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Posts Tagged ‘England’

Was 1966 the last great British sporting moment? Andy Murray apart?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 12th 2016

‘They think it’s all over. It is now.’ These are some of the most famous words ever in the history of British sporting commentary.

The fiftieth anniversary of 1966 is upon us. When England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley and became football World Cup champions. It is a long time ago, but as the European Championships kick off, with everyone taking part from the UK bar Scotland, the memories and myths of that triumph still linger.

1966 is obviously for English fans a time to savour and celebrate. It has always been much more complex for Scottish fans, and seen as a cross that has to be borne for many. One retort over the years used to be: ‘they never stop going on about it’, but that has become less true with the passing of the years.

Go back to the summer of 1966. In many respects it was then a very British triumph. The mascot of the games was British, not English. The union flag flew at games, not the St. George’s Cross. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strange Death of Tory England

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, August 11th 2012

The Tory Party was once the party of Britain and a British-wide party. They were the main force of emotional, instinctual, and lest we forget, intelligent unionism, which contributed much of the glue and credos which gave the UK its sense of shared values for so long.

No longer can we say this about the Tories. They are a British-wide party no more , bringing far-reaching consequences for British politics and democracy and with it the future of the union.

People have seen that the Tories have stopped being a British party and became increasingly an English party. This account rose to prominence in the 1980s with Thatcher’s English nationalism.

In 1979 the Tories won 339 parliamentary seats and an overall majority of 43 seats whereas in 2010 they managed 307 seats and were 19 seats short of an overall majority. Over the same period in England their parliamentary support remained constant: 306 seats in 1979 and 298 in 2010. In Wales they won eleven and eight seats respectively, with the big difference being Scotland’s 22 Tory seats in 1979 and solitary Tory in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

The Saga of ‘Team GB’ and the Country that doesn’t know its own Name

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, April 21st 2012

This week the clock counting down to the London Olympics passed the 100 days to go mark, while the Olympic authorities announced their rigorous social media and Twitter guidelines like a rerun of some Beijing 2008 police operation.

The story of ‘Team GB’ the Olympic football project continues to offer more entertainment, bewilderment and anxiety with a ‘shortlist’ just announced of 80 players. Steven Fletcher, along with David Beckham is apparently included. Next week the draw takes place for the football competition with still a huge number of unsold tickets.

It is ‘Team GB’ that participates in the games, not ‘Team UK’.  The reason for this is shrouded in history. Great Britain was one of only fourteen national teams which competed in the first modern games of 1896 and then in 1908 the name Great Britain and the abbreviation GBR were registered by the Olympic authorities.

This is the conventional story put forward. That a UK which has undergone two World Wars, the loss of Empire and its changing role in the world, couldn’t bring itself to change the 1908 Olympic registration. If so, it says quite a bit about the nature of the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Which England Will Dare to Speak in Britain and Europe?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 19th 2011

The European crisis has already told us many things; that the eurozone in its current form is not sustainable; that German leadership of the continent is going to become more pronounced; and that Greece, Italy and maybe one or two others are going to have decades of European-inflicted austerity.

Another factor is Britain’s continued role as the awkward, distant partner in Europe; a country which sees the European project as something it was hoodwinked into by its political classes and establishment. And not allowed a European vote for nearly forty years.

What we don’t explore beyond glib definitions is what kind of Britain and British identity are we articulating? Is it, as some claim, still the ‘mother of Parliaments’, the time-honoured defender of liberty, free speech and minorities? Or is it a City dominated deregulation utopia, a bastion of Anglo-Saxon hunter-gatherer capitalism only held back by the Euro-sclerosis of Brussels bureaucrats?

Recently the opinion pollster YouGov has undertaken a UK survey on peoples’ different national identities and perceptions on Britain and the European Union. They found a direct relationship between national identity and Euroscepticism. If you choose an  ‘English’ identity as 63% of respondents do you are more likely to have a Euro-sceptic opinion, whereas if you identify as ‘British’ (19%), ‘Scottish’ (8%) or ‘Welsh’ (5%) you are more likely to be pro-European. Read the rest of this entry »

The State of the Union Debate

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 5th 2011

BBC Newsnight addressed the difficult issue of the state of the union. Up for discussion was how we all get on with each other, Scottish nationalism, the English dimension, the four nations, the meaning of the union, and issue of Europe (1).

The BBC had conducted a poll of English respondents with Com Res (2) which found that 36% thought Scotland should be independent with 48% disagreeing.

There was a general feeling of ambiguity about the consequences of this. 19% thought England would be better off as a result of Scots independence, 21% worse off, with 51% saying it would make no difference. And 45% thought there should be a UK wide vote before Scotland became independence, 47% disagreeing. There was no attempt to weight the importance English people feel about such issues, or to gauge their opinions on England.

There then followed two short films, one by Allan Little on Scotland, one by Fergus Keane on England, with studio discussions after each with a panel and audience. Little’s film talked of the Scotland of fifty years ago when ‘the British state was a concrete reality’, owning mines, shipyards, other industries and most homes. There was a collective British story, and in particular a British working class story, which saw work, industry and trade unionism reinforce Britishness. 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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