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Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’

A Rare Moment of Wisdom at the Heart of British Democracy

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, August 31st 2013

Parliamentary debates about military intervention are often rightly solemn occasions. They carry the weight of history and memories of past triumphs and disasters.

The Syria debate this week had initially been downplayed by the Cameron government as it faced the realities of parliamentary arithmetic and the possibility of defeat. But this was historic, evoking past even more momentous debates, and opening a chapter in British foreign policy which could see military intervention in Syria without the UK.

The entire parliamentary debate on Syria was coloured with the shadow of Tony Blair and Iraq hanging over it. At times in the last week it seemed like Groundhog Day Britain replaying the tensions, controversies and even the same terminology as March 2003 over Iraq.

There was the veracity and claims of intelligence, the issue of legal advice from the Attorney General, the role of the United Nations, and parliamentary approval (or non-approval as it turned out). There was even the intervention of Tony Blair, making the case for war and democracy (the last of which extended to support for the Egyptian military coup). Read the rest of this entry »

British social democracy is dying a slow death

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, June 8th 2013


Ed Miliband and Labour have been busy this week making policy announcements, marking out political terrain, and in the eyes of opponents, making unprincipled U-turns.

Labour has announced it will not reverse the end of winter fuel payments for wealthy pensioners and child benefit for top rate taxpayers, as well as imposing an overall ‘cap’ on welfare spending for the first three years of a future Labour Government.

There are short-term factors at work. Labour are increasingly keen to reposition itself and challenge the widespread perception that it is ‘soft’ on welfare. The party also has anxieties about the narrowness of its overall lead over the Tories, and its inability to close the economic credibility gap with the Conservatives, for all the problems of the coalition. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Ed Miliband’s Labour Challenge the Westminster Consensus?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, April 27th 2013

Ed Miliband does not have to seek out his troubles and much of it seems to come from his own side rather than from opponents.

This week Len McCluskey, head of Unite laid into Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander claiming that if Miliband listened to them, ‘he’ll be defeated’ and ‘cast into the dustbin of history’. Worse, George Galloway endorsed Miliband for PM, just the sort of thing to scare off marginal voters.

Labour’s poll ratings are on average 9% ahead of the Tories producing a predicted Commons majority of 96 seats, but most people think it should be further ahead at the moment.

The electoral system may aid Labour and hinder the Tories, but underneath the headline figures there is a lack of conviction in Labour. 66% of voters think Miliband isn’t ready to be PM with only 24% feeling that he is ready. Only 12% of the public thinks Labour are the most capable party to take tough decisions, while 48% think this of the Conservatives. Read the rest of this entry »

How Ed Miliband’s Labour could change the Face of British Politics

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, September 1st 2012

The state of the Labour Party matters in British politics, with consequences for who will win the next UK election, the dynamic of Scottish politics, and the future of the UK.

Ed Miliband has been leader of the Labour Party for coming up for two years next month and for many the jury is still out: ‘Red Ed’ to some, Wallace and Gromit to others. Yet Labour has recovered significantly from its 2010 election defeat when it achieved its second lowest post-war vote, with poll ratings and membership up, yet questions still remain about the prospects for Labour.

This matters in terms of the nature of British politics, of how the Cameron-led government is opposed, where disaffected Lib Dem voters go, and the wider contours of political debate; and north of the border it will influence how people approach the 2014 independence referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

Debating the Future of Labour: A Conversation with Polly Toynbee

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, August 28th 2012

The Edinburgh of Scotland’s late summer is awash not just with rainstorms but a plethora of festivals and happenings: the International Festival, the Fringe, the Book Festival, Television Festival, and even a Festival of Politics in the Scottish Parliament.

If all this sounds like an expression of the Scots ‘democratic intellect’ or a modern day ‘Enlightenment’ city, while conversations, deliberations and cultural happenings cover a multitude of concerns, there is usually an absence of connection to the host city and anything seriously Scottish.

This year the Book Festival has tried to overcome some of this with a range of packed political discussions – international, British and Scottish; Gordon Brown on social justice; considerations on Scottish independence; and a wide ranging, provocative international writers’ conference. One such discussion before a sold out Saturday audience was myself and The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee examining what future there was for British Labour.

This was a genuine conversation and exchange which established real common ground and difference; it was an occasion where Polly Toynbee, an important figure on the British centre-left and in senior Labour circles both engaged with different views, while surprising myself with some of the views she articulated. 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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