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Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

Britain, Brexit and Why Winston Churchill is Alive and Kicking in this Mess

Gerry Hassan

Le Monde, January 21st 2019

Britain is not a happy place. But then neither is much of the Western world. Instead, it is angry. A country where many people feel let down, not respected or listened to by politicians, institutions and elites.

In the UK, unlike elsewhere, this discontent fed into and aided the victory of the Brexiteers in the 2016 referendum. The subsequent near three years of continual Brexit discussions between the UK and EU, and within the UK, have not produced an agreed plan for leaving – or national unity. Rather, all this has fed even more disquiet and distrust.

This state of affairs has not just emerged in the last few years, but has been building, slowly and imperceptibly for decades. It has been driven by disappointment amongst many voters at the condition of post-war Britain, anxiety about change, and a fear of the future: all of which have contributed to more and more people taking refuge in an imagined version of Britain’s past.

A pivotal figure in all this has been Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the UK between 1940-45 and 1951-55. Churchill’s political record saw him first, Conservative; then, Liberal, and finally, Conservative again. His public life spans most of 20th century Britain, from the turn of the century Boer War, to Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ in 1909, the First World War and the Gallipoli disaster. Then there was his disastrous decision as Chancellor in the 1920s to return Britain to the Gold Standard, resisting the General Strike, and the wilderness years of the 1930s opposing Indian home rule and appeasement of the Nazis. Then came redemption, as he became PM in the ‘darkest hour’ of May 1940. And after all that, there was even a final act, returning as premier in 1951. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour’s problem with anti-semitism matters for our democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 8th 2018

It is truly a summer of madness; think of the challenges facing the UK, Europe and the world. What has been convulsing the British Labour Party all through this trying, testing times? Namely, the issue of anti-semitism.

This hasn’t come from nowhere. Jeremy Corbyn has been leader of Labour for three years, and for this entire period this issue has been a running sore. There was Ken Livingstone and his remarks on ‘when Hitler was supporting Zionism’, there was the Shami Chakrabarti review into anti-semitism in the party, the Tower Hamlets mural and most recently, the controversy over Labour’s NEC’s adoption in part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) guidelines without four of the examples.

There followed the revelations of Pete Willsman’s comments at the NEC which adopted the IHRA guidelines, and closer to home, Fife Labour councillor Mary Lockhart complaining that all of this was whipped up by ‘a Mossad assisted campaign’ trying to stop a Corbyn government, while a Dundee councillor George McIrvine shared a Facebook post stating: ‘There are only nine countries left in the world without a central Rothschild bank … Isn’t it funny we are always at war with these countries.’ Lockhart was suspended; McIrvine investigated; and there are no Rothschild-controlled central banks anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

Winston Churchill: The Man, the Myth, 1940 and Who can speak for Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 16th 2018

Winston Churchill is everywhere at the moment. It is as if there are only two narratives about Britain’s past: the Second World War and dramas about people of privilege, class and money.

The Churchill industry can cover both strands, and for some his is the last uncontested great story of Britain. To others he is the last statesman who unreservedly represented the moral case for Britain; whereas for many on the left he has long been a problem figure. And all of this, while clearly about our past and the dark days of 1940, is also about the storm clouds gathering today – from Brexit to the widespread cynicism in politicians and institutions.

In the last year Churchill was portrayed in the film of the same name by Brian Cox, the peacetime Churchill featured in Netflix’s ‘The Crown’, and most recently he was played by Gary Oldman in ‘Darkest Hour’. The latter is the latest, concentrating on that watershed period in the Second World War in May 1940 where the Chamberlain Government totters and then collapses, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and the War Cabinet debates whether to continue the war effort or to seek out peace terms. Read the rest of this entry »

Politics is becoming a battle of ideas again, but the Tories look a spent force

Gerry Hassan

The Herald, October 4th 2017

The Conservative Party love to tell themselves they are one of the most successful parties electorally in the Western world. Chancellor Philip Hammond was giving Tories this reassuring message on Monday.

But this conference does not feel like that of a party in good health, spirits or much energy. Instead, despite being in government, it feels like a party lost and almost pre-preparing for opposition.

There is the leadership issue. Theresa May’s lost majority saw her stitch-up a deal with the Democratic Unionists – with them not having to power share in Northern Ireland, because they can do so with the Tories. Why does either need to bother with democracy, when they can short circuit the verdict of voters? Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit, Dunkirk and a Britain Where the Past Shapes the Future

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 26th 2017

The past is always around us in what passes for modern Britain.

In recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, it seems more omnipotent and increasingly problematic. From politics to culture and most aspects of public life we are confronted with a fantasyland version of the collective past which is selective and sepia-tinged. This matters because it reduces the prospect of us believing that we can make a better collective future than the nasty, mean-spirited reality which is for too many contemporary Britain.

This predicament comes into full view in the summer of 2017 and in Christopher Nolan’s just released film ‘Dunkirk’. This has attracted many plaudits for its grand scale, alongside its depiction of chaos and confusion. But it has also attracted comment (including critical ones) for its lack of characters, central story, and context (one of which is the absence of any Germans or overall strategy from either side).

However it did portray powerfully the gathering foreboding and claustrophobia on the Dunkirk beachhead as the Germans closed in on the trapped British and French forces. This was after all the greatest British military disaster and reverse ever in the country’s history. In military terms it rates much higher than the American Wars of Independence and Irish independence – which were geo-political defeats – or the much cited humiliations of the loses of Tobruk, Singapore and Hong Kong in 1942. This is epic history on every level: a bigger encirclement of men than even at Stalingrad, and the biggest amphibious military rescue ever undertaken by anyone. 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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