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Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

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 »

What should we talk about to make Scotland a place we are proud to call home?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 7th 2019

There is only one subject on the lips of many this week: independence and Michael Ashcroft’s 52:48 poll. This is the Scotland of 2019 – twenty years of the Scottish Parliament, five years since the indyref, nine years of Tory-led government, and with less than 90 days to the prospect of a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

We have also had twelve years of SNP Government. Once upon a time its admirers talked of its competence and sure touch, but they do less now. The passing of time and pressures of office have had a cost, and even though the SNP is still by far the most popular party in the country, the sense of political attrition and wear and tear on the administration is palpable.

There are obvious shortcomings in the SNP record and in their style of government, talk of widespread disquiet within and across the party, concerns about the style of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, and despite the poll above, huge worries about the absence of any strategy in relation to independence. Most of these sentiments are expressed quietly and in private, but with a sense of vacuum and drift, other issues become more divisive, such as the trans issue and Gender Recognition Act, which has seen bitter exchanges between senior figures in the party. Read the rest of this entry »

The Brexit Crisis and Problem with Absolute Sovereignty: From the loss of the American Colonies and Ireland to Brexit

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, July 26th 2019

Britain is not only in crisis but under Boris Johnson’s new hardline Brexit government is heading for the rocks and disaster at turbo-charged speed.

Yet with wall-to-wall mainstream media commentary on all things Brexit and Boris Johnson, a number of key characteristics are missing. The first is any understanding that Brexit is nearly entirely an English phenomenon and not only that but an expression of virulent, reactionary English nationalism. Secondly is the unpalatable reality that this nationalism didn’t emerge from nowhere but has been festering in the English body politic – witness Tom Nairn’s analysis in the mid-1970s – and for long before that.

Third, Brexit and its set of political crises have deep roots in the fissures and faultlines of the UK – of an increasingly divided kingdom, the near disappearance of any real British politics beyond Westminster, and the permanent semi-detachment of Scotland and Wales from the concerns of what are still meant to be the British governing classes. Read the rest of this entry »

The next Battle of Britain is going to about England’s future

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 6th 2019

Brexit certainly seems increasingly to be about England – or a certain version of England and a rather specific version of the past.

Take last week for example. The previous Tuesday was another landmark day for Brexit. There were numerous big parliamentary votes and the House of Commons made clear again that it was unhappy with Theresa May’s deal with the EU.

BBC News knew this was a big moment and the next day ended their flagship ‘Six O’Clock News’ announcing: ‘Theresa May says she intends to go back to Brussels to renegotiate her Brexit deal but EU leaders say the deal is done and they will not reopen talks.’

Dramatic stuff. But what footage did the BBC have as a backdrop to showcase a British Conservative Prime Minister with their back to the wall standing up to Europe? They inexplicably choose footage of World War Two Spitfires and the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. The reason for this, the Beeb later revealed, was ‘a production mistake’ of loading a previously shown film again. That seemed a little disingenuous to say the least! Read the rest of this entry »

We Scots have to start listening to each other

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 23rd 2019

Brexit seems to have no end, consuming nearly all political energy and devouring those who come into contact with it. Or so it seems for now.

The Economist recently made the point in its ‘Bagehot’ column that one of the seldom understood groups in British politics were the long haulers. These were people who once occupied the margins of political life, and have now in the case of Brexiteers and Corbynistas, come centrestage and turned politics upside down.

These two groups involved people who refused to compromise and were once dismissed as dogmatists and cranks, but by standing firm have forced the mainstream to bend to their will. The Brexiteers were aided by successive Tory leaderships dismissing or appeasing them, culminating in David Cameron announcing an in-out referendum. And in the Corbynista case by the discrediting of the Blair-Brown project from the Iraq war onwards.

In their Westminster focus The Economist forgot one other group of long haulers who have shaken the foundations of politics: Scottish independence supporters. They, similarly, came in from the cold, where for decades they were caricatured as oddballs who did not understand the modern world. Now independence has remade Scottish and British politics and the union will never be the same again. 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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