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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Deal or No Deal? Brexit Endgame or the End of Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, October 6th 2019

Boris Johnson has finally revealed his Brexit plan with less than one month to his intended exit date from the EU.

Constantly presented as a ‘deal’ by insular British political discussion and media who have contributed so much to fueling Brexit, it is in fact nothing of the sort. It is rather an agreement between Boris Johnson, the Northern Irish DUP, the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) and what remains of the parliamentary Tory Party. Politics does not stop at the House of Commons or the English Channel despite recent appearances.

What does the supposed Johnson non-deal entail? Is it a real plan or just a diversion and preparation for a No Deal Brexit? And if so, what are the implications for Scotland, for the Scottish Tories implicated in this – and the independence question? Read the rest of this entry »

The crisis of British democracy and Parliament isn’t going away anytime soon

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 29th 2019

The British Parliament returned to work last week – reopened after the historic Supreme Court verdict.

Its undertakings were highly charged, contentious and even abusive in language and exchange. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox sneeringly stated ‘this Parliament is dead ’ with ‘has no moral right to exist’, Boris Johnson talked dismissively of a ‘paralysed’ and ‘zombie’ Parliament, while even the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg described it as ‘exhausted and broken’.

Beyond the drama and high tension, one emerging question is what is the appropriate role and purpose of the UK Parliament? How can, and should, it best exercise power – and hold government to account? What is the appropriate role of MPs? Is it to reflect on their own views and bring their expertise to any issue, or to listen and represent the views of their constituents? And how does representative democracy live alongside the popular democracy of a referendum?

Is Parliament flexing its muscles and showing that there can be a new rebalancing of power between legislature and executive? Or is what is emerging an unsustainable, uncontrollable mess where making clear decisions will increasingly prove more and more difficult? Read the rest of this entry »

The future of the Scottish Tories after Ruth Davidson

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 1st 2019

One constituency consistently admired Ruth Davidson – the media. As in her eight years of Tory leadership, the same has been true of her resignation; with numerous plaudits, magnified by how the London media misunderstand and misread Scotland.

One example was provided by BBC ‘Newsnight’s’ programme on Thursday evening when Ben Chu opened his Ruth Davidson film with the proclamation: ‘She was an election winner with a gold dust appeal to millennials’, which was completely wrong in both its assertions.

In her period as leader, Davidson shook up the Scottish Tories and had a wider impact in Scotland and the UK. But how deep seated was that impact, how sustainable, and where does it leave the Tories in terms of future challenges in the increasingly choppy waters of Brexit Britain?

Conservatives under her leadership became ‘the Ruth Davidson Party’ – a party that complained about the SNP’s concern with independence, yet continually ran campaigns saying ‘Just Say No’ and ‘No Means No’. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘obsession’ with staying in office and life after Sturgeon

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 28th 2019

In the past week Nicola Sturgeon made a couple of important statements about politics and power in Scotland. Speaking with the political comedian Matt Forde at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Sturgeon was revealing in a way she seldom is, and not perhaps in the way she intended to be.

Firstly, Sturgeon said she was ‘obsessed’ with keeping the SNP in office and not ending up in an ‘existential crisis’ like Scottish Labour. Secondly, she said that the decline of Labour in Scotland and seeing them go from being ‘seemingly impregnable’ to, at best Scotland’s third political force, and in humiliating fifth place in the recent European elections with 9% of the vote, profoundly influenced how she saw politics and acted as a leader.

Let’s take Sturgeon’s self-stated modus operandi of politics first: that she is ‘obsessed’ above all else with retaining power. This is a charge often made about her and the SNP by critics, and in particular pro-independence critics inside and outside the party. It draws from the evidence of twelve years of the SNP in office and five years of Sturgeon leadership. The latter has been defined by a lack of any clear direction or strategy beyond managing events, expectations, the party and independence supporters. 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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