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Archive for the ‘Short Essays’ Category

Go Brown To A Fourth Term: The Strange Story of Labour’s Comeback

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 27th 2010

As the Scottish Labour Party meets today in Glasgow, the party now finds itself in the surprising situation of an open, competitive election with everything to play for.

Labour has been through a lot these last few years: recession, a banking crisis, three attempted coups against the leader, cash for honours, the expenses crisis, and that’s without mentioning Iraq and Afghanistan.

Labour is short of members, resources and monies, and yet it is still standing. Is Gordon Brown really ‘the Comeback Kid’? This raises the question of what Labour stands for after all this? What is the essence of the party’s soul? And what would happen if the party managed against it all to win an historic fourth term?

Senior figures in the party still command the ability to order their depleted, exhausted forces to mount attacks and counter-attacks, and to push every sinew and part of themselves to rise to the task of mounting one more challenge against the Tories. Read the rest of this entry »

The Auld Enemies Still?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 19th 2010

The Scotland-England relationship is one of the defining ways many Scots view the world. It ranges from football and rugby rivalry to history, politics, culture and identity.

At the weekend Scots rugby fans booed English players at Murrayfield, while we have grown accustomed to Scots football crowds booing the playing of ‘God Save the Queen’ for England at Hampden. And then there is the ‘Anyone But England’ phenomenon.

Why should Scotland define so much of its identity and sense of itself via what we think of England? This gives the power over who we are to someone else. Some argue that none of this really matters, and that it is all harmless fun about football and sport, but most of us know this is about much more, and tells us something uncomfortable about ourselves.

The ‘Anyone But England’ opinion uses a lot of false memory history syndrome. It dares to suggest that the English are the ones who have the problem from arrogant English football commentators, to the constant misunderstanding of ‘England’ as ‘Britain’, and 1966 and all that. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strange Story of Labour Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Times, March 14th 2010

The Scottish Labour Party has always been a strange beast, misunderstood by many, but with a romantic, sentimental sense of itself.

It is a party which has won every Westminster election since 1959 – thirteen in a row – which makes this part of Scottish politics even more uncompetitive than the SPL!

What is interesting is how the party has done this and been changed in the process. For all its myths, Scottish Labour has achieved this success without being that popular. The party has never won a majority of the popular vote, and only come near once (1966 with 49.9%).

A contributory factor to Scottish Labour’s strength – and one which aided Thatcher down south in the 1980s – has been facing a divided opposition, shaped here by the long decline of the Conservatives and the failure of the SNP to mount a serious challenge until recently. Read the rest of this entry »

The Land of Wild West Labour:

The Steven Purcell and Strathclyde Passenger Scandals in Context

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 11th 2010

Glasgow as a city has always been a bit on an enigma from ‘second city of the Empire’ to ‘second city of shopping’. Its politics have been shaped by the allure of ‘Red Clydeside’, while driven by the reality of a city of pragmatism, deals and doing business.

As long ago as 1953, ‘The Times’ said in an editorial, ‘Nowadays, the ‘Red Clyde’ is no more than pink’, and that has been the prevailing motto of the last few decades, explicitly so in the decades from ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ onward as the city consciously tried to rebrand and promote itself.

The resignation of Steven Purcell as Glasgow council leader has been a tragic one personally, but also one with a wider political dimension which has yet to fully unfold. This touches on the unacceptable face of Labour patronage which still prevails in parts of Scotland, and rules Glasgow and much of the West of Scotland in particular. Read the rest of this entry »

From Munich and Suez to the Iraq War

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 5th 2010

Gordon Brown’s role in the Iraq war will come under focus today when he gives evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.

The Iraq war is the point where Tony Blair lost his political touch, and became ‘Bliar’ in the eyes of many voters. Despite four previous inquiries into the war, none of them as comprehensive as this, a sense of anger, frustration and lack of trust now pervades how the public view politicians and the conflict.

Much of this anger is addressed personally at Tony Blair, his role in making the case for war, the ‘sexed-up’ dossiers, the dissembling and spin, and the relationship with George W. Bush. Gordon Brown faces questions about what his views were in the crucial months leading up to war, why he didn’t oppose it, and when it was set to happen, the contentious issue of funding it.

However, the Iraq war did not happen as an isolated event, or just because of the perfidy of Blair and acquiescence of Brown. It happened in the context of where Britain sees itself in the world, how it understands its past, and its strategic interests. In particular, if we examine the two British foreign policy disasters of the last century, Munich and Suez, we can throw wider light on the Iraq war. 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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