Posts Tagged ‘New Labour’

Debating the Future of Labour: A Conversation with Polly Toynbee

Gerry Hassan

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 »

There is a long story to the crisis we are in

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, July 14th 2012

As the economic, social and political turmoil mounts across Britain, Europe and the West, some voices of certainty have arisen.

One of the most vocal strands of opinion concerns who to blame for the wreckage and debris we see before us, with some wanting to lay the responsibility solely on the shoulders of Thatcherism, ‘the Big Bang’ and 1980s.

It is very simple and easy to understand; the human need to rewrite history as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The 1980s as the epitome of everything that is wrong and has gone wrong is a powerful current in modern Britain.

This view stresses the politics of individualism of that decade, deregulation and privatisation. This, it is argued, created a climate which led to the present malaise: from Harry Enfield’s ‘Loadsamoney’ to today’s villains, Fred Goodwin and Bob Diamond. Read the rest of this entry »

The Comeback of ‘Gorgeous George’ and What It Says About British Politics

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, March 30th 2012

A seismic shock has been delivered to the British body politic and its insular, complacent, steady as she goes assumptions.

It is one with many levels, layers and complications: the return of George Galloway as the ‘Respect’ MP for Bradford West overturning a Labour majority of 5,763, winning by a margin of 10,140 over Labour, with an impressive 18,341 votes (55.9%), considerably more than the combined Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem vote of 12,402.

Already the qualifiers are out, implying that really the status quo is fine. Nick Robinson says it is, ‘An extraordinary result but surely a one-off political coup by a political one-off’ (1). Then there are all the qualifiers about Bradford West and ‘Gorgeous George’. The seat is unique; it swung against the national mood in 1997 and 2010. I even heard someone from Labour put down the ‘George’ surge to his celebrity status and TV appearance on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’. Read the rest of this entry »

The age of the rainbow coalitions

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, September 24th 2011

Political colours are all the vogue at the moment. We have had Red Tories and Orange Book Liberals. And now we have the latest manifestations, Blue Labour and Purple Labour.

The last two are signs of some intellectual activity in British Labour, as it tries to come to terms with the post-Blair/Brown era.

Blue Labour is associated with Ed Miliband’s favourite guru, Maurice Glasman, which emphasises community, authority and the need for the state to provide some solidarity in society.

Purple Labour is the creation of ‘Progress’, who have this week published ‘The Purple Book’ which brings together 22 contributors including a whole pile of former ministers and special advisers representing the Blairite political classes, plus Douglas Alexander. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pains of Labour after Blair and Brown

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, June 18th 2011

The condition of British Labour may seem a distant subject to many Scots. We after all have a SNP majority government and our politics now march to a different beat.

Despite everything, British Labour still matters. It is the majority Scots party at Westminster, winning 41 out of 59 seats only last year. And British politics still matter, for as long as Scotland remains part of the UK.

There is a strange atmosphere in what used to be called ‘the people’s party’. Ed Miliband’s leadership has gone through the political extremes in one week, aided by a disastrous Prime Minister’s Question Time, then a victorious one. David Miliband’s victory speech that never was found its way into the press. As did Ed Ball’s political notes from his time in office.

Tony Blair made it known that he supports the coalition’s public sector reforms while Alan Milburn castigates the NHS English reforms for retreating in the face of resistance. Read the rest of this entry »