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Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Party’

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 »

As Brexit Britain heads for the rocks what does Corbyn’s Labour stand for?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 14th 2018

The diminished global status of Britain and our future post-Brexit has been on display in the last few days. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripa and his daughter Yulia and the possible role of Russian authorities; the visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and the continued saga of Donald Trump’s unpredictable, erratic Presidency from trade wars to his state visit, all illustrate the challenges a diminished UK will face in the aftermath of Brexit.

Twenty-one months on from the Brexit vote we have no clear plan or detail from the UK Government. Indeed, the kind of Brexit and Britain which the UK Government represents is nothing more than a sketch and vague principles, much to the increasing consternation of the EU and the remaining 27 nation-states.

Brexit is full of contradictions, tensions and paradoxes. Can the fabled Tory Party with its reputation for statecraft really be reduced to its current incompetence and divisions? This has come after decades of Tory appeasement of Euroscepticism, culminating in David Cameron’s infamous pledge in 2013 to hold an in/out referendum: a pledge he though he would never have to deliver; then followed by his attempt to secure renegotiated terms of EU membership – with echoes of Harold Wilson in 1975; and subsequent referendum campaign and Brexit triumph. 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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