Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Question of Europe, the UK and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 20th 2016

I am a European. I believe in Europe as an idea. And for all of my life I have felt an affinity and connection with the notion of greater European integration.

Now I am not so sure. When I was a child my parents voted in the 1975 referendum against the then EEC. I wasn’t convinced of their argument. The BBC were showing then John Terraine’s ‘The Mighty Continent’ – a history of Europe in the 20th century – narrated by Peter Ustinov.

This hooked me. It told Britain’s island story as part of the continent: of two World Wars, the depression and post-war boom, art and literature, and introduced me to the tragedies of the Hungarian uprising and Prague spring, both of which were snuffed out by Soviet tanks.

Britain was the sick man of Europe in the sixties and seventies. The German and, even to a lesser extent, French and Italian economies were both revered and feared – with faster economic growth, greater prosperity, and better labour relations between workers and management than the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

What part of Britain is not for sale?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 3rd 2016

This week the future of the steel industry moved centrestage, Scottish parties have finally started talking tax, and the Tories version of what they call a ‘national living wage’ came into force.

British steel used to lead the world. In 1875 it accounted for 40% of world production.  The industry employed 320,000 people in 1971, which has fallen to 24,000 now. It produced 24 million tonnes in 1967, down to 12 million tonnes today.

Tata Steel – an Indian company based in Mumbai who bought Corus in 2007, an amalgamation of British Steel and a Dutch firm – employ 15,000 of the current 24,000 jobs in the UK industry.

The world has a huge steel surplus – the product of Chinese industrialisation, low costs and state subsidies. The US Government has put up protective trade barriers to protect domestic steel from Chinese competition. But the EU, egged on by the UK, has argued against any such action.

This is about many things – high quality, high skilled jobs; good apprenticeships; the future of manufacturing; whether the UK has any kind of industrial policy and what role, if any, government has beyond rhetoric and retraining. Read the rest of this entry »

In the age of constant fear facts and figures matter

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 27th 2016

The Scottish Parliament broke up this week – ending the fourth parliamentary term and marking the start of the election campaign.

These are strange times. Politicians try to reassure us that everything will be alright, while they scare us witless about the threat of terrorism to national security.

Well-practiced lines are filled with contradictions. The UK is the fifth richest economy in the world. Yet, our future fate supposedly hangs on the verdict of the EU referendum, and if voters dare to vote for leaving we would be taking that proverbial ‘leap in the dark’ – the same one invoked in the indyref.

This is an age of contested facts and figures: of hyperbole, hysteria and manufactured fear. Key drivers are the decline of old class and political terms, the attack on the social contract between government and voters across the West, and the never-ending war on terror. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tory Fantasyland Version of Britain hits the buffers

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, March 20th 2016

George Osborne presented his eighth and potentially last Budget. Bad politics. Dodgy decisions and finances. All leading to Iain Duncan Smith’s sensational resignation sparking bitter Tory divisions.

Osborne is a very political chancellor, convinced of his own sure touch which his record doesn’t bear out. A mere 111 days before his budget he presented a glowing Autumn Statement which he has had to tear up and correct downward; by the sum total of £56 billion.

Even worse, he is missing the targets which he set himself – on debt and the welfare cap, and only meeting the third, on a fiscal surplus, by the end of this Parliament by a sleight of hand moving monies forward one year.

This was a more highly political budget than usual: with Osborne focused on the Euro referendum and coming Tory leadership contest when Cameron stands down. Already he had to drop ambitions for pension reform due to Tory nerves, and opposition to disability cuts began to make another U-turn likely – and led to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith. Read the rest of this entry »

What are politicians for today? In Defence of a Different Politics

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 9th 2016

For all my adult life, I have defended the potential of politics and politicians to aid a better world.

I have defended politics as the means to bring about change, for people to come together collectively and exercise power, and to aid the art of living together well. I have defended politicians as both a necessary evil – not all being the same and tarred with the same brush – and as people undertaking an activity in which many try their best.

I have stood up for politics and politicians against the taxi driver view of the world, the cynic’s perspective, and negativity – prevalent everywhere. In recent years, the actions of many politicians have not made advocating their case easy: the parliamentary expenses scandal, the banker’s crash followed by the war on the poor and vulnerable, and before that, the Iraq war to name glaring examples.

The clamour of denigration has grown. Publicly expressed beliefs that ‘they are all in it for themselves’, ‘they are all the same’ and ‘they will tell you anything to get elected’ has become the backdrop of most mainstream politics. While cynicism is unhealthy, it has become a byproduct of our dysfunctional semi-democracies which reinforce the shortcomings of politicians. Our collective disengagement from them mirrors their withdrawal from the public in all but the narrowest definition (trying to get our votes), as they become part of a self-contained power elite, along with corporate media, business and opinion formers. Read the rest of this entry »

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