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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

The Good Ship Britannia Sinks Below the Waves: Scotland, Brexit and the Thoughts of Tim Shipman

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 13th 2018

The events of the last two days have shown how the British establishment, political classes and their supporters view the UK. There is the contempt and chaos in the Brexit process; ‘Taking Back Control’ has come down to running roughshod over parliamentary processes, Henry VIII powers, with Scotland being treated with the disdain of a mere fifteen-minute non-debate on the key Brexit bill. Similarly, crocodile tears for Northern Ireland were shown to be empty – with no debate and reference in yesterday’s session of mammoth votes for concerns about the border and the so-called ‘backstop’.

The reactions of our commentariat have been just as revealing. This is Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times and his description of devolution:

Powers were always owned by London and devolved down. They were never, and could never be, owned by Edinburgh. They’ll be devolved down again but legally they are in London’s gift. If you have a country, that’s how it works. You may not wish to be part of UK, but win a referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in the Shadow of Empire State Britain and the Problem of Cultural Dementia

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, April 19th 2018

The UK has been an uncomfortable place in the last few days. There has been the controversy over the Windrush deportations, Tory Cabinet minister Esther McVey defending the rape clause at the Scottish Parliament as ‘non-invasive’, and the resuscitation of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ 1968 speech from beyond the grave. On top of this there has been the Trump-led bombing of Syria, backed by UK and French forces, without parliamentary vote or international approval.

We have to understand the deeper context of the state we are in. The UK has not and never has been a democratic state or polity. Instead the overhang and past influence of feudalism and absolutism define much of public life, institutions and attitudes to this day. Take just one obvious example. We talk about electing the UK Parliament, but we elect one part of it (the Commons), and don’t the other (the Lords), leaving it completely unelected (and this after a hundred year long campaign to abolish or overhaul it).

From Warfare to Welfare and Back

The UK has for all of its existence been first and foremost a warfare state: one whose purpose has been historically to wage war, conquer territories, dominate the high seas and maintain its Empire. If some people think this is something deep and buried in the past, just consider that since 1945 Britain’s armed forces have been involved in military action in every single year apart from one – 1968. That year represents the gap between the retreat of Empire and Aden and the beginning of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland. Read the rest of this entry »

Enoch Powell’s Ghost and Bigotry still haunts modern Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 17th 2018

This week sees the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech which occurred on April 20th 1968, with the BBC deciding to recreate it and broadcast on ‘Archive on 4’ – read by actor Ian McDiarmid.

The speech has never been broadcast before in full, and this decision hasn’t been without controversy, both before and afterwards. It was an extraordinary experience to hear this much cited, even legendary, speech in its entirety – 45 minutes of powerful, passionate, and shockingly over the top and insensitive language – as it was delivered decades ago to Conservative Party members in the Midland Hotel, Birmingham.

Powell, then Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West and Shadow Secretary of Defence in Ted Heath’s Shadow Cabinet, made the case that immigration from the Commonwealth was irreversibly changing Britain for the worse. His language was a mixture of his classically trained mind, combined with the confidence and arrogance of Britain’s ruling class, and a populism which he felt was needed given the scale of problems the country faced. It took place only days after Martin Luther King had been assassinated; Powell had just visited the States, and become convinced that the US divisions on race provided a premonition of a horrendous British future. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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