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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

We have reached a watershed for UK politics: Time for independence to catch the wave of change

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 20th 2017

These are bewildering and often disorientating times to live in. In recent weeks and months it has felt at times difficult to keep up with the speed of events – as history has been seemingly made and remade every few days.

Such periods call for being honest, respectful in debate, and reflection and self-awareness in everything any of us say or do in public. Look around at the events in the UK and world and they rightly should imbue any of us with a humbleness and wariness of easy remedies.

That said the Scottish election results mark some kind of watershed. Take a couple of perspectives from the ‘Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas’ Scotland after the election event in Glasgow on Sunday. Peter Geoghegan said the election was ‘the end of the 2014 indyref road’. John Curtice that ‘Brexit has been as disruptive for the Nationalists – as for every other party.’ Angela Haggerty that independence was facing its ‘first big test’ since 2014.

Curtice pointed out that the SNP’s 37% was the tipping point of support for the party and FPTP working in its favour (the SNP won 35 out of 59 seats: 59%). Its support is relatively flatly distributed across the country compared to its opponents, and this produces according to Curtice for the SNP ‘feast or famine’. Any further fall of even a few percent and the electoral system will begin to work against the SNP – the way it currently does for Tories, Labour and Lib Dems – and did when the SNP broke through at Westminster in October 1974: their previous peak until 2015 and 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

Is it time to think of independence for London?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 24th 2017

Every day in so many ways the UK becomes more obviously divided and fragmented. The current UK general election campaign showcases this – with the absence of any real national UK politics beyond the theatre of Westminster with instead numerous national and sub-national debates.

There are, along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, several different Englands. And then there is the special case of London. As the capital of England and the UK, London is an island apart from the rest of us. It is a world city, a global magnet and an international force – economically, socially, culturally.

I spent the last weekend in London with friends. Experiencing the city is to reflect on its dynamism and variety, but also on how utterly different it is from the rest of the country. And this difference increasingly matters – both for how London sees itself and the rest of us, and obviously for the non-London population of the UK.

London is one of the drivers of the UK economy. The Greater London area contains over 8.6 million people – 12.5% of the UK population – while making up 22% of UK GDP. Its wealth dominates the UK economy. Inner London’s GDP per person in 2010 was 328% the EU average, compared to 70% in west Wales – the biggest gap in any EU state. Read the rest of this entry »

The Left’s Big Problem: Ken Livingstone and talking about Hitler and the Jews

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 12th 2017

These are dark days for British Labour. Much worse than 1983 – or the 1950s. Only the shock of 1931 comes anywhere near to the present malaise when the party was betrayed by former Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald going off with the Tories.

Labour is heading for the rocks, irrelevance and ridicule. The only things holding it up are the even more self-destructive behaviour of UKIP, and the workings of the First Past the Post electoral system which gives the party ballast against a complete meltdown by providing it with 150 or so banker seats.

Corbyn has terrible ratings, the party has no coherent economic or any other kind of positive message, is at an all-time low for an opposition in the polls, and is facing terrible local elections across the country, with the prospect of a rout in Scotland. If that weren’t enough 34% of voters say they are less likely to vote Labour because of concerns over anti-semitism. Read the rest of this entry »

Stay Calm: The Country formerly known as the UK is Breaking Up

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 5th 2017

Sometimes years go by without domestic and international crises. Then like buses, a whole series of them come along at the same time to the extent that hardly anyone can keep up.

It is exhausting to keep up for citizens, the media and the participants directly involved. In the last week, the Scottish Parliament voted 69-59 to hold a second independence referendum, Theresa May finally triggered Article 50 for the UK to leave the EU, and the UK got involved in a bizarre spat with the Spanish Government over Gibraltar which showed that the UK authorities and Brexiteers have hardly been doing advance planning. Former Tory leader Michael Howard upped the ante invoking the Falklands war and making bellicose noises threatening the use of military force: remarks which met with the approval of Downing Street with no slap down, public or private, coming forth.

Scotland nearly feels serene compared to such hyperbole. There is the usual stand-off and attitude between the SNP and Scottish Greens and the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems. Some of this is now so familiar it has the feel of a set piece dance arrangement from a West End musical. Read the rest of this entry »

Prisoners of the Past: Tony Blair, Trump and Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 22nd 2017

The past is a powerful force and that is even more true in the strange times we are living in.

Take the waves of reaction and revulsion emerging last week after Tony Blair came back from the cold to announce his new initiative on Brexit. Blair’s intervention took place at the start of the 20th anniversary of the first New Labour landslide, but also bizarrely after the Commons voted to trigger Article 50, and six days before two critical by-elections for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. (The latter, allowing the Labour leadership if they lost one or both to blame Blair and deflect blame from themselves.)

The Blair clarion call was that we should as a people rise up against Brexit and demand the right to think again. It met a mixed response. There are few people who openly admit to being Blair believers in Britain. Indeed, he seems to have fewer supporters in this country than even Trump and his pals Nigel Farage, Arron Banks and Piers Morgan. How the popular have fallen. Read the rest of this entry »

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