim that we can no longer afford to continue ‘business as usual’, but its whole feel o is of a complacent Stanley Baldwinesque safety-first approach. Read the rest of this entry »