Posts Tagged ‘British Society’
On Living in an Old Country: The Power of the Past after Thatcher
The Scotsman, April 15th 2013
The last week has effectively been an elegy on Britain’s recent past and present rolled into one.
This is not just about Thatcher, but the numerous references to the Churchill and Attlee funerals and how we marked these past titans. Is this who we really were, we ask with curiosity? Are we still that same people who dreamed dreams, stood alone against the Nazis, and built a welfare state, we ask, with a hint of anxiety?
Britain seems increasingly a place shaped by the allure of living in the past, by the power of previous generations and the combined cacophonous voices of the dead.
This is not just about the Thatcher moment. In recent years the British state has increasingly marked its numerous military and imperial triumphs and engagements. We have honoured Admiral Nelson’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Britain; next year there is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Western Europe and the bizarre celebration of the 100th anniversary of the onset of the First World War. Read the rest of this entry »
Four Nations and a Funeral: The Demise of the British Welfare State
The Scotsman, March 30th 2013
The British welfare state is meant to be one of the ties that bind us together; along with the NHS and the BBC representing our common strands of citizenship.
Each has been remarkably eroded in recent years but on Monday April 1st huge changes will occur in the first two – the welfare state and NHS in England – which will have massive consequences for hundreds of thousands of people up and down this country already hard pressed and vulnerable, and for the very idea of Britain itself.
A host of benefit changes are away to occur: the bedroom tax, the abolition of Disability Living Allowance, the housing benefit cap and a real cut in most benefits. At the same time, there will be the biggest overhaul of the NHS in England in decades, with private health care providers the world over drooling at the prospect of getting their hands on the NHS billions.
This is not the mandate David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith stood on in 2010. Cameron impressed on people that he was a different kind of ‘compassionate conservative’, stressing the perils of inequality and poverty, and citing the work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s influential ‘The Spirit Level’. Read the rest of this entry »
The Beginning of the End of ‘the Global Kingdom’
The Scotsman, March 9th 2013
This week something momentous happened for the future of the Britain, its economy and politics, for Europe, and our relationship with the continent.
The European Union proposed and agreed a curb on bankers bonuses, over-riding the predictable opposition of the UK Government and George Osborne.
The EU proposals supported by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and 26 out of 27 EU members, will put a ceiling on banker bonuses of one year’s salary, or two years if approved by a large majority of shareholders.
There was the usual outcries from the British Bankers Association, CBI and others: people who go by the description, ‘the business community’, but are actually corporate lobbyists for the big firms, which is not the same thing, looking to maintain the same market dominance for their members. Read the rest of this entry »
How the World of Eton Sees Scotland and Scottish Independence
The Scotsman, October 20th 2012
The name of Eton resonates down through English tradition and privilege: from the Dave ‘n’ Boris show to the wider return of the old Etonians across public life.
It has produced nineteen British Prime Ministers and a host of Scottish and British iconoclasts and radicals from Tam Dalyell and Neal Ascherson to John Maynard Keynes and George Orwell.
Eton was an august setting for debating Scottish independence in the week of the Scottish and UK Government’s agreement. On the same day the Eton master Mike Grenier publicly warned of the dangers of parents micro-managing their children’s free time. There are 1,300 students at Eton, and parents pay £30,000 per annum causing Grenier to comment that ‘turbo-charged fathers’ and ‘tiger mothers’ should ‘embrace a little idleness’ with their children.
Orwell famously had a rather unhappy time at Eton as a lower middle class child. One view on why he choose to write ‘1984’ on the Isle of Jura is that he wanted to reclaim it, from hearing all through his youth from his much more wealthy Eton peers as they went off each summer on breaks to their Scottish estates. Read the rest of this entry »
How the Beatles Changed Britain and the World
The Scotsman, October 6th 2012
It was fifty years ago yesterday that a popular revolution began in humble settings which had a seismic global impact that still affect the world today.
This is the UK release on the Parlophone record label of the first ever single by the Beatles, ‘Love Me Do’.
The Beatles changed so much: the image of Britain, music, culture, fashion, attitudes to class. They made Britain feel a better place and more dynamic, ‘swinging’ and ‘cool’ to people across the world.
It is impossible to sense, post-Beatles, what Britain was like pre-Beatles. Such is the difference between before and after. Before the Beatles, Britain was a stuffy, hidebound, class ridden society; the land of the trial of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and the pan loaf accents of the Beeb. Read the rest of this entry »