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Posts Tagged ‘British Labour Party’

Democracy isn’t working: Can it be fixed?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 4th 2019

Britain likes to claim to be the inventor of democracy, and England to assume the mantle of being ‘the mother of Parliaments’. These are national myths – leaving aside that the oldest national legislature in the world is the Icelandic Parliament.

The Whig story of democracy has been one of the most prominent interpretations of British and English public life and traditions. It is one which has been told and retold by enlightened and less enlightened sections of the British establishment.

It has also been uncritically championed by large elements of the British left, in Labour, the Liberals and then Lib Dems, and wider intellectual circles. They, as much as Tory and right-wing circles, have felt drawn to the story of British continuity and exceptionalism – and putting Britain at the heart of a global story for good which reflects well on life and institutions here.

This story of Britain has been a powerful and at times popular one, but it has been and become even more a self-immolating version of this country, cloaking tradition, privilege and the way things are done from a sceptical eye, let alone a radical, democratising view. It has prevented us from seeing what the UK is like, shorn of mystique and mythology. Read the rest of this entry »

History in the Making: The End of the Era of Neo-liberalism – in the UK and Globally

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 27th 2019

This, we are continually told, is meant to be a seismic, even historic election – usually referring to the fundamental implications of Brexit.

What is seldom addressed is that this election also signifies far-reaching change in another aspect of politics. This is the confirmation of the jettisoning of the economic assumptions which have defined UK politics for the past 40 years – sometimes described as neo-liberalism.

This shift is a continuation and reinforcement of a change witnessed in the 2017 UK election, commented upon in a few places, then forgotten. That election saw for the first time since the 1970s a contest where neither of the two big parties, Conservative or Labour, were advocates of the neo-liberal settlement.

Labour’s shift under Jeremy Corbyn is self-evident: a rupture with the compromises of New Labour, Blair and Brown. Less discussed has been the change in the Conservatives after Cameron and Osborne, and their gleeful embrace of austerity. Hence, the Tory manifesto of Theresa May, primarily written by her chief of staff Nick Timothy, contained a powerful dismissal of the politics of asocial individualism – ‘We do not believe in untrammelled individualism. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Conventional wisdom is no guide to the future in an age of turmoil and surprise

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 13th 2019

UK general elections are never about one single subject even when politicians try to define them as such. Ted Heath’s ‘Who governs Britain?’ election of February 1974 became about the state of the country, and Winston Churchill’s belief after the war in Europe ended in 1945 that he would be elected by a grateful electorate turned out to be illusive as voters instead looked to the future.

Similarly this election will not be about just one issue – Brexit. In Scotland there are three big competing issues; and of course much more besides. There is Brexit, who speaks for anti-Tory Scotland, and the independence question.

No one party speaks for majority Scotland across all three. The SNP are the leading party in the first two – positioning themselves as the biggest force in significant sized majorities. But they do not, as of yet, speak for a majority of Scotland on the third issue – independence – which matters most to them.

It is increasingly evident that the ghosts of past elections and limits of what passes for conventional wisdom run through how this election is seen. Thus, 2019 is continually interpreted through the experience of 2017 and the memory of the Corbyn surge – both by Labour Corbyn supporters and many media watchers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last UK General Election Ever? Or the Last Bar One?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, October 27th 2019

Boris Johnson on Monday makes what is his third attempt to get the votes to call a UK general election – needing 434 votes to win a two-thirds majority under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

This piece was written before the moves by the Lib Dems and SNP to bring about an election on December 9th via a simple, single line bill. This may have more chance of succeeding later this week. But whether it does or does not it doesn’t invalidate the arguments below about an election in the last months of 2019 versus early 2020.

Today we are 1,222 days after the 2016 Brexit vote. It has been a long, gruesome ordeal – longer than the totemic, heroic and bloody 872 day siege of Leningrad. But unlike that moment in history there is no end in sight to Brexit any day soon. Even if the Boris Johnson Brexit Bill or another deal made it through the Commons there are years more of deliberations, possibly lasting over a decade, still to endure.

Boris Johnson governs, if that is the right word, without a parliamentary majority. But he created this situation – despite his many complaints about it. He started with a notional majority of three; it is now minus 45. He leads an administration which took away the whip from 21 Tory MPs. Despite this in the past week, his government saw its Brexit Bill get a second reading with a majority of 30 and its forgotten Queen’s Speech with a majority of 16. Read the rest of this entry »

What has Labour got to say as the British establishment collapses?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 22nd 2019

The Labour Party meets for its annual conference at Brighton this weekend, confident about its future prospects.

The reality is that the state of Labour is not good. The party are polling between 21% and 28% in the polls – with the two pollsters who called 2017 most accurately putting it on 21% and 24%, and in one they are third place behind the Lib Dems.

This puts Labour on course to lose a massive six million votes from 2017 to the present – more than Blair managed in a near-decade from his 1997 triumph. And even if Tory weakness gives some hope with their 32-33% implying a loss of 3.5 million votes, Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings are another drag on the party.

This week Corbyn broke another record with his leadership satisfaction ratings of minus 60% (16% positive, 76% negative) the worst on record for an opposition leader since this question was first asked in 1977: making him more unpopular than Michael Foot, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith who all tanked. 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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