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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Independence’

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, November 17th 2019

This week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s trip to Scotland made the headlines – and not for positive reasons. Corbyn’s position in less than 24 hours changed more than once on independence.

First, he shifted from his previous position of not having an independence referendum in the ‘early years’ of a Labour Government, indicating that a vote would not take place in ‘the first term’ of an administration. Then when this was seen as the significant shift it was, he rowed back and returned to the first position, stating that a vote would not happen in the ‘early years.’ But he was not finished there and later commented that he would not allow a vote ‘in the first two years’ of Labour in office.

All of this left people confused and questioning the intentions behind the above. This on a day when Boris Johnson’s reputation sank further as he faced the fury of people affected by the Yorkshire floods, which could have led the news bulletins uncontested.

It is not as if we haven’t been here before. Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have long flagged up their open-mindedness on a future indyref. McDonnell in August said that Labour would not ‘block’ another vote, while Corbyn has previously said he was ‘absolutely fine’ with a future referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

Conventional wisdom is no guide to the future in an age of turmoil and surprise

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 13th 2019

UK general elections are never about one single subject even when politicians try to define them as such. Ted Heath’s ‘Who governs Britain?’ election of February 1974 became about the state of the country, and Winston Churchill’s belief after the war in Europe ended in 1945 that he would be elected by a grateful electorate turned out to be illusive as voters instead looked to the future.

Similarly this election will not be about just one issue – Brexit. In Scotland there are three big competing issues; and of course much more besides. There is Brexit, who speaks for anti-Tory Scotland, and the independence question.

No one party speaks for majority Scotland across all three. The SNP are the leading party in the first two – positioning themselves as the biggest force in significant sized majorities. But they do not, as of yet, speak for a majority of Scotland on the third issue – independence – which matters most to them.

It is increasingly evident that the ghosts of past elections and limits of what passes for conventional wisdom run through how this election is seen. Thus, 2019 is continually interpreted through the experience of 2017 and the memory of the Corbyn surge – both by Labour Corbyn supporters and many media watchers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last UK General Election Ever? Or the Last Bar One?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, October 27th 2019

Boris Johnson on Monday makes what is his third attempt to get the votes to call a UK general election – needing 434 votes to win a two-thirds majority under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

This piece was written before the moves by the Lib Dems and SNP to bring about an election on December 9th via a simple, single line bill. This may have more chance of succeeding later this week. But whether it does or does not it doesn’t invalidate the arguments below about an election in the last months of 2019 versus early 2020.

Today we are 1,222 days after the 2016 Brexit vote. It has been a long, gruesome ordeal – longer than the totemic, heroic and bloody 872 day siege of Leningrad. But unlike that moment in history there is no end in sight to Brexit any day soon. Even if the Boris Johnson Brexit Bill or another deal made it through the Commons there are years more of deliberations, possibly lasting over a decade, still to endure.

Boris Johnson governs, if that is the right word, without a parliamentary majority. But he created this situation – despite his many complaints about it. He started with a notional majority of three; it is now minus 45. He leads an administration which took away the whip from 21 Tory MPs. Despite this in the past week, his government saw its Brexit Bill get a second reading with a majority of 30 and its forgotten Queen’s Speech with a majority of 16. Read the rest of this entry »

Does Boris Johnson’s ‘deal’ pose the end of the Union?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, October 20th 2019

It has been another tumultuous Brexit week. But this is not the end of Brexit, or even the beginning of the end, but just another staging post in this drawn-out process.

Fundamental to the Johnson deal is what is proposed for Northern Ireland. In place of the so called ‘backstop’ the province is instead put in a special place in relation to the rest of the UK and EU.

It remains legally in the UK customs territory, while practically remaining in the EU customs union. There are no border checks proposed on the UK-Irish border, but instead new checks between the province and the mainland.

The deal puts forward the ‘consent’ principle whereby the Stormont Assembly – currently suspended – can vote by simple majority every four years to continue these arrangements; if there is cross-community consent this can be extended to eight years. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland needs fundamental change. A nationalist project is not enough

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 16th 2019

Five years after the indyref and three years after the Brexit vote Scottish politics feels like it is in a holding pattern, full of pent up pressures, but stuck in a vortex of powerful forces beyond its control.

The SNP, who just met at their annual conference in Aberdeen, are by far the leading party. Yet their dominance can be overstated, it being aided by the fragmentation of multi-party politics, divided opposition and the negatives of Labour and Tories. The most recent Panelbase poll put the SNP on Westminster voting intentions on 39%, up 2.1% on 2017, with the Tories on 21% (-7.6%), Labour 20% (-7.1%) and Lib Dems 13% (+6.2%); on a national swing this would give the SNP 48 seats (+13), Tories 5 (-8), Lib Dems 5 (+1) and Labour one (-6).

Steve Richards’ recent book ‘The Prime Ministers: Reflections on Leadership from Wilson to May’ cites Tony Benn’s idea of politicians who change the political weather as ‘teachers’. Sad to say none of the current politicians in this land would qualify as such leaders. Who were the last teachers in our politics? Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown to an extent; Tommy Sheridan on the margins; maybe Jim Sillars and Margo MacDonald would qualify too. For a nation that prides itself on its idealism we have been short of politicians who have successfully transformed attitudes. 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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