Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’
It’s a Family Affair: the Strange Relationship of Labour and SNP
Sunday Mail, April 26th 2015
The forthcoming general election in Scotland, and to an extent in the UK, is being decided by the battle between Labour and the SNP.
There is history and bad blood here which almost amounts to a bitter family feud. Insults such as ‘tartan Tories’ and ‘red Tories’ are exchanged – both phrases pre-exist their current Labour and SNP use, but are now synonymous with the enmity between the two.
The past is a distant country in this. The SNP electoral breakthrough when Winnie Ewing won Hamilton in 1967 sent a chill up Scottish Labour spines. It was one of the most impregnable Labour seats in the UK, and after it happened, politics were never ever quite the same again.
Labour’s anger against the SNP since then borders on the elemental. This was magnified and given validity by the events of March 28th 1979 when eleven SNP MPs voted with thirteen Liberals to bring down the Callaghan Government. This heralded the 1979 general election and Mrs. Thatcher – which Labour as a result believe the SNP (but never the Liberals) are in some way responsible for. Read the rest of this entry »
A Watershed Moment for Scottish Labour, Scotland and the UK
Sunday Mail, March 8th 2015
Scottish Labour’s predicament and condition is centre stage in British politics. It has become one of the major factors which will determine the fate of the next UK election and government.
Jim Murphy’s leadership, with its constant announcements and hyper-activity, whilst not having created the fundamental problems the party faces, seems to offer no real solution so far.
Underneath all this Scottish Labour does not understand the position it finds itself in and how to get out of it. Fundamentally the party does not comprehend the state of post-referendum Scotland it faces.
Its problems have been a long time coming: the morphing of the party into the political establishment, its lack of imagination and purpose about what devolution was for, and finally, its lack of a progressive case for the union in the referendum, combined with their alliance with the Tories in ‘Better Together’. Read the rest of this entry »
A Rare Moment of Wisdom at the Heart of British Democracy
The Scotsman, August 31st 2013
Parliamentary debates about military intervention are often rightly solemn occasions. They carry the weight of history and memories of past triumphs and disasters.
The Syria debate this week had initially been downplayed by the Cameron government as it faced the realities of parliamentary arithmetic and the possibility of defeat. But this was historic, evoking past even more momentous debates, and opening a chapter in British foreign policy which could see military intervention in Syria without the UK.
The entire parliamentary debate on Syria was coloured with the shadow of Tony Blair and Iraq hanging over it. At times in the last week it seemed like Groundhog Day Britain replaying the tensions, controversies and even the same terminology as March 2003 over Iraq.
There was the veracity and claims of intelligence, the issue of legal advice from the Attorney General, the role of the United Nations, and parliamentary approval (or non-approval as it turned out). There was even the intervention of Tony Blair, making the case for war and democracy (the last of which extended to support for the Egyptian military coup). Read the rest of this entry »
Debating the Future of Labour: A Conversation with Polly Toynbee
Open Democracy, August 28th 2012
The Edinburgh of Scotland’s late summer is awash not just with rainstorms but a plethora of festivals and happenings: the International Festival, the Fringe, the Book Festival, Television Festival, and even a Festival of Politics in the Scottish Parliament.
If all this sounds like an expression of the Scots ‘democratic intellect’ or a modern day ‘Enlightenment’ city, while conversations, deliberations and cultural happenings cover a multitude of concerns, there is usually an absence of connection to the host city and anything seriously Scottish.
This year the Book Festival has tried to overcome some of this with a range of packed political discussions – international, British and Scottish; Gordon Brown on social justice; considerations on Scottish independence; and a wide ranging, provocative international writers’ conference. One such discussion before a sold out Saturday audience was myself and The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee examining what future there was for British Labour.
This was a genuine conversation and exchange which established real common ground and difference; it was an occasion where Polly Toynbee, an important figure on the British centre-left and in senior Labour circles both engaged with different views, while surprising myself with some of the views she articulated. Read the rest of this entry »
Scotland, nationalism and the left
A conversation between Douglas Alexander and Gerry Hassan
Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, Summer 2012
Douglas to Gerry
Before we get to where we’re going, I think it makes sense to be clear where we come from …
My mother worked as a doctor in the NHS. My father was a Minister in the Church of Scotland. Both of them were inspired by their Christian beliefs to engage in the common life of the community. My first home was ‘Community House’ in Clyde Street, Glasgow: the mainland base of the Iona Community. We lived above a café for the homeless and a meeting room in which UCS Shop Stewards gathered and the Scottish Branch of Anti Apartheid was formed. I was delivering Christian Aid envelopes even before I was delivering Labour Party leaflets. In the kitchen of my father’s manse was a poster that read ‘Live more simply so others can simply live’.
Tony Blair famously said he chose the Labour Party. I didn’t – I was born into it. My father and mother are both lifelong Labour members. My dad joined Glasgow University Labour Club in the late 1950s alongside his friends John Smith and Donald Dewar. My mother is active in the local Labour Party in Renfrewshire to this day. I joined the Labour Party in 1982, motivated to do so by the unemployment and loss of hope I witnessed following the closure of the Linwood Car Plant.
My earliest and formative experiences of politics were not of repeated success but of bitter defeats – in 1983, 1987 and 1992. Part of my response to those defeats was a growing consciousness of the Scottish dimension of my politics. I was there protesting outside New College when Margaret Thatcher came to deliver her infamous ‘Sermon on the Mound’ in 1988, and in George Square in support of the Scottish Parliament, and in the Meadows in 1992, when we were gathered to reflect what John Smith described so well as ‘the settled will of the Scottish people’. Read the rest of this entry »