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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

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 »

Standing Up to Child Sex Abuse: The Story of David Steel and Cyril Smith

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 27th 2019

The mantra of the current age is that we take child sex abuse seriously. We listen to victims, we respect them, and we act on allegations, knowing how difficult and painful it is for people to come forward.

This is a comforting account on an important and sensitive issue. But in the light of recent events we have to ask whether we really take child sex abuse that seriously? Have we really changed that much as a society from that of the past? Are we still looking for excuses to not confront abuse and abusers? And do we really listen to, and respect, victims and their testimony?

Two examples in the last couple of weeks suggest we have not changed as much as we claim – here in the UK and across the West. Both throw unedifying light on our attitudes and that of many prominent people in public life. Firstly is the case of how former Liberal leader David Steel dealt with historic allegations of child sex abuse made against then Liberal MP Cyril Smith. And then there are the continued allegations against pop star and mega celebrity, Michael Jackson, in light of the documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’.

Two weeks ago at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, headed up by Professor Alexis Jay, Steel was called to give evidence about Cyril Smith. A short reminder of the backstory is that Smith was Liberal MP from Rochdale from 1972-92, first winning the seat in a high profile by-election from Labour. He was a larger than life character, having been Liberal, then Labour, then Liberal again, and a local councillor and Mayor of the town. Read the rest of this entry »

The ‘F’ word rears its head again: Federalism and Labour

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 13th 2019

One political principle unites not just the Labour Party from Jeremy Corbyn to Tom Watson but also the Conservative Party – from Theresa May to the most ultra-Brexiteers in the Jacob Rees-Mogg faction.

That principle is a belief in parliamentary sovereignty: which for all its elevated sound actually means the right of governments to do what they like and not be bound by things like the rule of law, human rights or what previous administrations have done. It is of course a shibboleth, a fantasy and delusion, because in the real world, governments are actually constrained by all of these factors and cannot live in a world of absolutism.

The mirage of this particular fetishism was one of the driving forces in Brexit and the allure of ‘taking back control’. But it can also be seen in part of the Scottish independence debate with some talking about a version of undiluted sovereignty rather similar to Westminster, and equally impracticable. Indeed, these sorts of debates and the clinging to certainty they entail has risen as the world has in political and economic power become more about shared, fluid sovereignties. 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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