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Politics and People Power is changing Scotland and beyond

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 9th 2019

Demos and marches are part of the ritual of politics – from today’s pro- and anti-Brexit gatherings, to the direct action and interventions of Extinction Rebellion, and the spate of pro-Scottish independence rallies criss-crossing the nation.

They are often dismissed by those in power and the mainstream media as pointless and having little to no effect. But that is too easy, glib and cynical. Instead, while many marches have a limited impact, only preaching to the converted and not reaching out to persuade beyond the base, others represent something significant and have a lasting influence – whether capturing a moment, defining a movement, or bringing into sharp focus an argument, cause or defining set of principles.

Historically this is obvious. The huge Chartist rallies for democracy in the 19th century; the Suffragette protests of the early 20th century; the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 led by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement; the huge anti-Vietnam war protests in the US in 1969 which shook the Nixon administration; and the anti-Communist rallies which spread across Eastern Europe in late 1989 and which brought down the rotten Stalinist dictatorships one after the other. All these and more are examples of people power bringing about change – often literally in the sense of regime change, or often in terms of existing regimes changing their behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »

Deal or No Deal? Brexit Endgame or the End of Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, October 6th 2019

Boris Johnson has finally revealed his Brexit plan with less than one month to his intended exit date from the EU.

Constantly presented as a ‘deal’ by insular British political discussion and media who have contributed so much to fueling Brexit, it is in fact nothing of the sort. It is rather an agreement between Boris Johnson, the Northern Irish DUP, the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) and what remains of the parliamentary Tory Party. Politics does not stop at the House of Commons or the English Channel despite recent appearances.

What does the supposed Johnson non-deal entail? Is it a real plan or just a diversion and preparation for a No Deal Brexit? And if so, what are the implications for Scotland, for the Scottish Tories implicated in this – and the independence question? Read the rest of this entry »

The crisis of British democracy and Parliament isn’t going away anytime soon

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 29th 2019

The British Parliament returned to work last week – reopened after the historic Supreme Court verdict.

Its undertakings were highly charged, contentious and even abusive in language and exchange. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox sneeringly stated ‘this Parliament is dead ’ with ‘has no moral right to exist’, Boris Johnson talked dismissively of a ‘paralysed’ and ‘zombie’ Parliament, while even the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg described it as ‘exhausted and broken’.

Beyond the drama and high tension, one emerging question is what is the appropriate role and purpose of the UK Parliament? How can, and should, it best exercise power – and hold government to account? What is the appropriate role of MPs? Is it to reflect on their own views and bring their expertise to any issue, or to listen and represent the views of their constituents? And how does representative democracy live alongside the popular democracy of a referendum?

Is Parliament flexing its muscles and showing that there can be a new rebalancing of power between legislature and executive? Or is what is emerging an unsustainable, uncontrollable mess where making clear decisions will increasingly prove more and more difficult? Read the rest of this entry »

David Cameron: Britain’s worst post-war Prime Minister so far

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 25th 2019

David Cameron has been on our airwaves and TV screens a lot in the past week punting his autobiography ‘For the Record’.

We last saw and heard from ‘call me Dave’ a while ago as he has been away in his shed writing his memoirs and waiting for an appropriate moment in the political storms when they could be published.

It was only three and a half years ago that Cameron was UK Prime Minister, resigning the morning after the Brexit vote, and it already feels like a long time. The politics of Cameron-Osborne, intent of the ‘Cameroon Conservatives’ and the coalition between the Tories and Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, does seem now like a very different political age, yet we are still living with the many consequences of this period.

‘For the Record’ is a strange book. Its tone is a mixture of arrogance, unsureness and at times apologetic. Cameron wants to give the impression that he is reflective – given the albatross hanging over him that he has left the rest of us with – but he cannot quite bring himself to fully embrace this. Read the rest of this entry »

What has Labour got to say as the British establishment collapses?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 22nd 2019

The Labour Party meets for its annual conference at Brighton this weekend, confident about its future prospects.

The reality is that the state of Labour is not good. The party are polling between 21% and 28% in the polls – with the two pollsters who called 2017 most accurately putting it on 21% and 24%, and in one they are third place behind the Lib Dems.

This puts Labour on course to lose a massive six million votes from 2017 to the present – more than Blair managed in a near-decade from his 1997 triumph. And even if Tory weakness gives some hope with their 32-33% implying a loss of 3.5 million votes, Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings are another drag on the party.

This week Corbyn broke another record with his leadership satisfaction ratings of minus 60% (16% positive, 76% negative) the worst on record for an opposition leader since this question was first asked in 1977: making him more unpopular than Michael Foot, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith who all tanked. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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