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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

The 2019 election and the End Games of Imperial Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 17th 2019

The 2019 UK election campaign had few memorable moments, but despite this the result will have implications for most of us for the rest of our lives.

Maybe this is what ugly history looks like. The phrase ‘British politics’ is now a misnomer. There is no real UK-wide politics, rather a distinct four nations politics, and within this all kinds of divisions and cleavages – of young and old; within the working class; in education and housing; and between and within cities, towns and rural areas.

A stark contrast is the different UK and Scottish mandates. Boris Johnson’s Tories were elected with 43.6% of the vote, 365 seats and an overall majority of 80. This is the highest Tory vote since 1979 and first overall working majority since 1987. Caveats should be made. For all the media hype of Johnson’s appeal to former Labour voters, he and his government remained throughout the campaign hugely unpopular by historic standards – with Johnson as unpopular as John Major was in the 1997 Labour landslide. Read the rest of this entry »

Daring to be Different: Scotland’s politics and culture of independence

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, December 15th 2019

Scotland after the fourth Tory election victory in a row is never a happy place.

But in 1992 it felt desolate, soul-destroying and potentially hopeless with no sign of an exit route. Whereas in 2019, and for all the horrors of facing a Tory Government elected with a sizeable working majority, it does feel very different. That is because of the existence of the Scottish Parliament, the politics of its centre-left majority, and the prospect of an escape hatch via independence.

2019 seems more substantial as a Scottish result than 2015. That was a high watermark and called ‘a tsunami’ at the time. This seems much deeper, considered and sustainable – confirmation if needed that Scotland marches to a different beat.

The SNP have now won three Westminster elections in a row. The party won 45% of the vote, its second highest vote ever at a Westminster contest. It won 48 seats – taking seven from the Conservatives, six from Labour – reducing them to the sole Iain Murray, and one from the Lib Dems in taking the scalp of Jo Swinson, while losing Fife North East.

With success comes new expectations, challenges and pressures and it is clear that the SNP official line which, over the past five years post-2014 has often seemed about management, control and not quite being sure what to do with the energies and passions of independent supporters, will have to adapt to new circumstances, shaped by winning even more emphatically. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Britain Broken? And what should we do in this election and beyond?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, December 8th 2019

The United Kingdom is not a happy place at the moment. This has been a strange, unsatisfying election campaign. People feel ignored and distrustful of politicians. But more than that, they don’t feel that they own what passes for democracy.

This has a longer tail than this election. A host of factors have contributed to the current state of Britain. There is the UK’s struggle to find a global role post-Empire. The dependency on the so called ‘special relationship’ with the US. There is the inability to embrace the European project and become a modern European state – an ambivalence which paved the way for Brexit.

There is the stark reality of life in Britain for millions of people. The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world – a land of wealth and affluence with one of the meanest and least compassionate in government with a parsimonious, punitive welfare state and paltry state pensions.

There has been the decline of the old British establishment and the rise of a new establishment even more self-serving. Adding to this is the increasingly capital-centric nature of British capitalism – dominated by London and the South East – and the City of London that crowds out the real economy, jobs and investment. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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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