Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Whatever happens, Britain has already left the building

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 22nd 2016

The UK has already left Europe. It never really joined in any real sense.

National debates like this reveals much about the psyche of a country, and how it sees its collective hopes and fears. For one, it illuminates a lot about the ghosts of the past that haunt a country. In the Scottish indyref, for example, a great deal of this focused on the perceived legacy of Thatcherism and deindustrialisation.

In this European debate, the ghosts seemingly ever-present are those of the spectre of German dominance of the continent and the dark empire of the Nazis, Hitler and World War Two. Further proof, if it were needed, that this has a vice-like grip on the British imagination, was given by the recent controversy over anti-Semitism sparked by Ken Livingstone, which revolved around Hitler’s relationship with Zionism, lacking any sensitivity or interest in historical accuracy.

The 1975 referendum campaign, 41 years ago and 30 years after World War Two, had little to no references to the Nazis and Hitler. People were too close then to the horrendous, murderous events of the war, and careful to not appear tactless or make offensive comparisons. Read the rest of this entry »

This campaign is a future warning from a British Trumpland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 19th 2016

The Euro campaign has been without any joy or love, and has reached depths unseen for decades in British politics – reducing complex subjects to the gutter.

This last week has been a humbling one. The tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox, the UKIP poster ‘Breaking Point’ on the threat of mass immigration coming to the UK, and the disgraceful antics of Leave.EU (the UKIP dominated Leave campaign) linking the Orlando massacre to Muslim immigration.

It has been a long low road to this sad point. Left-wingers and liberals have for decades evaded talking about immigration. Labour, in particular, have avoided any real conversation with its voters for the last fifty years on the subject. As a result, UKIPers and right-wingers have burst through this spiral of silence, claiming ‘politically correct’ censorship, and ended up using a language of stigmatisation, populism and cheap solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Better Than This? The Tragic Killing of Jo Cox

Gerry Hassan

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’s Missing from the European Referendum?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 22nd 2016

As memory of the Scottish campaign fades, along comes another one: the European referendum. It is like the deregulated chaos of buses – first none, then a stampede!

We now have regular referendums. Scotland has had three, as has Wales, Northern Ireland two, and this is the third UK-wide vote. When they were first mooted in the 1970s they were called, particularly by MPs, ‘alien’, ‘unBritish’, ‘undermining of parliamentary sovereignty’, and the sort of things dictatorships do.

Since then the referendum has slowly become part of the Scottish and British constitutional furniture. There is even now an agreed set of rules in the form of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 that allows for official ‘designated’ sides, and tries to create an equal playing field in donations and spending in the short campaign.

This phenomenon is not just British, but evident across Europe and US. There are many reasons for this. There is the decline in political elites, fall in deference, spread of communications, and emergence of issues such as constitutional arrangements, environment and ethical concerns, which transcend old left-right and class divisions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish Revolution that isn’t quite what people expected

Gerry Hassan

May 6th 2016

The Scottish election was a foregone conclusion. Everything was settled we were told. But it hasn’t quite turned out that way.

A third SNP term, but without the expected overall majority that the Nationalists and polls expected. A Tory revival beyond expectations. And a Labour nightmare implosion which makes it difficult to see a way back. Decent results for the Greens and Lib Dems.

All of this will throw up big questions about politics, power and legitimacy. Nicola Sturgeon has talked about ‘a clear and unequivocal mandate’, but is it really – when the Nats campaigned with the expectation of a majority? Part of this is failed expectation management, but it raises questions about whether Sturgeon and the Nats can adapt to a different language and politics in more difficult times, and a more contested politics? This is without getting into what this means for the longer term prospects of independence – which cannot now be seen as synonymous with the SNP.

Here are some of the bigger changes:

1. TURNOUT

The second highest Scottish Parliament election turnout since 1999. 55.6% is up 5.2% on 2011 – but way down on the indyref 84.6% and last year’s 71.1%. Some of ‘the missing Scotland’ which turned out in the indyref – has clearly become disenfranchised again – look at the Dundee and Glasgow turnouts for example. Read the rest of this entry »

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