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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Independence’

Is Britain Broken? And what should we do in this election and beyond?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, December 8th 2019

The United Kingdom is not a happy place at the moment. This has been a strange, unsatisfying election campaign. People feel ignored and distrustful of politicians. But more than that, they don’t feel that they own what passes for democracy.

This has a longer tail than this election. A host of factors have contributed to the current state of Britain. There is the UK’s struggle to find a global role post-Empire. The dependency on the so called ‘special relationship’ with the US. There is the inability to embrace the European project and become a modern European state – an ambivalence which paved the way for Brexit.

There is the stark reality of life in Britain for millions of people. The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world – a land of wealth and affluence with one of the meanest and least compassionate in government with a parsimonious, punitive welfare state and paltry state pensions.

There has been the decline of the old British establishment and the rise of a new establishment even more self-serving. Adding to this is the increasingly capital-centric nature of British capitalism – dominated by London and the South East – and the City of London that crowds out the real economy, jobs and investment. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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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