Tags
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

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 »

Class still defines and disfigures Britain and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, November 24th 2019

Class still matters and defines much of Britain and Scotland. It shapes life chances, educational opportunities, work advancement and careers, health, life expectancy, culture, politics – and who makes and does not make the key decisions in society.

Dr. Fiona Hill, the British-born US public servant, spoke this week at the Trump impeachment hearings about being born in Bishop Auckland in the north of England, saying: ‘This country [the US] offered me opportunities I would never have had in England. I grew up poor with a very distinctive working class accent. In England in the 1980s this would have impeded my professional advancement.’

It wasn’t meant to be like this. John Major spoke of the ‘classless society’ and John Prescott just before the 1997 election asserted that ‘we’re all middle class now’. Yet, earlier this year Tony Blair defending his Premiership stated ‘we made the UK more equal’, only to be corrected by the Institute for Fiscal Studies who commented that Labour had not achieved this. 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 »

Tony Blair and the Road from Baghdad to Boris Johnson’s Brexit

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, October 26th 2019

Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson and others from the New Labour era have of late been on our airwaves talking endlessly of the evils of Brexit and the need for a second referendum on Europe. But seldom if ever do they publicly reflect on their own disastrous role in fanning the flames which led to the current Brexit debacle.

Blair and Campbell advocated and led the case for the Iraq war – an illegal war based on a campaign of disinformation, deceit and lies that distorted the processes of government decision-making. In so doing, apart from contributing to untold deaths and misery as well as Middle East instability, in the UK they fed the corrosion of public trust and standards in public life.

We now know that the Iraq conflict was an illegal war – based on the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s legal advice of March 7th 2003 which he reversed ten days later. Without the Iraq war, public cynicism and distrust would not have reached the incendiary levels it did. Iraq did systematic harm to the progressive case for government, and the case for social democratic, interventionist government with the intention of aiding the public good. 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 >
Recommended Blogs