Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

The Glasgow Games, the Great War and A Requiem for the Post-War Dream

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, August 4th 2014

Two very different tales of a city and a country – Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games followed by the Glasgow Cathedral commemoration of the outbreak of World War One when the UK declared war on Germany.

The Commonwealth Games showcased Glasgow on a Scottish, UK and global stage, aided by ‘Team Scotland’s’ best ever haul of medals. The games profiled Glasgow as an international city and tourist destination – a transition which has been underway for at least the last 30 years. How big a change this is can be underlined by the British Association’s annual conference proceedings in 1958 which took place in Glasgow. In its foreword the association boldly declared:

Our visitors are likely to know little of us. Glasgow does not rank as a tourist attraction: the Glorious Twelfth takes them to the North, the Royal and Ancient to the East and the Festival to Another Place.

The Glasgow of the games was very different from this, and from the powerful hackneyed and miserablist images of the city which have crowded out other accounts. It came across as vibrant, full of stunning Victorian buildings and animated people, yet at the same time this was a carefully choreographed creation: the brand of ‘official Glasgow’ which has co-opted everything from the patter to the infamous traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Read the rest of this entry »

The Strange Death of Liberal England Continued

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 30th 2014

Liberal England is in a state of confusion. There is the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, the continued right wing drift of UK politics, and the slow detachment of the UK from the European Union.

All of the above cause apoplexy and dismay to the thinking elements of the English left. One response to this from people such as Labour MP John Cruddas and Billy Bragg is to try to re-ignite the English radical imagination and challenge the increasingly English nationalist overtones of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. A second response from the likes of Ken Loach and Owen Jones believe in the ‘Spirit of 45’ being invoked shaped by romanticism and simplistic, wishful thinking.

However, the largest group by far on the English left in intellectual circles is in denial about the state of Britain. This is not a happy or confident time to be a progressive in England, and despite the actions of thirty years of post-war Labour Governments (thirteen of them under the recent auspices of New Labour), it cannot be claimed seriously that Britain is becoming a better, fairer place. Progressive politics has given up believing that it can create the future, instead pessimistically sensing that the right have the best tunes to fit our times and laid claim to tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

What do we do we do about the United Kingdom? And Why Federalism isn’t the Answer

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 4th 2014

In the last few weeks political debate has become filled with talk of the possibility of a federal United Kingdom.

This has come not surprisingly exclusively from pro-union voices. There was Tory MSP Murdo Fraser’s recent thoughtful speech, David Torrance’s short book on British wide federalism, and even former Prime Minister Gordon Brown mulling over the subject.

Murdo Fraser in his Reform Scotland talk said that ‘federalism within the UK, if it were workable and could be achieved, is a solution which could unite both unionists and nationalists, and provide a secure framework for the future’. David Torrance in a ‘Herald’ piece after Fraser’s intervention, cited former Labour MP and academic David Marquand commenting, ‘Does the UK become a federal state, or does it break up?’. Even Gordon Brown has refound his sense of radical constitutionalism, contemplating a written constitution and federalism in all but name.

These developments should be applauded and welcomed as they are trying to deal with some of the challenges of the modern world and the UK, and show a degree of open-mindedness and people being prepared to reconsider previous positions. They should be taken seriously and examined, asking what issues and concerns are they addressing, what are they not addressing, and what are their over-riding motivations? Read the rest of this entry »

A Scotland Beyond Yes and No: My Journey to Yes

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, June 26th 2014

I want to live in a Scotland which is not defined by Yes and No – a world of ‘us’ and ‘them’ – of politics, families and friendships reduced to the emotions of football supporters and tribalism. I want to live in a world of one Scotland and many, multiple, diverse Scotlands.

This is a time of many different debates in our nation; about the nature of our constitutional status and the meaning of independence, about who has power and authority in an age of constant change, the meaning and challenges of globalisation and interdependence, and the concentrations of wealth and status in the new global rich.

For some this current debate is very narrow: centred on competing claims of nationalism (Scottish and British), but for many others, it is about what kind of Scotland and society we want to live in and the discussion over what is the best route to get there. In this, the independence debate is an opening to a wider, generous and outward looking set of possibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Nazis and 1930s are alive and kicking in the independence debate?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 11th 2014

The Nazis are on the rise everywhere. They are cited on both sides of the bitter Ukrainian conflict, in places such as Greece and Hungary with neo-Nazi and fascist parties, and in some of the outrageous comments of the French Front National and even Ukip’s more extreme fringe.

The spectre of the Nazis and fascism have become increasingly omnipotent over the last twenty years to become a defining set of historical and cultural references in the UK, and England in particular. This was aided by Pier Morgan, as editor of the ‘Daily Mirror’, and his use of German caricatures in the Euro football championship of 1996, running front-page headlines declaring ‘Achtung! Surrender’, ‘Krauts’ and ‘Huns’. And now there is the emergence of the Nazis and fascism in the Scottish independence debate.

It is meant to be an irrefutable rule that mentioning the Nazis in an argument is proof that someone is desperate and has lost it. It even has a name – Godwin’s law – but if so it does not seem to translate to large parts of Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »