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Posts Tagged ‘English politics’

Rise Now and Be a Nation Again: Can a genuine English democratic politics emerge?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, January 26th 2020

England has always mattered to Scotland, and indeed to Wales and Northern Ireland. It has 84% of the UK’s population and 533 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons – which means that as of now how England votes gives the rest of the UK the government England wants, irrespective of how the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish vote.

Yet of late, England as a substitute for the UK has become increasingly evident. This is not just true on the right, but in left and liberal circles, underlying how widespread is this mindset.

In the past month, there have been numerous cases. One example was Andy Beckett writing twice in ‘The Guardian’, one pre and one post-Christmas, supposedly about the state of UK politics, but in both all his references were English and all his analysis was about the state of English politics.

In the last week, the ITV current affairs show ‘Peston’ had a discussion about the qualities Labour members wanted from their next leader, and as a graphic of ‘British patriotism’ the English flag was used, with no one in the studio commenting or offering an explanation. Read the rest of this entry »

The next Battle of Britain is going to about England’s future

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 6th 2019

Brexit certainly seems increasingly to be about England – or a certain version of England and a rather specific version of the past.

Take last week for example. The previous Tuesday was another landmark day for Brexit. There were numerous big parliamentary votes and the House of Commons made clear again that it was unhappy with Theresa May’s deal with the EU.

BBC News knew this was a big moment and the next day ended their flagship ‘Six O’Clock News’ announcing: ‘Theresa May says she intends to go back to Brussels to renegotiate her Brexit deal but EU leaders say the deal is done and they will not reopen talks.’

Dramatic stuff. But what footage did the BBC have as a backdrop to showcase a British Conservative Prime Minister with their back to the wall standing up to Europe? They inexplicably choose footage of World War Two Spitfires and the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. The reason for this, the Beeb later revealed, was ‘a production mistake’ of loading a previously shown film again. That seemed a little disingenuous to say the least! Read the rest of this entry »

The Rise of an English Ideology and the Joys of Reading ‘The Spectator’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 8th 2016

I have long been an admirer of ‘The Spectator’. Well, why would I restrict myself to reading only that which confirms my world-view? It is good to be challenged, provoked – as well as entertained – plus the magazine gives an insight into another world (that of right-wing England) – which is influential and plays a role shaping ideas around the Tory Government.

In the last few months I have been reading ‘Spectator’ back issues for a forthcoming book and, having become more absorbed in, and familiar with, its terrain, I realise it represents something much more that I ever thought. Not only is it a key part of the right-wing alliance – which includes the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and Taxpayer’s Alliance which believes in low taxes, a minimal state and greater choice – it is also putting forward a view of Britain which can be called the English ideology.

The components part of this are first, an advocacy of ‘the Great British economic miracle’. In the view of editor Fraser Nelson this is primarily about job, jobs, jobs, and even though he didn’t approve of George Osborne and his deficit reduction and austerity, he was upbeat about the underlying nature of the economy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking any criticism of Osborne was because Fraser is a bleedin’ heart liberal; it was because the then Chancellor wasn’t hard enough on cuts and austerity. Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Britain and Why It Can’t Be Tidily Put Back Together

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 14th 2016

Britain throughout its history has had a reputation for stability and security.

This after all was one of the main clarion calls in the indyref and, more recently, the Brexit vote, but this has always been a bit of a myth and is now increasingly fictitious.

In the European referendum and its aftermath, much of the discussion that occurred repeatedly – supposedly about the country, its challenges and future – wasn’t actually about the UK, but instead about England.

This has become the way the country is presented by its elites. One glaring example of this was the previous week’s BBC post-vote analysis, ‘Brexit: The Battle for Britain’ which had lots to commend it. Politicians were candid, telling stories about decisions – and about each other. 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 »

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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