Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

The Great British Economic Miracle is an Illusion

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 31st 2016

Something is wrong with the British economy.

George Osborne seems to be experiencing his own ‘Boom and Bust’. Just before Christmas he was singing the joys of the British economy on the mend.  Yet a few weeks later he changed his tone talking of the uncertain economic times.

He hasn’t had to look too far for his troubles – from the tax credits’ chaos where he had to do a U-turn, to this week’s judgement that the bedroom tax was illegal and discriminated against domestic violence victims and disabled people.

If that wasn’t bad enough there was his ‘deal’ with Google where Osborne reached an agreement that they pay £130 million in lieu of taxes over the last ten years. This is a paltry 3% corporate tax rate – the lowest in the developed world.

The ghost of a former Chancellor hangs over Osborne – Gordon Brown – the man who said he ‘abolished Boom and Bust’. The similarities are two-fold: political and economic. Both have positioned themselves as the heir apparent behind their more electorally appealing colleague, David Cameron for Osborne and Tony Blair for Brown. Read the rest of this entry »

The Europe Debate will tell us much about the state of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 24th 2016

2016 will be a turbulent year for Britain and the world.

One issue will dominate the UK political classes beyond economic and financial worries or anxieties about immigration and security, and that is Europe.

Europe will connect with all of the above and more. Cameron’s main impetus is to have a quick referendum, to win it and get on with the rest of his Prime Ministership. It won’t work out that way.

To have the referendum relatively soon (meaning before Scottish school holidays start) a number of pieces have to fall into place. First, Cameron has to go to his EU summit in February and win some semblance of a deal. Then he has to be able to come back and present it to the House of Commons and country as an honourable agreement – more substantive than Harold Wilson’s fig leaf in 1975. Read the rest of this entry »

The Phoney War in British and Scottish Politics Will End Soon

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 10th 2016

The big news this week wasn’t the Corbyn re-shuffle of people no one had heard of. Nor was it Cameron’s retreat on the Euro referendum over Cabinet collective responsibility. And it certainly wasn’t Donald Trump threatening to pull future investments from Scotland.

Nor was it the hostile words between Saudi Arabia and Iran or continued anxieties about terrorism. Instead, it was instability in the world economy, Chinese economic wobbles, their currency devaluing again and stock market falling by 7%, contributing to a mind-blowing £2.5 trillion being wiped off world markets in a matter of days.

While these turbulent economic storms blow over our heads, British and Scottish politics are strangely becalmed, focused on the small stuff, and seemingly unaware of choppy times ahead.

The Conservative Party has mastered the art of success for more than 150 years. George Osborne this week emphasised that austerity wasn’t over and people couldn’t just start spending the proceeds of growth.

In the real world, the economic recovery is fragile and unbalanced based on personal consumption, spiraling household debt, property prices and the biggest Balance of Payments deficit in UK history. London house prices sit at an ‘average’ £531,000: more unsustainable than the Blair/Brown ‘bubble’ of fantasyland Britain. Read the rest of this entry »

2016: The Year of the UK as a Disunited Kingdom in an Unstable World

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, December 27th 2015

‘The future ain’t what it used to be’ – said American baseball player Yogi Berra.

This year saw unpredictability, shocks and upsets. There was the election of a majority Conservative Government which no polls predicted. There was the tartan tsunami which saw the SNP sweep nearly all before it.

There was the rise and victory of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, while across the world a whole range of populists, from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to Marine Le Pen, waged constant war on their political establishments.

This means that the most confident prediction for the New Year is that the unforeseen will happen. To take some frivolous examples, if Leicester City can sit at the top of the English Premiership, and Aberdeen can run Celtic close in the Scottish Premier, maybe anything can happen?

2016 will see several key milestones and events: the Scottish Parliament elections, the London Mayoral contest, the European in/out referendum if Cameron has his way, and the US Presidential Election. Read the rest of this entry »

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2015

December 24th 2015

NEW BOOKS:

SCOTLAND

Project Fear: How an Unlikely Alliance left a Kingdom United but a Country Divided, Joe Pike, Biteback

A brilliant access all areas account of the chaos of the ‘Better Together’ campaign in the indyref. To think there was an even more Armageddon-ish‘Project Fear’!

Queer Voices in Post-War Scotland: Male Homosexuality, Religion and Society, Jeffrey Meek, Palgrave Macmillan

At long last a serious study of Scottish gay culture (focusing just on gay men) and in particular the period between Wolfenden (1957) and decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales (1967) and Scotland (1980).

The Spaces of Fiction: Voices from Scotland in a Post-Devolution Age, Marie-Odile Pittin-Hedon, Association for Scottish Literary Studies

French scholar turns her attention to fiction (after a study of Alasdair Gray) and finds a diffuse, diverse Scotland telling particular and universal stories.

Demanding Democracy: The Case for a Scottish Media, Christopher Silver, Word Power Books

Thoughtful, non-partisan exploration of public life in Scotland; good on context, history and traditions, with suggestions for change. And produced by the wonderful Word Power Books in Edinburgh – a bookshop, an imprint and an inspiration. Read the rest of this entry »

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