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Posts Tagged ‘England’

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 »

Rising Now and Being Four Nations Again!

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment is Free, June 24th 2011

The Olympics are coming to London and apparently it has been decreed by the high-heiduns of the British Olympic Association (BOA) that there will be a ‘Team GB’ taking to the football field. They insist this has absolutely nothing to do with their 1.7 million unsold tickets which went on sale this morning, mostly for football, or the losses they think they can cover with ‘Team GB’ replica strips.

The Olympics aren’t really about football, so you could say does any of this really matter? Sport at the Olympics is about athletes at the peak of their talents competing against the best in the world. Except in football! I mean David Beckham, and the odd Scot and Welshman don’t really set the heather afire.

This could lead to people thinking that the ‘Team GB’ venture doesn’t matter that much one way or the other. But it does, for it is about much more than football. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Only a Game: ‘Team GB’, Football and the Nature of the UK

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, June 22nd 2011

The story of the ‘Team GB’ football project entering next year’s Olympics has been rumbling on for a few years. Some people will think this is a sideshow and only about the game of football, but instead it goes to the heart of what the UK, who runs it, and how it is seen internationally.

‘Team GB’s’ role in the 2012 London Olympics was lauded by the British Olympic Association’s (BOA) claim of ‘a historic agreement’ with the other football authorities. This was quickly denounced in a joint statement by the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish football authorities who said they had ‘collective opposition to Team GB participation at the 2012 Olympic Games’.

What is going on can be judged at a footballing level, and at a much wider and significant level. The BOC’s declaration of a ‘historic agreement’ was nothing of the kind. Instead, it was a blatant, transparent attempt to try to appeal to Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish players above the heads of their national associations. In this it was nothing short of dishonest, calculating and counter-productive. Read the rest of this entry »

How We Help Our Friends in the South

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, May 28th 2011

Scotland may have changed and by so doing shifted the UK. And all of this has consequences for the English and England.

Listening to the voices of some of England’s so called liberal commentators post-election has been illuminating. David Mitchell said that ‘If Scotland ever goes it alone … the British will have lost their country’. Madeleine Bunting stated that ‘If Scotland goes, all we’ll have left is the Englishness we so despise.’

There is amongst some a tangible anger about Scotland. Tim Lott, another ‘liberal’ voice, railed against the Scots. And even nearly twenty years after ‘Trainspotting’ missed the rather obvious fact that the ‘we were colonised by wankers’ soliquoy was a satire of such views. Our ‘passionate nationalism’ is according to Lott, ‘fed on the national myth of historical exploitation – built on the reality of North Sea oil appropriation, the Highland Clearances, the evils of empire and so on’.

Quentin Letts trundled out his entertaining pantomime villain impersonation. He bellowed ‘Good Riddance’ to us Scots, and then made clear his annoyance at us. ‘We English’, he wrote, ‘have grown tired of being hated, of being blamed for everything, of being forever the indulgent paymaster and scorned cousin’. Read the rest of this entry »

A Different Future: A Reply to Nick Pearce on Scotland, England and Britain

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, February 14th 2011

The nature of the United Kingdom, the territorial dimensions of its politics, and the national questions of these isles are going to come to the fore of British politics in the next few years.

Tony Blair post-Cool Britannia and his anxieties about multi-culturalism, Gordon Brown and Britishness, and now David Cameron mowing both lawns at the same time in Munich, all indicate the sense of uneasy and nervousness in the political class since Labour’s constitutional reforms and 9/11(1). At the same time John Denham, Jon Cruddas, Frank Field and David Miliband are among the Labour MPs who have begun to talk about one of the major no-go areas of British left politics: the English question (2).

It is welcome then that Nick Pearce of IPPR, one of the most interesting and thoughtful voices on the British centre-left, came north of the border to examine the different political dispensation (3). It also should be acknowledged that alone among the Westminster obsessed think tank world, IPPR has attempted to address the politics of devolution and the territorial dimensions of the UK (4).

Pearce’s northern travels see him find a world where voters are coming home to Labour in droves: a land where Labour is connecting to popular concerns and offers Ed Miliband’s Labour a glimpse of a progressive future. There is the potential of a Lib-Lab politics in Scotland which he thinks could offer signposts to a more pluralist left across Britain. Read the rest of this entry »