Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

It’s a Family Affair: the Strange Relationship of Labour and SNP

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 26th 2015

The forthcoming general election in Scotland, and to an extent in the UK, is being decided by the battle between Labour and the SNP.

There is history and bad blood here which almost amounts to a bitter family feud. Insults such as ‘tartan Tories’ and ‘red Tories’ are exchanged – both phrases pre-exist their current Labour and SNP use, but are now synonymous with the enmity between the two.

The past is a distant country in this. The SNP electoral breakthrough when Winnie Ewing won Hamilton in 1967 sent a chill up Scottish Labour spines. It was one of the most impregnable Labour seats in the UK, and after it happened, politics were never ever quite the same again.

Labour’s anger against the SNP since then borders on the elemental. This was magnified and given validity by the events of March 28th 1979 when eleven SNP MPs voted with thirteen Liberals to bring down the Callaghan Government. This heralded the 1979 general election and Mrs. Thatcher – which Labour as a result believe the SNP (but never the Liberals) are in some way responsible for. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain’s Political Classes are living in a Fantasyland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 19th 2015

What is this election about? To Westminster politicians it seems centred on the claims and counter-claims of monies: public spending, the deficit and debt.

Take Labour, Tories and Lib Dems. The Tories are openly committed to £30 billion of cuts in the next Parliament. The SNP and many left-wingers say the same of Labour who flatly deny this.

There is ambiguity on whether Labour are pro or anti-cuts. Jim Murphy has said that Labour would not need to make ‘further cuts to achieve our spending plans’, but Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna have contradicted this.

Then there are the spending commitments. The Tories in particular have offered ‘the good life’ with £8 billion extra for the NHS, up to £4.5 million on housing association right to buy, and a significant extension to childcare: all uncosted. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland isn’t Mad, but Animated and Engaged

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 12th 2015

The election has definitely taken off this week.

There were the two Scottish leader debates. The Tories getting personal with Ed Miliband. Labour daring to talk about tax.

Scotland is in a different place. Some once thoughtful pro-union commentators have scratched their heads and come to the conclusion – ‘Scotland has gone mad’ and talked of ‘the madness of Scottish politics’.

It is never good to start citing ‘madness’ and nearly always reflects back on who said it. The fact that pro-union commentators think this demonstrates the degree of their disenchantment and alienation from the state of modern Scotland.

The Scottish election feels very different from any others in my lifetime. This is more than the SNP surge, or the condition of Scottish Labour. Read the rest of this entry »

Are the Days of Scottish Labour Over?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 8th 2015

The official general election campaign kicked off last week. But in reality it has been running since the turn of the year, with all parties and observers knowing in advance that polling day would be May 7th.

Scotland has witnessed a palpable air of perma-campaigning for the last two or three years with the experience of the referendum. But there has been an air of excitement and expectation for some about the coming general election, since the aftermath of the indyref, and when the first polls put the SNP ahead of Labour.

One defining theme these last few months, in light of the polls, has been the slow demise of the once seemingly impregnable Scottish Labour Party. The party knew it had to do something; Johann Lamont resigned saying the Westminster leadership treated the party as a ‘London branch’ and Jim Murphy was elected leader – the seventh party leader in fifteen years.

Murphy has been hyperactive – even without his Irn Bru crates – and has criss-crossed the nation, making speeches and policy announcements and talking endlessly about his love of football. He has done all this, undertaken dozens of TV and radio interviews, employed new staff, adopted the things you are meant to have like a campaign grid, but all of this has had, to the initial surprise of many, absolutely no effect at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland, the Clash of Two Nationalisms and ‘the Children of the Echo’

Gerry Hassan

New Statesman, April 7th 2015

Scotland has always had a reputation for tempestuous disagreements – for fighting and flyting. Power, passion, tribalism and men staying in pubs for long hours drinking and insulting each other are long-standing notions.

Last Saturday I went to Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre to see David Hare’s ‘The Absence of War’ set in the run-up to Neil Kinnock’s ill-fated campaign in the 1992 general election.

Watching it in the turmoil of the current election campaign, and on the day of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ story that claimed ‘Sturgeon’s secret backing for Cameron’, it made for the older centre-left audience a lot of contemporary sense.

In the period since the early 1990s, mainstream UK politics have become even more stage-managed and choreographed. Two decades ago Kinnock’s Labour Party’s obsession with its opponents, the Tories and Tory-supporting press, ended up giving their enemies strength that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Read the rest of this entry »