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Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Party’

As Labour and Tories splinter the old political order is broken beyond repair

Scottish Review, February 20th 2019

Gerry Hassan

The Labour Party have finally split after months of rumours – with so far eight Labour MPs resigning from the party and three senior Tories joining them – and numerous stories of many more considering their position in both parties.

This may or may not amount to a seismic meltdown of Labour and of two party politics as we know it. But something is rotten and deeply wrong with British politics. This is usually portrayed as the product of Brexit but has a much longer, deeper fuse. Brexit has merely exposed a series of fissures that go back to Blair and the New Labour era of disinformation, and how Thatcherism before that ignored more than half the country.

The independent MPs have caught some of the public mood with instant polling from Survation indicating this. Asked if they were right to set up their new group, for now called the ‘Independent Group’, 56% of voters said they were and 20% disagreed; asked who better represented voters between the new group and Corbyn’s Labour, 40% said the new group and only 23% Labour. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain, Brexit and Why Winston Churchill is Alive and Kicking in this Mess

Gerry Hassan

Le Monde, January 21st 2019

Britain is not a happy place. But then neither is much of the Western world. Instead, it is angry. A country where many people feel let down, not respected or listened to by politicians, institutions and elites.

In the UK, unlike elsewhere, this discontent fed into and aided the victory of the Brexiteers in the 2016 referendum. The subsequent near three years of continual Brexit discussions between the UK and EU, and within the UK, have not produced an agreed plan for leaving – or national unity. Rather, all this has fed even more disquiet and distrust.

This state of affairs has not just emerged in the last few years, but has been building, slowly and imperceptibly for decades. It has been driven by disappointment amongst many voters at the condition of post-war Britain, anxiety about change, and a fear of the future: all of which have contributed to more and more people taking refuge in an imagined version of Britain’s past.

A pivotal figure in all this has been Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the UK between 1940-45 and 1951-55. Churchill’s political record saw him first, Conservative; then, Liberal, and finally, Conservative again. His public life spans most of 20th century Britain, from the turn of the century Boer War, to Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ in 1909, the First World War and the Gallipoli disaster. Then there was his disastrous decision as Chancellor in the 1920s to return Britain to the Gold Standard, resisting the General Strike, and the wilderness years of the 1930s opposing Indian home rule and appeasement of the Nazis. Then came redemption, as he became PM in the ‘darkest hour’ of May 1940. And after all that, there was even a final act, returning as premier in 1951. 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 »

Labour’s problem with anti-semitism matters for our democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 8th 2018

It is truly a summer of madness; think of the challenges facing the UK, Europe and the world. What has been convulsing the British Labour Party all through this trying, testing times? Namely, the issue of anti-semitism.

This hasn’t come from nowhere. Jeremy Corbyn has been leader of Labour for three years, and for this entire period this issue has been a running sore. There was Ken Livingstone and his remarks on ‘when Hitler was supporting Zionism’, there was the Shami Chakrabarti review into anti-semitism in the party, the Tower Hamlets mural and most recently, the controversy over Labour’s NEC’s adoption in part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) guidelines without four of the examples.

There followed the revelations of Pete Willsman’s comments at the NEC which adopted the IHRA guidelines, and closer to home, Fife Labour councillor Mary Lockhart complaining that all of this was whipped up by ‘a Mossad assisted campaign’ trying to stop a Corbyn government, while a Dundee councillor George McIrvine shared a Facebook post stating: ‘There are only nine countries left in the world without a central Rothschild bank … Isn’t it funny we are always at war with these countries.’ Lockhart was suspended; McIrvine investigated; and there are no Rothschild-controlled central banks anywhere. 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 »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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