Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Labour Party’

The Strange Story of Scottish Labour: Unloved and Misunderstood

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 19th 2014

The Scottish Labour Party tends to get a bad press. People say it stands for nothing. That for years all it was interested in was power and self-preservation. They thus discount its contribution to public life down the years – and in particular its role in the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour may not be in a good way but stereotypes evoked of it by some of its enemies are as unhelpful as they are inaccurate. Some nationalists propose that ‘Scottish Labour is a fiction’, seeing it only as a branch operation of the British Labour operation. This is just as problematic as the Labour caricature of the SNP and Scottish nationalism as what holds back politics north of the border; in actual fact both distortions are problems, along with the dysfunctionalism between the two traditions.

Scottish Labour has traditionally presented itself as the party of Scotland and Scotland in the union, and as the long-term advocate of home rule. Pre-devolution the party used to be able to undertake the bridge building exercise of pressing Scotland’s interests in Westminster, while selling the benefits of the union in Scotland. This delicate negotiating act has broken down since the advent of the Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

Radical Nostalgia Scotland and Why We Can’t Go Back to the 1970s

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 5th 2014

Scotland’s current debate on independence comprises many conversations. They centre on what we were, are and could be, and who did what to whom in the past, and what it means about where we are now, and what we could become in the future.

Many of these aspects were to the fore last week at a Jim Sillars-Alex Neil event to launch Jim’s new book, ‘In Place of Fear II’, under the auspices of ‘Yes Airdrie’. On a cold Thursday night, nearly 300 people attended, a five man only panel (with David Hayman, Pat Kane and the chair), and for two hours of discussion in which every question from the floor was asked by a man. Pat understandably baulked at this, apologised and after his contribution, gave his place to a woman in the audience (who got to make a one minute intervention over the course of the whole evening).

Sillars book is fascinating. It is a real curate’s egg, buzzing with ideas, eclectism and frustration (both about Scotland and personally). Many of the suggestions are a bit dotty (the Robert Burns hospital ship), but many are interesting, and some even heretical (such as self-governing state schools). It is in a deeper sense, a sign of the Scottish times: of a culture which has awoken to the power of the pamphleteer, both old and new, and the floating of numerous vessels and platforms. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Scotland needs to stop living in the past

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 14th 2013

Who do we have such a powerful propensity to live much of our life backwards?

This can be seen in the power of the past – from mythical wrongs and injustices, to symbolic, psychic triumphs and disasters – the latter ranging from the Darien scheme to Ally’s Tartan Army’s ill-fated expedition to Argentina.

One defining moment of recent history which operates as a lodestar and hinge year politically is ‘the Year Zero’ of 1979.

There are several versions of this. The most visible and noisy is the Labour-SNP contest of who did what to whom all those years ago. There is the accusation of who brought down the Labour Government, and the counter-charge of who inaugurated the era of Thatcherism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem of Patriotism and the Left

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, December 7th 2013

This week Keith Vaz, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, asked the ‘Guardian’ editor Alan Rusbridger, ‘Do you love your country?’.

This was in relation to the ‘Guardian’s’ publication of some of Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the activities of the US-UK surveillance state. Rusbridger, clearly surprised by the question answered in the affirmative, ‘We are patriots. One of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy and a free press’.

Patriotism, for all the uses and misuses of Dr. Johnson’s quote about it being ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’, has proven a messy battleground. Many on the right in Britain view it unconditionally, while large parts of the left see it as reactionary and to be resisted. To add to this many on the right have used it down the years to smear and undermine the left.

Vaz has yet to explain his comments, but even elements of the right-wing press found them hard to defend. The ‘Daily Telegraph’s’ Dan Hodges called it a straightforward ‘definition of McCarthyism’; while the usually pugnaciously right-wing ‘Daily Mail’ Quentin Letts found it an uneasy, uncomfortable use of words. Read the rest of this entry »

The crisis of Britain’s institutions is one of the labour movement too

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 23rd 2013

One of the defining characteristics of the Labour Party through the ages has been its moral dimension – its indignation at the inequities and injustices of a rotten, economically and socially divisive capitalist system.

It has critiqued this via its early socialist, radical and religious roots  – more Methodist than Marx, more the Bible and ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’ than ‘Das Capital’.

As politics and society have changed – the post-war consensus, Thatcher, New Labour – these strands have weakened but remained. There was a hope amongst some that post-Blair and Brown Labour would recover its core principles and purpose and make the case against an economic, social and political system which has clearly lost its way.

Events have proven to be a bit trickier than that. The crisis of British capitalism, its traditional establishment and the world of clubland and ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ are deep rooted. The forces of new capitalism and its brash elites in the City, hedge funds and outsourcers, has proven even more anti-social, selfish and brutal than the old one. Read the rest of this entry »