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Posts Tagged ‘Open Democracy’

The Rise and Fall of Ruth Davidson, Brexit and the Future of the Union

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, August 30th 2019

Ruth Davidson has been a very successful politician in one inarguable aspect. As Scottish Tory leader she was continually spoken about, commented upon and discussed in the mainstream media and, often in non-Tory circles, in a positive light.

After eight years as Tory leader in Scotland Davidson has decided that she wants to quit, for reasons both personal and political. She is 40 years old, with a new child, Finn, and plans to marry her partner Jen in the next few months. But politics matter at least as much, as despite sharing some common views in the Tory universe with Boris Johnson at least in social liberalism, the two have never hit it off. The differences between them have become a chasm in recent years over Brexit, culminating in Johnson proroguing the UK Parliament to truncate debate and prevent critical votes.

Her resignation was in the style of much of her leadership: it made UK not just Scottish media headlines and produced acres of commentary on why she has done this and the potential consequences. It has also underlined the degree to which Davidson for all her undoubted skills is a very divisive candidate, loved or loathed, and in this respect, similar to her arch adversary Nicola Sturgeon.

Thus in the immediate aftermath of her announcement the ‘Daily Mail’ were bemoaning the loss of a Scottish ‘Boadicea’, while independence supporters and anti-Tories described her as ‘the alter-ego of a super hero, she runs off at the first sign of trouble’ and someone with ‘a keen eye for the most plausibly deniable bits of Scottish middle class bigotry’. This has been the battleline for much of her leadership and in particular since the indyref campaign. 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 »

What does the US Presidential Election Mean? Twelve Thoughts on US Politics

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, November 8th 2016

This has been a fascinating election; a true rollercoaster of emotions – of hope and fear, the spectre of bigotry and violence, and the flames of intolerance, and even insurrection, raised in some right-wing circles.

Here are some thoughts and observations based on travels, conversations and attending various political events in the United States over the last few weeks.

  1. In the past fortnight I attended a Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren rally, followed by a Donald Trump event, and an eve of poll Barack Obama rally. There is a scale to such things beyond most UK politics, with sizeable events put on in an ad-hoc, last minute way as campaigns adapt to changing electoral fortunes and maps. That’s impressive, although the Trump event showed the stretch points of his ramshackle organisation. Basic things were badly done, with pre-Trump speakers coping with the PA continually cutting out and there being no overall MC for the event.
  1. Comparing the Clinton and Obama rallies – they had very different feels. There was a sense of seriousness at the Clinton one, of politics as business, whereas at the Obama gathering there was an air of celebration, even of a kind of family affair, with excitement and anticipation. Both of these were on university campuses – but whereas the Clinton event was filled with baby boomers, Obama attracted thousands of students, and this points to one of Hillary Clinton’s big electoral weaknesses – will younger people (along with non-white voters) turn out for her?

Read the rest of this entry »

Fear of a Trump Planet

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, November 4th 2016

Could Donald Trump actually pull off the biggest election shock in post-war US politics? One week ago the US Presidential election was meant to be over.

Now the weekend before the election things look very different. For the past week the Clinton campaign has hit stormy waters, aided by FBI Director James Comey, while Trump has in the last stages found a momentum and even belatedly embraced a degree of message discipline.

On Friday I went to a Trump rally in the palatial surroundings of Atkinson Country Club, New Hampshire – one of the key states if Trump is to have any chance of reaching 270 Electoral College votes and winning. One Republican source in the state said that the ‘Republicans are coming home’ and that Trump had a real chance of winning it – and with it the Presidency.

The atmosphere was very different compared to the previous week when I attended the Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren – ‘nasty women’ – rally. Trumpland is a very different place. For a start, this was a much more intimate event – one which felt more like a gathering of friends and family. It didn’t quite match the expectations and stereoptypes I had of Trump supporters. It was a much more mixed crowd than followed Clinton, with many more working class people and individuals who you could tell have experienced challenging economic times. There were more young people, and families, having a day out at the Trump rally than there were for the Democratic candidate. Read the rest of this entry »

An Empire in Decline: Hillary Clinton, Trump, ‘Nasty Women’ and Kabuki Politics

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, October 26th 2016

The US Presidential election is everywhere you turn in the States. That much is familiar and reassuring, but so much else this year – and in the longer-term -points in the exact opposite direction: a country not at ease with itself, a failing economy and imperial over-reach.

On Monday this week I went to an election campaign rally in the beautiful grounds of St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire and heard Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren speak. The latter touched the crowd’s emotions much more than Clinton with fighting talk and calling out Trump on behalf of ‘nasty women’ (which Trump had called Clinton the previous week in the last debate) saying ‘nasty women vote’ and ‘nasty women have really had it with guys like you.’

The atmosphere at this rally was warm and welcoming, but hardly ecstatic for Clinton. The biggest cheers were for Warren’s more partisan, fiery oratory, or for the points various speakers, Clinton included, made against Trump. There wasn’t any sense of electricity or expectation of far-reaching change. Not surprising, perhaps, when the crowd was overwhelmingly white, with the solitary black person, predominantly female overall, middle aged to elderly, and professional. Missing were the old faces and voices of the Democrat coalition such as trade unions and marginalised, poorer America: a fair representation of today’s Democratic Party. 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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