Are We Better Than This? The Tragic Killing of Jo Cox
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 »
What Future is there for Young Working Class Scotland?
Scottish Review, June 15th 2016
There is something about Scots and class, and in particular about working class identities.
Many Scots define themselves when given a choice as working class, yet in terms of occupations and status, on any definition, a majority would be categorised as middle class. Interestingly, in some surveys, a majority of such middle class people reject this term, and call themselves working class (one survey a decade ago saying that 52% of middle class people identified as working class).
Some of this is history, tradition and culture. It is intertwined with perceptions of where ‘we’ collectively have come from, and where we have ended up – the effect of Thatcherism, huge economic and social changes, and the winners and losers of the last 30 years. Read the rest of this entry »
Was 1966 the last great British sporting moment? Andy Murray apart?
Sunday Mail, June 12th 2016
‘They think it’s all over. It is now.’ These are some of the most famous words ever in the history of British sporting commentary.
The fiftieth anniversary of 1966 is upon us. When England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley and became football World Cup champions. It is a long time ago, but as the European Championships kick off, with everyone taking part from the UK bar Scotland, the memories and myths of that triumph still linger.
1966 is obviously for English fans a time to savour and celebrate. It has always been much more complex for Scottish fans, and seen as a cross that has to be borne for many. One retort over the years used to be: ‘they never stop going on about it’, but that has become less true with the passing of the years.
Go back to the summer of 1966. In many respects it was then a very British triumph. The mascot of the games was British, not English. The union flag flew at games, not the St. George’s Cross. Read the rest of this entry »
The SNP, Centre-Left Politics and the State of Social Democracy
Scottish Review, June 8th 2016
One party stands head and shoulders above all others in Scotland – namely, the Scottish National Party. It has got there through its own efforts, hard work and virtues, along with the numerous mistakes and weaknesses of its opponents. Scottish Labour’s long car crash was part tragedy, part comedy, but mostly of its own making. If it ever has an obituary written, it will say: ‘died at its own hands’. The Scottish Tories have been toxic for a generation, even seen as unScottish and ‘alien’, a phenomenon only slowly beginning to change.
This then begs the question: nine years into office, what do the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon stand for? What kind of Scotland do they wish to bring about, bar one that is independent and self-governing? For some these latter qualities are enough, based for them on principle, but for many they are abstracts which need further detail, and should be the means to an end of wider economic and social change, not an end in itself.
In many respects, a large part of the last nine years of the SNP in office have been the years of light lifting, considering the disarray and weaknesses of their opponents. It has been easy to point the finger at ‘London Labour’, even worse ‘Red Tories’, and of course, the grip of Westminster. Things aren’t always going to be so easy: opponents will be less incompetent, incumbents make mistakes, more powers are coming to the Parliament, and a decade of public spending cuts will take their toll. Read the rest of this entry »
Confused by the European Debate? You should be!
Sunday Mail, June 5th 2016
The EU referendum is so far one of the worst political debates in my lifetime, with no sign of it improving. It is unlikely to descend to the gutter of Trump v. Clinton coming up shortly. But it still leaves a lot to be desired.
The academic Philip Cowley this week compared the referendum to ‘a shit game of football match, with little skill, in the pouring rain, on a Tuesday, but there still has to be a winner.’
There are good arguments for Remain and Leave. Remain can make the case for EU co-operation, the advantages of the single market, the EU’s contribution to peace, prosperity and democracy across the continent, and the importance of stability in an uncertain world.
Leave can put an equally valid case. The EU is the only continent in the world bar Antarctica not experiencing economic growth. It is a declining bloc as a share of world trade (30% in 1980, now 17%); its bureaucratic consensus decision-making make it slow, and it has been unable to deal with such recent crises as Greece and immigration. Read the rest of this entry »