Posts Tagged ‘British Society’
When Britannia Ruled the Waves
Scottish Review, October 22nd 2014
The act of sailing has long been one of the ways humans have tested themselves, measuring their endurance, reflecting on life and its meaning, from Ernest Hemingway to Jonathan Raban’s ‘Coasting’, an account of sailing round Britain at the time of the Falklands war.
The experience of cruising in pleasure boats, ocean liners and luxury ships is a very different world. One filled with images of a mix of ‘Casino Royale’ and Monte Carlo stereotypes, rich playboys, people gambling and endless hedonism.
The reality is a bit different in what is a multi-billion pound industry which caters for all sorts of different interests and incomes. This was illustrated by my recent ten day cruise on the Fred. Olsen ship the MS Black Watch which sailed from North Shields across the North Sea to the Baltic, stopping off in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo, and sailing up the Kiel Canal.
The Black Watch first came into service in 1972 and like all Olsen liners is a middle sized ship compared to the behemoths being built for the ever opulent who wish to maintain their lifestyle on the seas. Captained by Finnish Mikael Degerlund, the ship had 765 passengers from nine countries, most from the UK, and 340 crew from eighteen countries. Read the rest of this entry »
The Battle for Britain and Daring to Believe We Can Do Better
The Scotsman, January 11th 2014
In the last couple of weeks, two visions of Britain have been articulated. Both are clear, concise, utterly sure of themselves and the justice of their case, and both are equally partial.
One is Tory MEP Daniel Hannan’s notion of a free floating, buccaneering, outward looking UK, which would slip its moorings with the European Union and reposition itself in new waters – mixing the English speaking world of the Anglosphere with re-establishing old connections with the Commonwealth and new ones with emerging nations.
The other is academic Linda Colley’s project to rejuvenate Britishness – the subject of her BBC Radio 4 series and book. Her solution is a grand design project to rejuvenate the union: an English Parliament outside London, written constitution and federalism.
These are both old stories told for new times. One is the vision of radical Tories and the other of enlightened liberal reform. Both are blindsided on the issues dear to the other – Hannan doesn’t touch the internal imbalances of power and wealth in the UK; Colley only mentions in passing the Euro crises and clearly thinks that Euroscepticism is a mindset of the deranged. Read the rest of this entry »
The Unions of the United Kingdom are Changing
The Scotsman, October 26th 2013
This week the British media turned its attention to the christening of the Royal Baby with the headlines ‘Gorgeous George’, continued its obsessions with who said what and apologised for what in ‘Plebgate’, and allowed for an occasional airing of the issue which rocked Scotland: the potential closure of Grangemouth petrochemical plant.
Such coverage shows the growing divergence between the London media and political world and the concerns of Scotland, but a small part of the thoughtful English media turned its attention to the implications from the Scottish debate for the UK, in ways which tell us a lot about how Scotland is changing and the nature of the UK.
Adam Price, a former Plaid Cymru MP, wrote in ‘The Guardian’ about the collapsing state of Britain’s national institutions and the trashing of public goods and services by the Cameron government. He addressed accurately the increasingly apocryphal language of the ‘Better Together’ camp which he believes ‘carries with it the not so subtle subtext of a married couple pondering the upheavals of divorce’. Read the rest of this entry »
The Dangers of the Right-Wing Revolutionaries in the UK and US
The Scotsman, October 13th 2013
The world as we know it stands on the brink of extinction. It could literally come to an end next Thursday on October 17th.
This is not some Nostradamus style prediction but the stand-off between Democrats and Republicans in the US over whether to raise the debt ceiling.
There have already been two weeks of the US shutdown with numerous levels of government inactive. There have been no food inspections or publically funded medical drug trials, while 800,000 government employees remain furloughed.
We like to think that the America is a foreign land very different from us and that this sort of thing could not possibly happen here. Well, aside from the different constitutional niceties it could because, leaving aside religious zealotry which the US does a fine line in, much of the political dynamic that brought the US to this impasse exists in the UK and is growing unchallenged by the day. Read the rest of this entry »
The UK is not skint – it is a playground for the rich and privileged
The Scotsman, September 21st 2013
It has been Scotland’s week in the news with British and world media flocking north to cover the story of one year to the referendum.
Such coverage paints a particular Scottish story by necessity and tends to leave the wider picture of what has changed and what needs to change at a British level.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a strange land; not technically a nation but a state. It is a unique hybrid, neither the unitary country often cited, but far removed from confederation or federalism.
It is a country which invokes the past but has a very shaky grasp of its own history: 1,000 years of lineage often being referenced by its mostly English politicians (and the occasional Scots and Welsh one). Its character and date of formation are obscure, held together by a series of unions and landmark changes: 1603, 1707, 1801, and its current borders dating from as recently as 1921 (when Ireland secessed). Read the rest of this entry »