Posts Tagged ‘The British State’

The Strange Death of Liberal England Continued

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 30th 2014

Liberal England is in a state of confusion. There is the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, the continued right wing drift of UK politics, and the slow detachment of the UK from the European Union.

All of the above cause apoplexy and dismay to the thinking elements of the English left. One response to this from people such as Labour MP John Cruddas and Billy Bragg is to try to re-ignite the English radical imagination and challenge the increasingly English nationalist overtones of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. A second response from the likes of Ken Loach and Owen Jones believe in the ‘Spirit of 45’ being invoked shaped by romanticism and simplistic, wishful thinking.

However, the largest group by far on the English left in intellectual circles is in denial about the state of Britain. This is not a happy or confident time to be a progressive in England, and despite the actions of thirty years of post-war Labour Governments (thirteen of them under the recent auspices of New Labour), it cannot be claimed seriously that Britain is becoming a better, fairer place. Progressive politics has given up believing that it can create the future, instead pessimistically sensing that the right have the best tunes to fit our times and laid claim to tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

What do we do we do about the United Kingdom? And Why Federalism isn’t the Answer

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 4th 2014

In the last few weeks political debate has become filled with talk of the possibility of a federal United Kingdom.

This has come not surprisingly exclusively from pro-union voices. There was Tory MSP Murdo Fraser’s recent thoughtful speech, David Torrance’s short book on British wide federalism, and even former Prime Minister Gordon Brown mulling over the subject.

Murdo Fraser in his Reform Scotland talk said that ‘federalism within the UK, if it were workable and could be achieved, is a solution which could unite both unionists and nationalists, and provide a secure framework for the future’. David Torrance in a ‘Herald’ piece after Fraser’s intervention, cited former Labour MP and academic David Marquand commenting, ‘Does the UK become a federal state, or does it break up?’. Even Gordon Brown has refound his sense of radical constitutionalism, contemplating a written constitution and federalism in all but name.

These developments should be applauded and welcomed as they are trying to deal with some of the challenges of the modern world and the UK, and show a degree of open-mindedness and people being prepared to reconsider previous positions. They should be taken seriously and examined, asking what issues and concerns are they addressing, what are they not addressing, and what are their over-riding motivations? Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Question: Who ‘Lost’ Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 12th 2014

The independence debate is a product of Scotland changing over decades and generations. Subsequently, this debate has also accelerated and abetted change, challenging old assumptions and throwing light on parts of our public life never previously thoroughly examined.

This transformation will continue whatever the result. One big observation, which needs to be stated, is that whatever the referendum result independence has already won. And Scotland has already been ‘lost’ – a point understood by some of the more thoughtful pro-union observers such as Alex Massie and James Forsyth in ‘The Spectator’.

First, what do I mean by stating that independence has already ‘won’? For a start this does not translate into any automatic balance of forces in the referendum ballot – a point some pro-independent supporters thought I meant when I previously made this strategic observation.

Instead, independence has become normalised – which translates into it coming in from the cold and margins and becoming a mainstream political demand. That’s a massive, generational shift compared to where we were previously. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle for Britain and Why Alex Salmond and Independence Has Already Won

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, February 7th 2014

This year is witnessing several battles for Britain – of numerous anniversaries of past military triumphs, of the Scottish independence referendum, and the rising tide of the Tory Party’s continued obsession with Europe.

All of these are inter-related in the long-term, almost existential, crisis of what Britain is, what is it for, what kind of society and values it represents, and what kind of future it offers its people. This tumultuous moment we now find ourselves in is one with many layers: economic, social, democratic, and even geo-political (in where Britain aspires to ally itself internationally).

The Scottish independence referendum is fascinating and not a narrow or arid constitutional debate, but influenced by these wider concerns. Revealingly, to most of the London political classes it is seen as marginal, disconnected from their concerns, of episodic interest, and discounted (as they already assess they have won), as noted by Alex Massie in his front cover piece in this week’s ‘Spectator’ (1). Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Living Together and the Art of Dying

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, January 22nd 2014

Sometimes it takes outside voices to reinforce what you already know. So it was with Fintan O’Toole and the second in the series of Glasgow School of Art-University of the West of Scotland ‘Cultures of Independence’ seminars.

O’Toole is author of the acclaimed books, ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ (1), both wonderful and powerful counter blasts to the baloney and bubble of the Celtic Tiger and its excesses.

He is of no doubt that Scotland is at a hugely important point in its history and that this isn’t just a narrow conversation and debate about constitutions, political and legal processes, and flags north of the border. Instead, this is a debate with huge consequences for England, for the rest of the UK, and with even global ramifications. This has come at a point where the first two are in significant flux and uncertainty due to Europe, economic and social change and the leviathan that is labelled ‘globalisation’.

O’Toole believes that Scotland has already been changing in ways which are irreversible and unfathomable to parts of Scotland and to most (if not all) of the London political classes. The old Scotland is dying, and a very different one is emerging; and at the same time, even more uncomprehending to some, the old England and Britain is disappearing, the loss and bewilderment from which can be witnessed regularly in the columns and letters pages of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the rise of Ukip. Read the rest of this entry »