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Archive for the ‘Short Essays’ Category

A Hung Parliament Could Be Good for Our Broken Democracy

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman,  February 19th 2010

A Conservative Government has for a long time been seen as the inevitable outcome of the next election. David Cameron was viewed as a Prime Minister in waiting, and the Labour Party, unpopular, led by a disliked leader, and seen as having lost the will to live.

Now all of this is beginning to change. The prospect of a hung Parliament, where no one party has an overall majority is now being seriously considered. The Conservatives have proven less than sure-footed, while Labour has shown itself less dead in the water than previously assumed.

A hung Parliament is now possible for a number of reasons. The most cited is the way the current electoral system works to the Conservatives’ disadvantage and Labour’s advantage. This is because Labour’s constituencies are generally smaller in the number of voters they have and have lower turnouts, resulting in Labour winning more seats with less votes than the Tories. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP Comes Back Down to Earth:

Nicola Sturgeon and How We Do Our Politics

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, February 12th 2010

The Nicola Sturgeon saga has to be seen on at least three levels. Firstly and obviously it is about Nicola Sturgeon’s judgement, but it also throws revealing light on how the SNP Government is faring, and how we represent, reflect and enact our politics.

Nicola Sturgeon is a thoroughly competent, talented, streetwise politician and minister. Her writing of a letter of support for Abdul Rauf, a constituent of hers, before he was sentenced for £80,000 of benefit fraud, does seem a little questionable. Sturgeon is not normally guilty of naivety, but to claim as she and Alex Salmond have done that this was ‘a duty’, as if she had no choice in the matter, is either naivety in the extreme on their part, or presuming the public can be easily confused.

Instead, as Iain Gray and others have said this is ‘a question of judgement’ and how you use your ‘discretion’, both of which seemed to leave Sturgeon here. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting Politics Back into the Equality Debate: The Limits of ‘The Spirit Level’

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment, February 3rd 2010

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett are right to talk about inequality (Guardian, January 30th) and do so at length in ‘The Spirit Level’, a debate which seems to have captured something about the anxieties and fears we have about modern Britain and life. Yet, despite its popularity and the claims of its authors, ‘The Spirit Level’ does not offer a new egalitarian credo, and instead leaves crucial areas unexplored.

Wilkinson and Pickett pose that inequality hurts and harms all of us and set out to show across a range of international examples that more equal affluent countries are happier, more secure and have a better quality of life.

In a 330 page book on inequality the authors surprisingly say next to nothing about what factors created the rising tide of inequality that we have witnessed these last few decades. Not only that, they take their argument that rising inequality has occurred as proven and don’t offer any historical examination even of the recent past. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland as a Magical, Foreign Land:

Jonathan Meades Off-Kilter Guide to Scotland

Gerry Hassan

January 28th 2010

I have just watched the first part of Jonathan Meades three part series on Scotland on BBC Two, late Wednesday night, 11.20-12.20 available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ml5wx/Jonathan_Meades_Off_Kilter_Episode_1/, and was astounded by the sheer brilliance and aplomb of it on every level.

Here was an hour-long programme about Aberdeen and its architecture. An hour-long programme about Aberdeen which was compelling, challenging, deeply serious and yet with a rich undertow of humour. An hour about Aberdeen with no Aberdonians, no talking heads, no stupid vox pops in Union Street, no stupid local celebs with their inanities, and not one compromise in the direction of the cultural destruction of much of our TV programming in the last decade (step forward Simon Cowell, Peter Bazelgette and Mark Thompson to name but three).

This is a four part series about Scotland and it exposes the sheer vacuousness, limpness, laziness and lack of any effort or imagination in most of what passes for our TV programming in Scotland. Most of what comes on our screens about Scotland seems to be part of some sophisticated, deeply thought out plan to encourage in the Scots psyche a belief that they don’t amount to very much and could not possible change things or govern themselves: a mix of cultural cringe and inferiority complex. Read the rest of this entry »

The Nation of Imagination: The Slow Birth of Creative Scotland

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, January 28th 2010

Tomorrow a long run Scottish soap opera reaches a new stage. I am not talking about BBC’s ‘River City’, but the appointment of the chief executive of Creative Scotland, the new quango bringing together the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen.

It has been a long and painful birth. Creative Scotland was like many things not originally an SNP idea, instead stemming from Scottish Labour with its genesis a concept coming from UK New Labour thinking. Many pinpoint long gone Culture Minister Mike Watson as first coming up with the idea, although Frank McAveety and Patricia Ferguson in a procession of Culture Ministers need to take their share of the responsibility.

There is some similarity between Creative Scotland and ‘Year of Homecoming’, another Labour wheeze which the SNP were left to implement, claim as their own, pick up the mounting bill, and take the resulting flak for. 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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