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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Labour Party’

Where is the Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party revolution going to end?

Gerry Hassan

Scotttish Review, September 29th 2016

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have some major positives going for them.

He has been re-elected Labour leader with a huge majority in an election in which over half a million people voted. On the wave of a surge of excitement and engagement, Labour’s membership has risen to 650,000 – over four times that of the Tories, and representing the largest political party in all Europe.

On top of that Jeremy Corbyn is clearly a different kind of politician. He is untainted by the Blair years, numerous wars or parliamentary sleaze. All of this counts for something.

Yet saying all of the above the party faces huge challenges which cannot be wished away. Its electoral prospects are currently dire and going backward, after two election defeats. What it stands for is unclear or vague beyond the most generalist sentiments and platitudes, with no evidence of major economic policies or ideas emerging from the Corbyn leadership in the last year. And the party leadership has no real idea what to do with all the enthusiasm and anticipation it has unleashed.

The recent leadership contest was the perfect anecdote for Corbyn and his allies: it turned Corbyn back into the insurgent who won in 2015, and allowed him to run on an anti-establishment ticket. It brought people flocking in their droves into the party, further galvinised Momentum (the pro-Corbyn grass roots group), but it begs the question – what now? It isn’t easy to turn that energy outwards to the country because everything in argument, message and tone would have to be different. Read the rest of this entry »

The Myth of the Great Leader: Gordon Brown, Jimmy Reid and Alex Salmond

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 1st 2016

The times they-are-a-changing. There is a tangible feeling in the air of discontent, anger and bewilderment. People feel let down and cheated by the multiple powers that be.

It isn’t surprising then that there is a palpable sense of national nostalgia depicted on TV – remakes fill the screens (Are You Being Served?, Porridge), while period dramas (Downton Abbey) or endless documentaries on World War Two and the Nazis are hugely popular.

The left aren’t immune to this either – having always had their own strand of radical nostalgia from primitive communism, to William Morris’s eco-utopia, the spirit of 1945, and the current vogue for ‘what would Keir Hardie say?’ Moreover, radical nostalgia now seems stronger than it ever has been on the left. It is conservative, about the past offering better prospects than the future, and denying the present and recent past. Jeremy Corbyn is a fitting embodiment of it: consistent and unchanging in his views since 1975, uncaring about electoral prospects, and without any evident self-criticism or original views.

The above view of the world is linked to one of the left’s great pillars – the Great Leader view of political change. Paradoxically, for a political tradition which is supposedly about collectivism, the left have bought into this individualist view of change. And of course, despite all the talk of equality, the left has been about brotherhood – so in Britain, the Great Leader has to be a man. Read the rest of this entry »

The Labour Party: that pillar of the British constitution doesn’t have a right to exist

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, July 25th 2016

Politics requires a credible opposition that holds government to account. One that offers the prospect of an alternative government – but now, and for the foreseeable future, Scotland and the UK is without one.

This is due to the state of Labour. The last year has been one of the most disastrous in the party’s history. A second election defeat, Scotland lost – and then Brexit. And after last year’s defeat the party curled up even more in its comfort zone and elected Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn now faces a proper leadership contest against Owen Smith. The party has in two days enlisted 183,541 new members, producing 515,000 card-carrying members. But the party has lost control of who it is, or who its members are.

One big difference between Labour and Tories is that Tories love power and know how to use it. Labour don’t love power and don’t know how to use it. This division between the two parties has always been so. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP, Centre-Left Politics and the State of Social Democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 8th 2016

One party stands head and shoulders above all others in Scotland – namely, the Scottish National Party. It has got there through its own efforts, hard work and virtues, along with the numerous mistakes and weaknesses of its opponents. Scottish Labour’s long car crash was part tragedy, part comedy, but mostly of its own making. If it ever has an obituary written, it will say: ‘died at its own hands’. The Scottish Tories have been toxic for a generation, even seen as unScottish and ‘alien’, a phenomenon only slowly beginning to change.

This then begs the question: nine years into office, what do the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon stand for? What kind of Scotland do they wish to bring about, bar one that is independent and self-governing? For some these latter qualities are enough, based for them on principle, but for many they are abstracts which need further detail, and should be the means to an end of wider economic and social change, not an end in itself.

In many respects, a large part of the last nine years of the SNP in office have been the years of light lifting, considering the disarray and weaknesses of their opponents. It has been easy to point the finger at ‘London Labour’, even worse ‘Red Tories’, and of course, the grip of Westminster. Things aren’t always going to be so easy: opponents will be less incompetent, incumbents make mistakes, more powers are coming to the Parliament, and a decade of public spending cuts will take their toll. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish Revolution that isn’t quite what people expected

Gerry Hassan

May 6th 2016

The Scottish election was a foregone conclusion. Everything was settled we were told. But it hasn’t quite turned out that way.

A third SNP term, but without the expected overall majority that the Nationalists and polls expected. A Tory revival beyond expectations. And a Labour nightmare implosion which makes it difficult to see a way back. Decent results for the Greens and Lib Dems.

All of this will throw up big questions about politics, power and legitimacy. Nicola Sturgeon has talked about ‘a clear and unequivocal mandate’, but is it really – when the Nats campaigned with the expectation of a majority? Part of this is failed expectation management, but it raises questions about whether Sturgeon and the Nats can adapt to a different language and politics in more difficult times, and a more contested politics? This is without getting into what this means for the longer term prospects of independence – which cannot now be seen as synonymous with the SNP.

Here are some of the bigger changes:

1. TURNOUT

The second highest Scottish Parliament election turnout since 1999. 55.6% is up 5.2% on 2011 – but way down on the indyref 84.6% and last year’s 71.1%. Some of ‘the missing Scotland’ which turned out in the indyref – has clearly become disenfranchised again – look at the Dundee and Glasgow turnouts for example. Read the rest of this entry »

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