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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Gordon Brown: The Ghost in the Machine

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 14th 2017

Gordon Brown, like him or loath him, was a titan of a figure in British politics for close on two decades. Along now comes Brown’s attempt at putting his case and a call for understanding and redemption in his autobiography – ‘My Life, Our Times’.

It comes with much baggage for all who will read and encounter it, including from the author himself who goes through the pretense that he had to be reluctantly dragged into writing it, explaining himself: ‘For me, being conspicuously demonstrative is uncomfortable – to the point where it has taken me years, despite the urging of friends, to turn to writing this book.’

Gordon Brown’s life story could be gripping and compelling. It contains all the hallmarks of good drama. Here is a man gifted with rare talents and drive; who knew he wanted to serve. At an early age comes tragedy when he is deprived of eyesight in one eye. This does not stop the young Brown but only makes him more determined and resolute. Read the rest of this entry »

Sexual Misbehaviour is the concern of all of us

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 8th 2017

A spectre is haunting British politics. At a time of high wire politics, instability and the biggest constitutional challenge – Brexit – in post-war times, the political classes are obsessed with allegations of sexual impropriety, harassment and abuse.

This affects all the main parties and at the most senior levels – the Conservatives and de facto Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green, Labour’s Kelvin Hopkins, the Lib Dems with the previous Lord Rennard scandal, and the SNP with the resignation of Children’s minister Mark McDonald. While allegations have centred on the House of Commons and ‘the Palace of Pestminster’, other legislatures such as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are not exempt.

This is a political, cultural and ethical storm. There are clearly a whole spectrum of allegations from former Defence minister Michael Fallon putting his hand on journalist Julia Hartley Brewer, to allegations of groping, grooming and even rape. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fantasyland Version of Britain is alive and kicking – and driving Brexit

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, Oct0ber 25th 2017

British democracy used to be presented as the envy of the world – the Whig version of history, the rule of law and above all the sense of continuity which was meant to differentiate the UK from its European neighbours.

Such a view permeated British elites, institutions and public life. But it also informed many left-wing radicals and dissenters. One notable example was provided by the American writer Edward Shils on visiting the UK in 1953. He reflected on being completely taken aback to hear ‘an eminent man of the left, say, in utter seriousness … that the British constitution was “as nearly perfect as any human institution could be.”’ And Shils was even more surprised to find that ‘No one even thought it amusing.’

Fast forward sixty years and the prevailing wisdom is that few, if any, sensible people hold such self-congratulatory views. Britain has been buffeted by so many changes in the decades since 1953. While there are some examples of famous British continuity from then to the present day, such as the monarchy, in many respects, Britain today is a different country. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the end game for Theresa May and Tory Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 11th 2017

The British Conservatives have for most of their history been an impressively successful political force, winning elections and forming the UK government on its own or in coalition for two-thirds of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It then behooves the rest of us to try and understand the Conservative Party – what motivates its thinking, actions and ethos. And this matters even more when they are engulfed in infighting and faction fighting, in what looks like the lingering death rites of Theresa May’s premiership.

Trying to understand Tories is beyond some. From Nye Bevan’s ‘Tories are lower than vermin’ 1948 speech (which was reputed to have lost Labour half a million votes in the subsequent 1950 election), to the battle cry of many a protest of ‘Tory scum’, there is a long left-wing tradition of demonising Tories as one dimensional villains.

There is even a vogue in anti-Toryism in the popularity of ‘Never Kissed a Tory’ t-shirts and mugs, and the sentiment expressed by Labour MP Laura Pidcock who said she could not have a Tory as a friend because they represented ‘the enemy.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Catalonia and Scotland are very different: The complex struggle for self-determination

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 4th 2017

There are many reasons to be thankful for living in Scotland. This came home to roost in the last week with the Catalan referendum, the experience of the Iraqi Kurds voting on independence, and even, more dramatically, the tragic events in the US when Las Vegas witnessed yet another mass killing and carnage.

Scotland is a prosperous and peaceful country. Unlike Catalonia we were able to have an independence referendum – which everyone agreed to, participated in, and accepted who won and who lost.

Central to this was the role of the British Government. For all the ‘othering’ of Britain and the British state – which happens in pro-independence opinion – from its pursuit of inequality, war on the poor and unraveling of the welfare state, to its many military adventures abroad and belief in its role as an international policeman, it acted (in the Scottish example) with an element of insight, intelligence and even wisdom. And we were all the better for it. Read the rest of this entry »

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