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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The future of the Scottish Tories after Ruth Davidson

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 1st 2019

One constituency consistently admired Ruth Davidson – the media. As in her eight years of Tory leadership, the same has been true of her resignation; with numerous plaudits, magnified by how the London media misunderstand and misread Scotland.

One example was provided by BBC ‘Newsnight’s’ programme on Thursday evening when Ben Chu opened his Ruth Davidson film with the proclamation: ‘She was an election winner with a gold dust appeal to millennials’, which was completely wrong in both its assertions.

In her period as leader, Davidson shook up the Scottish Tories and had a wider impact in Scotland and the UK. But how deep seated was that impact, how sustainable, and where does it leave the Tories in terms of future challenges in the increasingly choppy waters of Brexit Britain?

Conservatives under her leadership became ‘the Ruth Davidson Party’ – a party that complained about the SNP’s concern with independence, yet continually ran campaigns saying ‘Just Say No’ and ‘No Means No’. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rise and Fall of Ruth Davidson, Brexit and the Future of the Union

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, August 30th 2019

Ruth Davidson has been a very successful politician in one inarguable aspect. As Scottish Tory leader she was continually spoken about, commented upon and discussed in the mainstream media and, often in non-Tory circles, in a positive light.

After eight years as Tory leader in Scotland Davidson has decided that she wants to quit, for reasons both personal and political. She is 40 years old, with a new child, Finn, and plans to marry her partner Jen in the next few months. But politics matter at least as much, as despite sharing some common views in the Tory universe with Boris Johnson at least in social liberalism, the two have never hit it off. The differences between them have become a chasm in recent years over Brexit, culminating in Johnson proroguing the UK Parliament to truncate debate and prevent critical votes.

Her resignation was in the style of much of her leadership: it made UK not just Scottish media headlines and produced acres of commentary on why she has done this and the potential consequences. It has also underlined the degree to which Davidson for all her undoubted skills is a very divisive candidate, loved or loathed, and in this respect, similar to her arch adversary Nicola Sturgeon.

Thus in the immediate aftermath of her announcement the ‘Daily Mail’ were bemoaning the loss of a Scottish ‘Boadicea’, while independence supporters and anti-Tories described her as ‘the alter-ego of a super hero, she runs off at the first sign of trouble’ and someone with ‘a keen eye for the most plausibly deniable bits of Scottish middle class bigotry’. This has been the battleline for much of her leadership and in particular since the indyref campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘obsession’ with staying in office and life after Sturgeon

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 28th 2019

In the past week Nicola Sturgeon made a couple of important statements about politics and power in Scotland. Speaking with the political comedian Matt Forde at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Sturgeon was revealing in a way she seldom is, and not perhaps in the way she intended to be.

Firstly, Sturgeon said she was ‘obsessed’ with keeping the SNP in office and not ending up in an ‘existential crisis’ like Scottish Labour. Secondly, she said that the decline of Labour in Scotland and seeing them go from being ‘seemingly impregnable’ to, at best Scotland’s third political force, and in humiliating fifth place in the recent European elections with 9% of the vote, profoundly influenced how she saw politics and acted as a leader.

Let’s take Sturgeon’s self-stated modus operandi of politics first: that she is ‘obsessed’ above all else with retaining power. This is a charge often made about her and the SNP by critics, and in particular pro-independence critics inside and outside the party. It draws from the evidence of twelve years of the SNP in office and five years of Sturgeon leadership. The latter has been defined by a lack of any clear direction or strategy beyond managing events, expectations, the party and independence supporters. Read the rest of this entry »

Jeremy Corbyn’s Moment of Reckoning and the Fears of the British Establishment

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, August 25th 2019

Next week another critical Brexit moment happens when Jeremy Corbyn calls together all the opposition parties at Westminster, to plan to win a vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson’s government to stop a No Deal Brexit.

Jeremy Corby has offered to lead a temporary minority government that would aim to extend the Article 50 notice period, hold an election and referendum. This is high stake politics, with the nature of Brexit, the future of political parties and leaders, as well as the continuation of the UK, all in doubt.

A vote of no confidence in Johnson is on a knife-edge. Leave aside that Johnson has not yet dared to subject his new administration to winning a parliamentary mandate. This is because he has a fragile majority of one seat when he adds the ten DUP MPs to the Tory tally. This expands to a ‘notional’ three seats on a vote of confidence as one independent unionist, Sylvia Hermon, has said she will never vote to facilitate a Corbyn government. Read the rest of this entry »

Politics – mainstream and radical – is badly failing us at the moment

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 21st 2019

Politics has never mattered more than it does now – from climate change and the future of the planet, to arguments around Brexit, Scottish independence and Trump, not to mention, the gathering global economic storm clouds.

Political party membership in the UK has rebounded after decades of decline. In the last six years, party membership has increased more than two-fold – from 0.8% of the electorate in 2013 to 1.7% in 2019, showing a renewed desire for political engagement.

This comes on top of two twin pillars of disruption, the 2014 Scottish indyref and 2016 Brexit vote, which upturned mainstream politics, brought excitement, controversy and division centrestage, and challenged the belief of the political classes that they knew best.

Yet, this new-found interest in, and forms of, political engagement has not yet remade our politics into something positive and permanent. Instead, here and across the West we seem to be surrounded by a constant swirl of claim and counter claim, by dodgy players and practices, and a crisis of legitimacy in how we do politics and political authority. This at a time when more than ever, for the sake of humanity and life on this planet, we need an effective politics. 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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