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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Salmond, Sturgeon and the End of an Era for the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 16th 2019

Britain stands at an abyss. Three years of endless Brexit deliberations have resulted in the UK facing crisis, doubt and anxiety about what the future holds. Politics has become a high wire act of competing intransigencies and denials of reality – with the only certainty that there is no easy way out of this mess or simple resolution.

This is a crisis of mainstream politics, democracy and Britain’s political parties. The Tories continue their thirty-year civil war on Europe, while Corbyn’s Labour continue to uphold constructive ambiguity informed by their leader’s long held Euroscepticism. The Lib Dems struggle for any relevance after the Cameron coalition.

If that were not enough, this present impasse has shown the limitations of British democracy, with Brexit debates reduced to Westminster parlour games shaped by the most obsessional opinions. This isn’t some arcane and elite concern, for underlying this is something even more serious: a deep seated malaise about what the idea of Britain is, and the grip of a reactionary, insular, backward looking English nationalism on the Tory Party, which has the potential not only to destroy the Tories but take all of us over the cliff into the abyss.

This is to put it mildly a historic moment for the UK – but as Fintan O’Toole has suggested one where there is a sense of anticlimax as much of the script has been written by a fantasy version of history. Brexit, he writes, is ‘full, not just of nostalgia, but of pseudo-history. It is an old curiosity shop of fake antiques.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Brexit Disaster is an Existential Crisis in the ‘Idea’ of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 5th 2018

Last week I attended an event at Dundee University on the ideas and impact of the Scottish thinker Tom Nairn. Many of his books were discussed, including his critique of the monarchy, and the insularity of the British left, but his most important work – ‘The Break-Up of Britain’ – published 41 years ago, seems more relevant than ever as we live through Brexit.

‘The Break-Up of Britain’ explores the archaic, ossified relic that is the British state; undemocratic, anti-modern and that sees itself as ‘the mother of Parliaments’. It is also a book in which the state of England is central to this mindset – its gathering unease at events in Europe and the European project, and in which a reactionary English nationalism is emerging, initially around Enoch Powell (who was obsessed with ‘sovereignty’), but then taken up by Thatcher, and now by Brexiteers.

Brexit has caused many surprises, but it should not have come as a surprise. The UK Government has shown a scale of incompetence unprecedented in recent times. Leavers have had a cavalier disregard with coming up with a feasible plan for leaving, while the Labour Party has been too often posted missing in action without a Brexit policy worthy of the name. And to cap it all, Theresa May and her Tory Government have managed to lose three Brexit parliamentary votes in a single day – including for the first time having a UK Government held in contempt of Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

This should be the time for Corbyn’s Labour but so far it isn’t

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 28th 2018

This should be the moment for Corbyn’s Labour. They face a divided, incompetent Tory Government. A party that has lost nine Cabinet ministers in the last year, which has no domestic agenda to speak of, and is not even bothering with the pretence of a Queen’s Speech.

The Government has no direction or purpose, no credo beyond continuing limpet-like in existence, clinging onto office and pursuing the project of Brexit. And yet at this moment of decision, when Labour should be harrying this government and holding them to account on Brexit and more, despite everything it is the Tories who consistently lead Labour in the opinion polls, rather than the other way round.

As profoundly, the intellectual climate has turned against mainstream Conservatism, as well as moderate social democracy, opening up the terrain for Corbyn’s Labour.

The zeitgeist of the age has finally turned against the assumptions that have dominated British politics for so long. The assertions that markets should be left unfettered, that deregulation is a good thing, that government and the state should just get out of the way of private initiative and believe in the super-rich, that making things doesn’t matter, and that ownership is ultimately just an irrelevance, have all been shown to be bogus. Read the rest of this entry »

British politics, Misogyny and the Prejudice which festers in the Tories

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 24th 2018

The political world has been seen as an abrasive, macho and male club for centuries. Across the West this has meant to have changed in the last couple of decades with record levels of women’s representation and women leaders across the world.

Yet, despite this, the male exclusivity tag still hangs over much politics. Neither the Labour Party or Liberal Democrats (or their predecessors the Liberals) have ever had a woman leader. The Tories may have given the UK two leaders and two Prime Ministers, but until recently they had a terrible record in women Tory MPs. And the total number of women elected in the last century has only just exceeded the number of men in this House of Commons.

In the year when we marked one hundred years since women first won the vote in the UK, although it took another decade for gender equality (and then another twenty years until 1948 until the UK abolished plural voting), it is a bit of a reality check for some optimists when a number of Tory MPs talk in a disgusting and unacceptable way about their leader and PM Theresa May. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain and Scotland have changed: The Tory Story of Britain is Dead

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, October 3rd 2018

The British Conservative Party is one of the most successful electoral parties in the developed capitalist world. They might not look like it at the moment but this is a force which has adapted to numerous challenges and changes: the coming of the mass franchise and rise of the working class, emergence of Labour, the post-war settlement, and demise of Empire and the UK’s diminished global standing and influence.

The Tories are the party of privilege and entitlement; of a ruling class which has presided over a version of Britain which has been historically run for the few, not the many, but which has invited the vast majority of us into their political and social construction of prosperity, affluence and social mobility.

Having said that the Tory Party has always been more than the hard-nosed, selfish, greedy capitalists of leftist legend. Indeed, it can be said that the left-wing caricature of Toryism and Tories (‘Tory scum’ etc) has not only held back a more successful left politics, but it has aided Tories who have on occasion been able to defy these stereotypes: for example, in Macmillan’s promise to build 300,000 houses a year and by Thatcher’s council house sales appealing to working class voters. 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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