The continuing relevance of solidarity and class
The Scotsman, November 16th 2013
Scotland has been informed by the experiences and memories of working class life and culture since the time of the industrial revolution.
A majority of Scots see themselves as working class and more people do now than over a generation ago in 1979.
In a strange turn of affairs, being working class post-crash is all the rage nowadays. It might not be the sixties when being working class was associated with the age of meritocracy and tearing down the old elites, but change is in the air.
The mantras of the long British bubble now seem from another age: the prospect of ‘a classless society’ invoked by John Major and Tony Blair’s delusion that ‘we are all middle class now’ look even more preposterous. Even Major has woken up to the new realities of class and privilege. Read the rest of this entry »
Doing Politics and Culture Differently: The Potential of Artistic Activism
Open Democracy, November 13th 2013
Something is wrong with politics. The way it is undertaken, imagined and commented on are in deep crisis. This contributes to the many crises of what passes for British democracy and undermines any possible alternatives.
In today’s Britain, provocateur Russell Brand is seen as a major public figure becoming celebrity guest editor of the ‘New Statesman’ where he called for ‘a change in consciousness’ and in a subsequent interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC ‘Newsnight’, a ‘revolution’.
Brand and Paxman were united in the disdain for the mainstream parties and political system, the former stating he had never voted, while Paxman revealed that he hadn’t taken part in recent local elections, finding all the parties ‘unappetising’. Following this Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg condemned Paxman claiming that he ‘lives off politics and … spends all his time sneering at politics’. Read the rest of this entry »
The Missing Voices of Public Life and How We Create a Different Scotland
The Scotsman, November 9th 2013
To many of the tribes and partisans who inhabit our public life, all that matters is the contest and defeating their opponents. Democracy and politics in this mindset are in fine working order, beyond the difficulty of trying to get your own way!
In reality, Scottish democracy barely exists in any meaningful sense. The 1707 settlement guaranteed the autonomy of ‘the holy trinity’ of Kirk, education and law, giving prominence to these institutional identities, which came to the fore as government and its affairs of state went south.
Then distinctive Scottish administration from Victorian times began to expand and in so doing another definition was added: that of the dynamic, managerial do-er. This was an apolitical, often bureaucratic identity: the world of Lord Reith, Walter Elliot and Tom Johnston.
So it remained until the arrival of the SNP shook things up in the 1960s, and then finally the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. To some this has democratised and nornalised Scotland, but it has left underneath and around the Parliament the same institutions and networks running most things. Read the rest of this entry »
What is the point of Scotland’s Westminster Politicians?
The Scotsman, November 2nd 2013
Once upon a time Scottish politics meant one of two things: what your local council got up too, and Scottish MPs standing on College Green talking on BBC and STV about what often seemed far-flung issues.
The latter were our only articulation of national party politics. And while it now seems a long time ago it did produce a sort of effective politics and a range of ‘Big Beasts’ – from Tom Johnston and Willie Ross to George Younger, Malcolm Rifkind and Gordon Brown, to name but a few.
This was the age of what was called in polite circles, ‘the Scottish lobby’, but which also went privately by the names, ‘Scottish’ or ‘tartan mafia’. The romantic version of this is the folklore of ‘Red Clydeside’ and the 1922 general election when the city of Glasgow saw ten of its fifteen constituencies return Labour MPs for the first time. Upon their departure from St. Enoch railway station with crowds singing the ‘Red Flag’ they went south to change the Commons, but in the eyes of left-wing critics were more changed by parliament themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
The Crisis of Grangemouth and What It Says About Scotland and Britain
Open Democracy, November 1st 2013
The Grangemouth story has been a modern parable – of the state of industrial relations, the interests of the media, and the condition of Scottish and UK politics – their motivations, silences and prejudices.
There has been much comment and political activity north of the border (not all of it, as we will see below, constructive). In the Westminster bubble which so dominates and distorts English politics, there have been either ideologically offensive and ignorant comments, or more widely, near-complete political inactivity, disinterest and the crashing sounds of silence.
First though, let’s try and dismiss the notion that Grangemouth can be simply seen through the prism of capital/labour relations, tempting though it is. Robin McAlpine’s persuasive piece last week explored part of this, but didn’t touch upon the wider canvas (1). We don’t gain thirty years into neo-liberalism’s onslaught by returning to the old left comfort blankets of creating pantomime villains of a big bad boss class, and failing to recognise the inadequacies of other actors – trade unions, Labour and the Westminster political classes. Read the rest of this entry »