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Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Is this the end game for Theresa May and Tory Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 11th 2017

The British Conservatives have for most of their history been an impressively successful political force, winning elections and forming the UK government on its own or in coalition for two-thirds of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It then behooves the rest of us to try and understand the Conservative Party – what motivates its thinking, actions and ethos. And this matters even more when they are engulfed in infighting and faction fighting, in what looks like the lingering death rites of Theresa May’s premiership.

Trying to understand Tories is beyond some. From Nye Bevan’s ‘Tories are lower than vermin’ 1948 speech (which was reputed to have lost Labour half a million votes in the subsequent 1950 election), to the battle cry of many a protest of ‘Tory scum’, there is a long left-wing tradition of demonising Tories as one dimensional villains.

There is even a vogue in anti-Toryism in the popularity of ‘Never Kissed a Tory’ t-shirts and mugs, and the sentiment expressed by Labour MP Laura Pidcock who said she could not have a Tory as a friend because they represented ‘the enemy.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit, Dunkirk and a Britain Where the Past Shapes the Future

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 26th 2017

The past is always around us in what passes for modern Britain.

In recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, it seems more omnipotent and increasingly problematic. From politics to culture and most aspects of public life we are confronted with a fantasyland version of the collective past which is selective and sepia-tinged. This matters because it reduces the prospect of us believing that we can make a better collective future than the nasty, mean-spirited reality which is for too many contemporary Britain.

This predicament comes into full view in the summer of 2017 and in Christopher Nolan’s just released film ‘Dunkirk’. This has attracted many plaudits for its grand scale, alongside its depiction of chaos and confusion. But it has also attracted comment (including critical ones) for its lack of characters, central story, and context (one of which is the absence of any Germans or overall strategy from either side).

However it did portray powerfully the gathering foreboding and claustrophobia on the Dunkirk beachhead as the Germans closed in on the trapped British and French forces. This was after all the greatest British military disaster and reverse ever in the country’s history. In military terms it rates much higher than the American Wars of Independence and Irish independence – which were geo-political defeats – or the much cited humiliations of the loses of Tobruk, Singapore and Hong Kong in 1942. This is epic history on every level: a bigger encirclement of men than even at Stalingrad, and the biggest amphibious military rescue ever undertaken by anyone. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP and Independence Supporters

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 17th 2017

These are fast moving political times for Scotland. The events of the last week illustrate the accelerated fragmentation and disintegration of the UK as we know it.

But these are also times of high stakes and stand-offs, with the Scottish and UK Governments gaming and predicting the actions of the other. Monday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon took the UK Government by surprise and seized the centrestage of British politics – forcing the postponement of triggering Article 50. Theresa May’s most recent statement, declaring that ‘now is not the time’ for a referendum’ until the Brexit talks are completed, was predictable. Despite this, it would be ill-advised to underestimate May and the UK Government who, despite her personal inflexibility and lack of comprehension of modern Scotland, will play hard to keep Scotland in the union.

Similarly, while time works in favour of independence, it also has downsides. The SNP have been in office ten years, and with each passing year have more of a record to defend. Next time, the careful 2014 balancing act of being insurgent and incumbent will be much more difficult to pull off. And the SNP’s domestic political dominance (rather like the Tories in the UK) has costs: in that there is, across the SNP and Scottish Government, a tangible weakening in political antenna and sensitivity of how policies and stances appear to those outside the administration. Such a time of high-wire politics means that it is more urgent than ever to reflect, tell hard truths, and to institutionalise more effectively a deeper pluralist politics. Read the rest of this entry »

The Long Suicide of Scottish and British Labour Hurts Us All

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 1st 2017

Political parties rise and fall. They have no permanent right to a lease on the terrain they occupy and the voters they appeal to. Scottish politics has seen the decline of many once powerful forces – the Liberals, Tories, and now the Labour Party.

This weekend, and since, has witnessed what can only be described as the last vestiges of the long painful suicide of the Scottish Labour Party. Moreover, this coincided with the on-going pains and problems of the Corbyn Labour leadership – something which has far reaching consequences beyond the party.

All of this comes at a high cost. The Tory Government, despite a perilous parliamentary majority of 12 (16 when Sinn Fein abstentionism is counted), and an unelected Prime Minister, faces no credible, coherent UK parliamentary opposition.

The Tories are being left unchallenged to chart Brexit into whatever they want it to be. The passing of Article 50 through the Commons has already seen Corbyn’s Labour impose a three-line whip to support the Tories: not exactly the kind of ‘new politics’ people thought Corbyn aspired to. Read the rest of this entry »

The Day Britain Died: Brexit, Trump and Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 15th 2017

Last week a Rubicon was crossed as the House of Commons voted 494 to 122 – a government majority of 372 – to give a third reading to triggering Article 50.

Just as seriously on the same day – Wednesday February 8th 2017 – the UK Government reneged on its promise to take 3,000 child refugees (what was called the Dubs amendment) and slashed the number to 350. If that wasn’t enough the Commons at the same time voted to refuse to offer any guarantees to EU citizens living in the UK: content to use them as pawns in a high power poker game.

It is going to be difficult for many in Scotland, and for many ‘Scottish Review’ readers, but Britain is over. There is no way back. Last week the very idea of Britain as outgoing, welcoming, doing the right thing, looking after the most vulnerable and being driven by a sense of humanity, was not only trashed but finally and fatally died.

All of this requires that we get real about the debate here and recognise that we need to be tolerant, serious and embrace detail and facts, not faith and assertion. Unless the UK does an about turn on Brexit and Scotland, indyref2 is inevitable. The only issue will be timing and context. Read the rest of this entry »