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Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

Jeremy Corbyn in Scotland: What he should say about Broken Britain

Gerry Hassan

New Statesman, August 23rd 2018

Jeremy Corbyn is in Scotland. He has problems understanding Scotland and the changing dynamics of the UK. Here is the speech he should give while here.

The backdrop to this speech is that Corbyn and his team have not been seen to understand Scotland or understand its distinct politics. The Scottish party, despite making six gains at last year’s general election (up from one seat in 2015), finished third in the polls, and no sign of recovery under Richard Leonard’s leadership looks on the cards – with the party regularly in third place in the polls behind the SNP and Tories.

Since last year’s election, the Corbyn leadership have begun to recognise that Scotland matters if they are to win a general election. Eighteen of the seats which Labour needs to win to form a majority government – and all of them need to be won from the SNP.

Scottish Labour has not gained from the Corbyn surge. It has had no major inflow of new members as in England and Wales. The people who would have joined a Corbyn led Labour in Scotland had already joined the SNP which after the indyref – expanded fivefold. Labour need to understand and reconnect with the energy and activism of left-wing independence opinion, and if it is to be listened to – develop a different politics on the constitution and future of Scotland and the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit is aiding the break-up of Britain but this crisis has deeper roots

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 20th 2018

Brexit isn’t going well. Two years after the referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU there is still no agreed plan on what kind of Brexit the UK Government wants. Theresa May’s administration staggers from day to day – too weak to dare to define what it stands for – facing regular crises, critical parliamentary votes and defeats.

Last week, after Scottish affairs was reduced to 15 minutes in the House of Commons, the SNP walked out during Prime Minister’s Questions, resulting in much media comment and headlines. But as the immediate shockwaves die down – does any of this have any longer term impact?

A short summary of events so far might be helpful. The UK Government’s Brexit plans have consequences for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the government meant to consult the three territories on what powers come back to the nations as a result of Brexit. Northern Ireland hasn’t had a devolved government since January 2017; Wales has, after much disquiet, given its agreement, but the Scottish Government and Parliament has not agreed with the latter withholding its consent from Brexit. All parties in the Parliament – SNP, Labour, Lib Dem and Scottish Green – agreed that the Tory form of Brexit is not acceptable – with only Ruth Davidson’s Tories siding with Westminster. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Ship Britannia Sinks Below the Waves: Scotland, Brexit and the Thoughts of Tim Shipman

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 13th 2018

The events of the last two days have shown how the British establishment, political classes and their supporters view the UK. There is the contempt and chaos in the Brexit process; ‘Taking Back Control’ has come down to running roughshod over parliamentary processes, Henry VIII powers, with Scotland being treated with the disdain of a mere fifteen-minute non-debate on the key Brexit bill. Similarly, crocodile tears for Northern Ireland were shown to be empty – with no debate and reference in yesterday’s session of mammoth votes for concerns about the border and the so-called ‘backstop’.

The reactions of our commentariat have been just as revealing. This is Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times and his description of devolution:

Powers were always owned by London and devolved down. They were never, and could never be, owned by Edinburgh. They’ll be devolved down again but legally they are in London’s gift. If you have a country, that’s how it works. You may not wish to be part of UK, but win a referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in the Shadow of Empire State Britain and the Problem of Cultural Dementia

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, April 19th 2018

The UK has been an uncomfortable place in the last few days. There has been the controversy over the Windrush deportations, Tory Cabinet minister Esther McVey defending the rape clause at the Scottish Parliament as ‘non-invasive’, and the resuscitation of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ 1968 speech from beyond the grave. On top of this there has been the Trump-led bombing of Syria, backed by UK and French forces, without parliamentary vote or international approval.

We have to understand the deeper context of the state we are in. The UK has not and never has been a democratic state or polity. Instead the overhang and past influence of feudalism and absolutism define much of public life, institutions and attitudes to this day. Take just one obvious example. We talk about electing the UK Parliament, but we elect one part of it (the Commons), and don’t the other (the Lords), leaving it completely unelected (and this after a hundred year long campaign to abolish or overhaul it).

From Warfare to Welfare and Back

The UK has for all of its existence been first and foremost a warfare state: one whose purpose has been historically to wage war, conquer territories, dominate the high seas and maintain its Empire. If some people think this is something deep and buried in the past, just consider that since 1945 Britain’s armed forces have been involved in military action in every single year apart from one – 1968. That year represents the gap between the retreat of Empire and Aden and the beginning of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland. Read the rest of this entry »

Enoch Powell’s Ghost and Bigotry still haunts modern Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 17th 2018

This week sees the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech which occurred on April 20th 1968, with the BBC deciding to recreate it and broadcast on ‘Archive on 4’ – read by actor Ian McDiarmid.

The speech has never been broadcast before in full, and this decision hasn’t been without controversy, both before and afterwards. It was an extraordinary experience to hear this much cited, even legendary, speech in its entirety – 45 minutes of powerful, passionate, and shockingly over the top and insensitive language – as it was delivered decades ago to Conservative Party members in the Midland Hotel, Birmingham.

Powell, then Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West and Shadow Secretary of Defence in Ted Heath’s Shadow Cabinet, made the case that immigration from the Commonwealth was irreversibly changing Britain for the worse. His language was a mixture of his classically trained mind, combined with the confidence and arrogance of Britain’s ruling class, and a populism which he felt was needed given the scale of problems the country faced. It took place only days after Martin Luther King had been assassinated; Powell had just visited the States, and become convinced that the US divisions on race provided a premonition of a horrendous British future. 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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