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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Boris Johnson and the art of self-deception

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 8th 2019

Boris Johnson has long had a problematic relationship with the truth. When a journalist, he was fired from ‘The Times’ for making up a quote; in the last month as UK Prime Minister he stated that he was in favour of proroguing Parliament when he publicly said he was against it, claimed to be against having an election he was planning and then for holding a contest, and saying that he is negotiating a Brexit deal with the EU, while preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

One month ago at the Edinburgh TV Festival, the head of Channel 4 news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne said that Boris Johnson was a ‘known liar’ and needed to be called out as such by news outlets. This was met with controversy in many media circles, and led to Downing Street cancelling an agreed Johnson interview on ‘Channel 4 News’.

There is a long political tradition of lying in politics: infamously in recent times, Tony Blair and the Iraq war, Bill Clinton and his ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’ comments in relation to Monica Lewinsky. Before that, Anthony Eden lied to the Commons on the Suez invasion and had to resign; John Profumo and the sex scandal with Christine Keeler; and Margaret Thatcher and the infamous case of the Argentinian cruiser the Belgrano which she claimed was sailing towards the British task force when it wasn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain is in a mess: Is a different democracy possible?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 4th 2019

Nearly everyone now agrees that British politics isn’t working – and that our political system, politicians and Parliament are in a mess and broken. Even more than this, our economic system and social contract have long ago become frayed, discredited and stopped working for the interests of the vast majority of people.

This is the context in which the country is convulsed by Brexit. Everywhere people are talking, thinking and worrying about it. Out on a Saturday night in a local Indian restaurant on Glasgow’s Southside, I sat near four men in their 30s who worked in the construction industry, who proceeded to have a thoughtful, informed conversation about Brexit, with none of them uber-partisan.

Three years of public conversation on affairs of state could be seen as a positive in many circumstances: a mass act of political education and citizenship indicating the health of the body politic. But Brexit has been the opposite of that. Such is the anger, dismay and feelings of betrayal on both the Remain and Leave sides, and as critically, mutual incomprehension of the most fanatical true believers in each tribe in the opposing side. This has resulted in the UK Parliament being in constitutional and political gridlock for the past three years. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Is there any hope for Scottish Labour? And does it matter to the rest of us?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, June 2nd 2019

Scottish Labour once carried all before it. They were admired by some, feared by others. They couldn’t be ignored, were taken seriously and mattered.

Today the party is not only struggling to be taken seriously by anyone, but has to fight for attention, battling to avoid the ignominy of being seen as irrelevant by most voters.

Many will say ‘hell mend them, they deserve their fate’ but the collapse of this once powerful party has consequences well beyond it. It begs the question – what wider impact does this have and is its shrunken condition terminal?

It is salutary to remind ourselves of what a state Labour are in. The party won a mere 9.3% of the vote in the Euro elections in Scotland. It lost its two MEPs, including the respected David Martin, the longest serving British MEP. Read the rest of this entry »

The Death of Tory England and the Decline of The Spectator

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 15th 2019

For eighteen years I have subscribed to and enjoyed reading The Spectator magazine. But under Fraser Nelson’s editorship from 2009 the magazine has slowly and irrevocably gone downhill and into the gutter. Gone are the days when it was a civilised, gentle, iconoclastic read where an article could surprise and entertain from unusual angles. Good pieces still occasionally appear, but in the midst of a very different content. One that is often nasty, condemning, quick to judge people, and with a sense of profound lack of curiosity about the world – and opinions beyond the Spectator bunker.

This decline is fed by the emerging dominance of an ignoramus commentariat who seem content to blow out numerous opinions with no recourse to facts that get in away of a good polemic. This is the magazine that regularly provides platforms for Rod Liddle, Toby Young, Douglas Murray, James Delingpole and, to prove dim-witted male Brits don’t have a monopoly on bigotry, Lionel Shriver.

My weekly Spectator read has increasingly involved navigating ill-informed ranting, hatred, and bile from these and others to find the isolated oases of wit and light. Thus, The Spectator still carries erudite political analysis from James Forsyth, its Political Editor, while Isabel Hardman and Alex Massie excel online; Charles Moore, Thatcher biographer, provides what The Spectator used to – an insight into poshness and privilege – while the book reviews contain numerous gems (although increasingly Rod Liddle pops up). 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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