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Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

What part of Britain is not for sale?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 3rd 2016

This week the future of the steel industry moved centrestage, Scottish parties have finally started talking tax, and the Tories version of what they call a ‘national living wage’ came into force.

British steel used to lead the world. In 1875 it accounted for 40% of world production.  The industry employed 320,000 people in 1971, which has fallen to 24,000 now. It produced 24 million tonnes in 1967, down to 12 million tonnes today.

Tata Steel – an Indian company based in Mumbai who bought Corus in 2007, an amalgamation of British Steel and a Dutch firm – employ 15,000 of the current 24,000 jobs in the UK industry.

The world has a huge steel surplus – the product of Chinese industrialisation, low costs and state subsidies. The US Government has put up protective trade barriers to protect domestic steel from Chinese competition. But the EU, egged on by the UK, has argued against any such action.

This is about many things – high quality, high skilled jobs; good apprenticeships; the future of manufacturing; whether the UK has any kind of industrial policy and what role, if any, government has beyond rhetoric and retraining. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tory Fantasyland Version of Britain hits the buffers

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, March 20th 2016

George Osborne presented his eighth and potentially last Budget. Bad politics. Dodgy decisions and finances. All leading to Iain Duncan Smith’s sensational resignation sparking bitter Tory divisions.

Osborne is a very political chancellor, convinced of his own sure touch which his record doesn’t bear out. A mere 111 days before his budget he presented a glowing Autumn Statement which he has had to tear up and correct downward; by the sum total of £56 billion.

Even worse, he is missing the targets which he set himself – on debt and the welfare cap, and only meeting the third, on a fiscal surplus, by the end of this Parliament by a sleight of hand moving monies forward one year.

This was a more highly political budget than usual: with Osborne focused on the Euro referendum and coming Tory leadership contest when Cameron stands down. Already he had to drop ambitions for pension reform due to Tory nerves, and opposition to disability cuts began to make another U-turn likely – and led to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith. Read the rest of this entry »

Fear, Loathing and the Problem of ‘Sovereignty’ in the EU Referendum

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 2nd 2016

After years of second guesses and a rising tide of Europhobia and scare stories, finally the UK faces the certainty of a vote on June 23rd on whether or not it remains a member of the European Union. This will be a debate about so much – about how people see Britain and its future, the English question, and the distinctiveness and autonomy of Scotland – all illustrating the absence of any uniform national British politics.

The referendum will be dominated by concerns about the economy, immigration, security, and the UK’s role and influence in the world. It will also be about competing understandings of ‘sovereignty’ – with several different Tory perspectives, along with Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, Scottish Nationalist and Green views. There will be similarities in language and tone to the indyref. Some of the same clichés will be invoked to breaking point, ‘Project Fear’ has been dusted down, and the trading and counter-trading of alleged pseudo-facts begun.

Most people most of the time do not go round thinking of how ‘sovereignty’ impacts on themselves and their family. Instead, it is an abstract, something remote and ill-defined, and a concept open to many different interpretations –whose practical application is unclear. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain’s Elites can no longer control our politics:

The European Vote will change Britain and Scotland Forever

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, February 26th 2016

The European referendum is a milestone for Scotland and the UK.

It is impossible to understate the historic times we are witnessing – a British establishment and political elite no longer in command of politics and affairs of the state in a way they are used to. The Economist this week, well known for its advocacy of economic liberalism and the maintenance of the union of the UK, acknowledged that this vote was ‘not only the most crucial event in this Parliament but the most important in Europe in years’ (February 27th 2016).

What such mainstream accounts don’t say is that the nature of the UK, its component parts, how it does politics, and limited, truncated form of democracy, is being radically altered, and will be further changed by the Euro vote, in ways far reaching and in many respects unintended. Below are an exploration of some of the many ways this will happen at a British and Scottish level over the course of the campaign, the possible result and aftermath.

FOUR NATION POLITICS:

1. The end of British politics will be confirmed. The 2015 UK election was the least British on record. The EU referendum will show four very different versions of politics across the four nations of the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

The European debate begins but what about a debate about Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, February 21st 2016

After months of rumours the official countdown to the European referendum on June 23rd begins.

This is David Cameron’s triumph, the high point of his Premiership, and the beginning of the end for him. Whatever the merits of his ‘deal’, power now and particularly after the vote, irrespective of the result, flows away from him.

It is a huge moment for Britain. Its ‘special status’ in Europe has been formally recognised – making explicit something obvious from the moment the UK joined the Common Market in 1973.

The rhetoric of In and Out will be over the top. Despite this the choices will not be clear-cut. The difference between the UK remaining and leaving is much less than both sides claim.

If the UK votes to stay it will remain a semi-detached part of the EU – defined by its opt-outs from the Euro and the Schengen ‘open borders’ agreement. If the UK decides to leave it would still have an intimate relationship with the EU – with the main change Outers argue being the UK foregoing its formal voice in EU institutions: the Council of Ministers, Commission and Parliament. 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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