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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Royal Family Story is more than mere soap opera

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 15th 2020

The world of 2020 is filled with important events and news: the Iran-US conflict, Australian bush fires sweeping the continent, and the ongoing Brexit process.

Yet what story has dominated the UK media to a claustrophobic and obsessional degree in the early days of the new year? The answer is none of the above but the ongoing crises of the Royal Family engendered by Harry and Meghan’s declaration of semi-independence.

This saga has nearly everything for the modern media including familiar reference points, well-known characters (some loved more than others), and a rich back history.

More than this the royal obsession goes to the heart of what Britain is and what it represents, its established elite history and traditions, the protection and veneration of old and new monies, while offering an alternative and enduring concept of power and legitimacy to the democratic will. And if that were not enough it also engages with class, inter-generational relationships and rivalries, sexism and racism. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking Back Control: The Rise of People Power in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, January 12th 2020

Rallies and marches are an intrinsic part of politics the world over.

Throughout history the politics of protesting and marching has made an impact and on occasions truly shaken power. Chartist rallies for democracy in the 19th century, Suffragette protests of the early 20th century, the civil rights marches of the 1960s of Martin Luther King and others, the anti-Vietnam war protests which spanned the globe in the late 1960s; and the anti-Communist rallies across Eastern Europe in 1989 which overthrew rotten Stalinist dictatorships. All these show the potential of people power to aid change – including regime change.

Recent Scottish and UK politics cannot match the above drama and history. But we are still living in an UK political environment affected by the deceits of the Iraq war and the anger of the anti-war protests of 2003. In Scotland the anti-poll tax demos of 1989-90 contributed to the tax being seen as illegitimate and defeated; while the Edinburgh pro-home rule gathering of December 1992 as a backdrop to the EU summit in the city highlighted and internationalised the cause of self-government to dramatic effect.

Present day Scotland now witnesses regular marches undertaken by pro-independence forces, many organised by the umbrella organisation: All Under One Banner (AUOB) – the body behind yesterday’s march in Glasgow. Read the rest of this entry »

Whose Edinburgh is it anyway?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 8th 2020

Edinburgh has been feeling good about itself or – to be accurate – those who claim to speak for the city, its public agencies and business organisations have been feeling this about themselves and the city. They feel the city has had an unprecedented decade of growth, has bounced back from the crash and implosion of Fred Goodwin’s RBS, and that the future is rosy, of continued prosperity and good times.

Alongside this neverending mantra storm clouds and criticism have increasingly been becoming more vocal, most publicly connected to the recent controversies over the scale and management of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, the Princes Street Christmas market and the Loony Dook at South Queensferry.

In each of these there are common threads which tie into a wider, damning picture of the state of the city. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is presented as one long glorious street party in the picturesque surroundings of the city centre and backdrop of the castle. The reality of the annual event is that it has been getting bigger and bigger year on year, with the event ticketed, controlled and numbers limited due to demand. Read the rest of this entry »

The future of Labour matters to everyone – and to Scottish self-government

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, January 5th 2020

Nearly a month ago Labour stumbled to one of the worst defeats in its history. Yet the weeks after the calamity of the election of a Boris Johnson government with an overall majority of eighty seats, have seen Labour no further forward in recognising the scale of its reverse or how much it needs to change.

This matters – for, despite everything, Labour still matter. They are still by far the principal opposition to the Tories at Westminster and the only feasible alternative UK government. What they say and do matters across the UK, in Scotland, and in debates on the constitution, democracy and Scottish independence.

Labour experienced a seismic electoral setback on 12 December; the extent of which was so deep and profound that many of the party’s leading lights are struggling to come to terms with its sheer scale.

2019 was Labour’s fourth election defeat in a row – something that the party, as a national force since 1918, only ever experienced once before in 1992. Then the party under Neil Kinnock thought it was about to defeat the Tories under John Major, only to be shocked at the last minute as the polls were proven wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry’s Favourite Music of the Decade

Gerry Hassan

January 3rd 2020

My countdown of the grooves I was listening to over the past decade. First, this is my chart so the criterion is mine alone! It is dominated by new things from the last ten years, but includes compilations, reissues and even a few albums from previous decades. Second, nearly as important as what is in a looking back exercise such as this is what is missing. Thus, even though this is a fairly eclectic list it consciously has no Beyonce, Kayne West (his early promise degenerating into celebrity Trump apologist) and even Solange (although I have a bit of time for her albums and have even seen her live).

There are also many musical passions unrepresented or under-represented because they have not put out new or decent archival releases this decade. Hence, there is only one Frank Sinatra release – and when are the Sinatra estate going to start treating his back catalogue with the same importance as Dylan, Miles and Elvis? The same is true sadly of George Michael.

This is the second time I have done an end of decade review like this. I do it because it adds to my enjoyment of the music listed below and the many other great sounds that I considered for the list. Reflecting on this and the mindset of list-ism it is salutary to note the pros and cons of their ubiquity, and how it has the danger of levelling and homogenising culture, and possibility of reinforcing nostalgia and safe options. 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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