Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

What’s Missing from the European Referendum?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 22nd 2016

As memory of the Scottish campaign fades, along comes another one: the European referendum. It is like the deregulated chaos of buses – first none, then a stampede!

We now have regular referendums. Scotland has had three, as has Wales, Northern Ireland two, and this is the third UK-wide vote. When they were first mooted in the 1970s they were called, particularly by MPs, ‘alien’, ‘unBritish’, ‘undermining of parliamentary sovereignty’, and the sort of things dictatorships do.

Since then the referendum has slowly become part of the Scottish and British constitutional furniture. There is even now an agreed set of rules in the form of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 that allows for official ‘designated’ sides, and tries to create an equal playing field in donations and spending in the short campaign.

This phenomenon is not just British, but evident across Europe and US. There are many reasons for this. There is the decline in political elites, fall in deference, spread of communications, and emergence of issues such as constitutional arrangements, environment and ethical concerns, which transcend old left-right and class divisions. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »

Fear, Loathing and the Problem of ‘Sovereignty’ in the EU Referendum

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 2nd 2016

After years of second guesses and a rising tide of Europhobia and scare stories, finally the UK faces the certainty of a vote on June 23rd on whether or not it remains a member of the European Union. This will be a debate about so much – about how people see Britain and its future, the English question, and the distinctiveness and autonomy of Scotland – all illustrating the absence of any uniform national British politics.

The referendum will be dominated by concerns about the economy, immigration, security, and the UK’s role and influence in the world. It will also be about competing understandings of ‘sovereignty’ – with several different Tory perspectives, along with Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, Scottish Nationalist and Green views. There will be similarities in language and tone to the indyref. Some of the same clichés will be invoked to breaking point, ‘Project Fear’ has been dusted down, and the trading and counter-trading of alleged pseudo-facts begun.

Most people most of the time do not go round thinking of how ‘sovereignty’ impacts on themselves and their family. Instead, it is an abstract, something remote and ill-defined, and a concept open to many different interpretations –whose practical application is unclear. Read the rest of this entry »