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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

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 »

As Britain crashes and burns can Scottish politics embrace more humanity and substance?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 8th 2016

Britain is falling apart by the day. ‘British politics’ no longer exist in any form outside the House of Commons; ‘Brexit Britain’ is an inaccurate term considering the divided vote and kingdom; while the UK Government wastes our resources going to the Supreme Court to prevent a parliamentary vote actioning a referendum decision that was supposedly about parliamentary sovereignty.

It’s confusing isn’t it? Meanwhile Tory politicians and newspapers rail against judges as ‘Enemies of the People’, and the influence of millionaires in politics. At the same time, the self-titled ‘bad boys of Brexit’ led by Leave.EU donor Arron Banks plans to launch a new English-focused citizens movement. (Meanwhile, ‘The National’ responded with a front page of May and David Davis labelled ‘Enemies of the Scottish People’; a deliberate parody of the ‘Daily Mail’).

Such are the gathering absurdities of Lilliputian Britain. This is a place where the outdated, obsolete constitution which offers few real checks and balances on what central government can and cannot do, has been, after years of being weakened, finally and completely, been blown apart by Brexit. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the UK finds itself in a new location, its traditional institutions disorientated, and rather than this being seized on as a popular moment instead, plutocrats and millionaire bankrollers of Leave see it as a chance to reduce the UK to some kind of personal plaything. Read the rest of this entry »

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