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Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

The View of Britain from Europe: A Perspective from Lublin

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 21st 2018

Europe feels very different when viewed from its eastern borders. This week I have been travelling across Europe and staying for several days in the beautiful Polish city of Lublin – 95 miles from Warsaw, in the south-east of the country, not far from the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Lublin is a proud city with a rich history and sense of its past importance. It currently has a population of 349,103 and four universities, numerous colleges and lots of successful and impressive businesses and start-ups. It has also seen a lot of changes – with numerous different political masters down the years from being part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to being under the authority of Austria-Hungary, then Russia, and occupied by Nazi Germany.

All of this has given the city a varied but sometimes painful history. On 7 November 1918 at the conclusion of the First World War as a separate Polish state re-emerged, Lublin was the site for Ignacy Daszyński establishing the Provisional Government for the People’s Republic of Poland.

The inter-war Polish state was recognised at Versailles but given a tragic hand by history, being sandwiched between the two rising tyrannies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, who agreed to dismember the country in the infamous Molotov-Rippentrop Pact agreed on 23 August 1939. This pact was the basis for the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September, and hence the beginning of the Second World War, and on 17 September, the Soviet invasion. Read the rest of this entry »

As Brexit Britain heads for the rocks what does Corbyn’s Labour stand for?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 14th 2018

The diminished global status of Britain and our future post-Brexit has been on display in the last few days. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripa and his daughter Yulia and the possible role of Russian authorities; the visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and the continued saga of Donald Trump’s unpredictable, erratic Presidency from trade wars to his state visit, all illustrate the challenges a diminished UK will face in the aftermath of Brexit.

Twenty-one months on from the Brexit vote we have no clear plan or detail from the UK Government. Indeed, the kind of Brexit and Britain which the UK Government represents is nothing more than a sketch and vague principles, much to the increasing consternation of the EU and the remaining 27 nation-states.

Brexit is full of contradictions, tensions and paradoxes. Can the fabled Tory Party with its reputation for statecraft really be reduced to its current incompetence and divisions? This has come after decades of Tory appeasement of Euroscepticism, culminating in David Cameron’s infamous pledge in 2013 to hold an in/out referendum: a pledge he though he would never have to deliver; then followed by his attempt to secure renegotiated terms of EU membership – with echoes of Harold Wilson in 1975; and subsequent referendum campaign and Brexit triumph. Read the rest of this entry »

The World Has Been Turned Upside Down: The End of the Era of Robber Baron Capitalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 24th 2018

The world has been turned upside down in the last few weeks. Ten years after the banking crash showed that the economic assumptions which shaped most of our lives were bogus, along has come the collapse of Carillion, the biggest outsourcing company in the UK.

The taking of the public out of public services has been a long war of attrition which has been waged by all the mainstream Westminster parties. It hasn’t improved public services or benefitted the public. Instead, the winners from it have been the companies who have won such contracts, their directors and shareholders, who have made millions of pounds from the public purse.

The Public Private Initiative (PFI) and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) was born of John Major’s government, but came of age under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown: being seen as a way to engage in significant public investment while keeping it off of the government’s books. Of the 720 PFI-PPP schemes more than 75% of them were signed off under New Labour’s period in office. They liked the supposed efficiency the private sector aided, but in reality, were driven by undertaking public spending off the balance books and the dogma of thinking ‘private good, public bad’.

Most of us know that public sector monopolies can provide poor services insensitive to the needs and interests of the public. But the tales of PFI-PPP were of a new order of providing services which weren’t about the public, but creating a guaranteed income stream and scam to the vested interests of crony capitalism. Thus, PFI-PPP schemes involved grotesque inefficiencies and inflexibilities which were paid for by the public purse. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Wake Up and Ask Some Difficult Questions abut the SNP and Independence

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, January 23rd 2018

‘What Do You Do When A Society Lies to Itself?’ So said writer Umair Haque this week in the context of the constitutional standoff in Trump’s America. But it is true of most nations most of the time; certainly it is true of today’s UK – and also of modern Scotland.

Scottish politics are currently in what can only be described as a phoney war – a becalmed period of inertia and inactivity in-between the storms that buffet politics. Everyone is waiting to see how Brexit pans out. This is central to how the SNP and Scottish Government see things. They are sitting, anticipating the debris that flows from Brexit and the implications for independence. Unfortunately, this is a politics of passivity, and even of acceptance, that others (the UK Government, EU negotiators) will determine the political environment.

Added to this, since the indyref, a problematic mix of complacency, and even self-deception, has befallen too many independence supporters. For one, the SNP leadership has failed to grasp the political momentum post-2014. Nicola Sturgeon has not made one strategic gambit since the indyref and her election as SNP leader and First Minister – beyond the March 2017 attempt to advance a second indy referendum, in which she was out-manoeuvred by Theresa May and the UK Government. Read the rest of this entry »

Winston Churchill: The Man, the Myth, 1940 and Who can speak for Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 16th 2018

Winston Churchill is everywhere at the moment. It is as if there are only two narratives about Britain’s past: the Second World War and dramas about people of privilege, class and money.

The Churchill industry can cover both strands, and for some his is the last uncontested great story of Britain. To others he is the last statesman who unreservedly represented the moral case for Britain; whereas for many on the left he has long been a problem figure. And all of this, while clearly about our past and the dark days of 1940, is also about the storm clouds gathering today – from Brexit to the widespread cynicism in politicians and institutions.

In the last year Churchill was portrayed in the film of the same name by Brian Cox, the peacetime Churchill featured in Netflix’s ‘The Crown’, and most recently he was played by Gary Oldman in ‘Darkest Hour’. The latter is the latest, concentrating on that watershed period in the Second World War in May 1940 where the Chamberlain Government totters and then collapses, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and the War Cabinet debates whether to continue the war effort or to seek out peace terms. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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