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The Royal Family, Britishness and Living in Disneyland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 23rd 2018

The Royal Family are an important part of what it means to be British, and whether you like them or loath them, they are one of the few remaining national symbols of cohesion which unite lots of people.

Yet the monarchy is more popular in some places than others. A recent Delta Poll for Policy Exchange showed that support for the monarchy ranged from 55% in England to 52% in Northern Ireland, 49% in Wales and 46% in Scotland. Asked if the monarchy was a unifying force after Brexit, 57% of respondents in England said it was, while Scotland was the only part of the UK where there was no majority for such sentiment with 46% support.

It is still true with these important caveats that the Royals are currently enjoying a wave of popularity – aided by the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but also on the back of the Queen’s survival, sense of duty, and even public silence on most issues. The Queen has been in public life for 62 years, while keeping an air of mystery about herself and what her own inner thoughts and beliefs are on most things. Read the rest of this entry »

The coming rebellion against the world of the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 16th 2018

Starting in 1988, The Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ is now in its 30th year. It has survived and prospered through all sorts of political seasons and economic social periods, from the high point of Thatcherism and ‘Loadsamoney’ to New Labour’s own embracing of the super rich, and the slow turning against the grotesque excesses and indulgences of such forces. And yet here we are, nearly a decade after the banking crash and years of static and falling living standards for most, and it still exists unapologetically.

This year’s list came with a concerted attempt at spin and reinvention. It was supposedly about the fact that it was all change at the top, out with the old and in with the new – with new money, new elites, and more women. Robert Watts, who compiles the list, shamelessly punted this line:

Britain is changing. Gone are the days when old money and a small band of industries dominated. Aristocrats and inherited wealth has been elbowed out of the list. Today’s super rich include people who have set up businesses selling chocolate, sushi, pet food and eggs. Read the rest of this entry »

Independence has to be about more than an indyref. It is a state of mind

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Herald, May 13th 2018

Scotland and the UK feel in hiatus and stasis – awaiting the unfurling and unraveling of Brexit.

Some people are marching. Last Saturday’s gathering was significant given the lack of SNP and Scottish Green support. It shows the energy, but also frustration and impatience, in parts of independence opinion. But it also shows the limits of such a politics. Any movement that marches under banners like ‘Tory Scum Out’, and with Tommy Sheridan on the platform, isn’t out to win floating voters.

Four years after the 2014 referendum, independence faces difficult choices and challenges, none of which are answered by a politics of simple assertion, hectoring fainthearts or dealing in abstracts. Similarly, the absence of the SNP leadership facilitating a public debate about the strategic choices of independence has produced a huge vacuum, which some people have filled with passion, while others have become slowly disillusioned.

No one quite knows what Nicola Sturgeon is up to. Is she playing a longer game of inviting the UK Government to self-implode over Brexit? Is she slowly letting the political heat out of the Scottish situation to regroup at a latter stage. Maybe she is making it up as she goes along, but the absence of candour and honest reflection means that many are left thrashing about in the dark. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future has been Postponed: Making Sense of the Age of Nostalgia

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 9th 2018

Nostalgia is everywhere. The past seems all around us – alive, noisy, ever-present, and more relevant and dynamic than the voices of today and the concerns of tomorrow.

Take a couple of examples. The British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn seems to define its moral compass through a host of reference points from its past – from Keir Hardie to 1945. Then there is the regressive radicalism and conservatism of Brexit. And less seriously, there is how popular culture increasingly re-presents and repackages its past to the detriment of the present. Something is going on and should we be concerned with it?

Each of these examples tells us in a number of ways about the state of the present. First, the British Labour Party has, for much of its history, been shaped by its understanding and remembrance of the past. This includes past struggles, victories and defeats which have been experienced by the party, trade union movement and working classes. Read the rest of this entry »

Ideals for Living: The need for guides on how to live a better life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 2nd 2018

How many times do you hear people say that these are ‘grim times’? It has become commonplace – but a bit of perspective and history is needed. These aren’t after all as grim times in the UK, or the West, as they were in the 1980s in terms of economic dislocation and the Cold War, and nor are they anywhere as dark and foreboding times as the 1930s and the march of fascism and world war.

They are certainly times of confusion and as such many people are looking for guides, signposts and recommendations on how to live a better life. They also explain the search for simplicity and for reducing some of the most complex areas to easy to read and understand lists.

Infamously, list-ism reached beyond satire with the so-called ‘Ed Stone’ in the 2015 UK general election. Labour’s six central pledges were carved in stone to show how seriously they took them, in what quickly became a tombstone for Ed Miliband’s leadership and for Labour’s electoral fortunes.

On a different scale are the various manifestos of modern life. Some are self-promotion and vanity exercises such as Hong Kong businessman Sir David Tang, while some are send-ups of the whole industry, such as Scottish writer Bill Duncan’s ‘self-hate’ book on Calvinism, and others more serious and substantial. In the latter camp is the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her ‘Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’, just published in paperback. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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