Posts Tagged ‘Open Democracy’

Let Us face the Future: Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and the Power of the Past

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, August 21st 2015

This is the most exciting and cataclysmic Labour leadership contest in a generation.

The nearest comparison must be the Benn insurgency for the Deputy Leadership of the party in 1981, where he narrowly lost to Denis Healey. This marked the peak of the left’s influence in Labour – until now.

What is occurring in the Labour contest, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the diminishing of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, is little more than the passing of a political generation, and the main reference points and ways in which the party has understood itself and done its politics.

The Blairite project is over, with the Blairites now reduced to a tiny rump and a few desperate, intemperate followers (Progress, John McTernan). Labour’s traditional right has been hollowed, out with the trade union leadership and activist base who once gave the party such ballast (and brought it back from the Bennite induced abyss in 1981-82) now firmly on the left.

To illustrate the scale of change in Labour, the previous centre of gravity of the party in the Kinnock years, and even in the early years of New Labour (‘the soft left’) has all but disappeared. Its leading proponents have been tarnished by office (John Prescott), died (Robin Cook), or gone to foreign shores (Bryan Gould) and have not been replaced by a younger group. Read the rest of this entry »

The Summer of the Living Undead: A Labour Party for What?

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 15th 2015

The Labour leadership contest is noteworthy for a number of factors, none positive or helpful for the party.

Labour have just suffered their second consecutive defeat. They finished 113 seats behind the Tories in England. It has now become a cliché to say they face an existential crisis; as Matthew Norman pointed out in ‘The Independent’ this week, it is in fact a ‘post-existential crisis’ (1). The party is in collective denial, retreating into its comfort zones, and almost numb at the position it finds itself in.

Previously when Labour lost (and it has lost many times), the party did attempt to wake up and regroup. Post-1979 the party in opposition had five leadership contests. Excluding the Benn kamikaze run in 1988, when he won a mere 11% of the vote, the other contests – 1980, 1983, 1992 and 1994 – all provided rich evidence of a party with debate, energy and ideas. No longer.

This is a defining moment about whether Labour has a future, what it is for, as well as for centre-left British (and in particular English) politics. Here are ten observations about the state of Labour and the current contest: Read the rest of this entry »

The disunited Kingdom and the confusion in Britain’s political elites

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, April 5th 2015

Scotland is still making the news. The tartan tsunami that is the SNP surge shows little to no sign of abating as election day approaches.

Beyond Scotland’s shores the UK and international media are making frequent references to the debate north of the border. Strangely some of this coverage – mostly in London based outlets – is even more ill-informed and inaccurate than was seen during the indyref. This is itself no mean feat.

Then most neutral and pro-union opinion thought No would win. They had two years to understand and come to terms with the indyref debate, knew its date from a distance and some of the contours of the environment.

After the indyref things were meant to return to the status quo. Normal service would be resumed. Scotland anchored into the union anew would do its usual thing and return a bloc of 40 or so mostly non-descript Labour representatives to Westminster. The SNP after its rebuttal in the referendum would slowly see the shine wear off their credentials in government as fiscal realities and the constraints of devolution took their toil. Read the rest of this entry »

The tartan tsunami and how It will change Scotland and the UK for good

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, March 20th 2015

The UK general election campaign is upon us – struggling to make sense of the state of the country and how its institutions and politics are seen.

Underneath all the political rhetoric and exchange we are about to witness is tangible anxiety and unsureness about who ‘we’ are and the very existence, or not, of a ‘we’ in terms of connection, culture and collective memories – which can be found equally on both left and right.

Scotland has become one of the key reference points of this election: continually cited by the Westminster class and media, but seldom if ever understood. It wasn’t meant to be like this. The indyref was won 55:45 for the union. The issue was supposedly in David Cameron’s words ‘settled’, Alex Salmond seen off the political stage and the SNP juggernaut checked, if not stopped.

Scotland is at a seismic moment with huge implications and long-term repercussions not just for Scotland but the UK – as what increasingly looks like a tartan tsunami could sweep away scores of Labour once impregnable bastions north of the border. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain is on Borrowed Time: The Future of Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, September 19th 2014

Scotland voted No to independence. In answer to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 1,617,989 voted Yes (44.7%) and 2,001,926 voted No (55.3%) in a massively impressive turnout of 84.6%: the highest ever anywhere in the UK in post-war times.

The result, and campaign, will be rightly mulled over and analysed for years, but in the fast moving aftermath it is important to lay down some thoughts and calm-headed thinking. Scotland has changed and shifted in how it sees itself and its future, as a political community, society and nation. Crucially, how others in the rest of the UK and internationally see Scotland, has dramatically and permanently moved.

It has made and unmade political careers. Alex Salmond who brought the SNP to victory in 2007 and 2011 has resigned one day after the vote; Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the clear favourite to take over the leadership. David Cameron after facing the prospect of political defeat in the last few days, knew he was fighting for his very political life and that Tory plotters were out to get him. Despite the No victory there were continued Tory maneuverings, anger and lack of comprehension over the deep-seated crisis of the union.

The arc of this long campaign involved three distinct phases: the phony war from the election of the SNP as a majority government in May 2011; the slow boiling of November 2013 from when the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence was published to August 2014; and the last hectic, frenetic, chaotic period leading up to the vote. Read the rest of this entry »

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