Posts Tagged ‘Open Democracy’
Nigel Farage, the Scottish Debate and the Future of Europe
Open Democracy, May 19th 2013
This is an age of uncertainty, crisis and doubt. The UK is experiencing multiple crises: political, constitutional and economic, of the UK in Europe and of Europe itself as an idea and project. And underneath all of this is a deep-seated Western fear, of loss of confidence in Western modernity and anxiety about the future.
The lack of sureness now being displayed in Britain’s political elites is one manifestation, as is the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. The Westminster village has been talking of little else since UKIP burst through in the English local elections winning 23% of the vote, humiliating the mainstream parties.
Cut then this week to the beautiful setting of Edinburgh’s High Street, its castle at one end, Holyrood Palace at the other, tartan tourist tat in between. This was the improbable setting for Nigel Farage’s northern sojourn and face off with Radical Independence supporters.
Insults flew back and forth; the protestors called Farage ‘racist scum’; he retorted by calling them ‘fascist scum’ and then attempted to taint the broad church of Scottish nationalism and the SNP by claiming the former had a ‘fascist side’; the next day in a combative interview on ‘BBC Radio Scotland’ Farage accused the interviewer David Miller of the same ‘hatred’ as the protestors and hung up (1). Read the rest of this entry »
Games with Shadows: Living in Thatcher’s Scotland
Open Democracy, April 10th 2013
We live in Thatcher’s Britain, yet that statement is obvious, contentious and deeply divisive. And this is all the more true of Thatcher north of the border.
Thatcher is simultaneously both history and present day. You can hear this in the differing accounts on TV and radio; with conservative figures claiming she remade the modern world from knocking down the Berlin Wall and freeing Eastern Europe, to preventing a future ‘socialist Britain’; while elements of the left wail in pain and agony at how events have turned out and their inability to come to terms with the country and politics she created.
We live in an age as much shaped by Thatcher as the previous political era: the so-called ‘post-war consensus’, a phrase seldom used in that era, and only invoked at its fag end. The date of Thatcher entering office, 1979, is exactly halfway between 1945 and today. Therefore, we are 34 years from Thatcher’s first victory; and 34 years from then to Clement Attlee’s historic mandate. And given that there are detailed studies of ‘the post-war consensus’, we should be able to begin to do the same with Thatcherism, but instead we are still arguing over what it means. Read the rest of this entry »
Mind the Gap: Gender and the Debate over Scotland’s Future
Open Democracy, March 29th 2013
The debate over Scottish independence, its constitutional status and wider future, is an important one, both north of the border and across the isles of the UK. It is also one which elicits as much sound and fury as it does reflection, as well as a significant amount of adversarial, tribal, binary posturing and point-scoring.
In the last week a Panelbase poll found on the question to be used in next year’s referendum, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 36% supporting independence and 46% opposing (1); however, underneath this it found that among men, 47% were for independence and 40% against, and among women, 25% were for independence and 52% against. That’s a 7% men lead for independence and 27% women lead for the union; a whopping 34% gap between the sexes (and while only 13% of men were don’t knows, 23% of women were).
There are numerous questions which flow from these findings. First, who are pro-independence Scotland, which groups and places do they come from? Generally they are younger, in poorer socio-economic groups, and with significant footholds outside of the Central Belt; and obviously in each, more male (in the most recent poll all men under 55 years old showed 51% support for independence). Second, who is pro-union Scotland? They tend to be older, with the over-55s and over-65s pronouncedly pro-union, more affluent, and more female. In short, the first increasingly looks like (gender apart) excluded Scotland, and the second, entitled and entitlement Scotland; this maps onto trends found in the 1997 referendum but accentuated. Read the rest of this entry »
The UKIP Policy Nigel Farage Doesn’t Want to Talk About
Open Democracy, March 8th 2013
UKIP are suddenly everywhere in the aftermath of their second place and 28% in the Eastleigh by-election. Nigel Farage, their irascible leader, is even more omnipotent with even more appearances on BBC ‘Question Time’ to look forward too.
North of the border UKIP have always had a perception, identity and popularity problem. They are widely seen as an English nationalist party, one whose idea of Britain is narrowly centred on a time when the two terms could be used interchangeably. It is a mindset stuck in a timewarp situated between the 1950s and 1970s, between the beginning and end of the Empire, and which yearns for an England which began to completely disappear in the decade of ‘The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin’ and ‘The Good Life’.
Nevertheless Scottish politics is not immune to people harking back to better yesterdays, and certainly there is a similar popular sentiment and aura of anti-politics, which dismisses all mainstream politics and politicians, in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »
Dreaming of a Different Scotland: Alt Independence and Alt Unionism
Open Democracy, February 26th 2013
Social justice is everywhere north of the border. It has always been about, but now it has become more explicit, as the debate on Scotland’s independence referendum hots up, the Westminster Government’s welfare plans show their character and the Tory intent at inhumane social engineering, while the market fundamentalist project of the last three decades proposes at the moment of crisis and doubt, to go into over-drive.
The last week has seen Anas Sarwar, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour give an important speech on this terrain, followed by at the close of the week ‘Yes Scotland’s’ mini-summit on social justice and its response (1) to the STUC’s ‘A Just Scotland’ document (2).
In-between we have had another litany of grim statistics telling the familiar story: of the inequality, poverty and exclusion in Glasgow and parts of the West of Scotland (3). And the now well-trodden path of politicians and public sector professionals saying they have learned from the past and embraced new thinking. Read the rest of this entry »