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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Review’

The Brexit Disaster is an Existential Crisis in the ‘Idea’ of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 5th 2018

Last week I attended an event at Dundee University on the ideas and impact of the Scottish thinker Tom Nairn. Many of his books were discussed, including his critique of the monarchy, and the insularity of the British left, but his most important work – ‘The Break-Up of Britain’ – published 41 years ago, seems more relevant than ever as we live through Brexit.

‘The Break-Up of Britain’ explores the archaic, ossified relic that is the British state; undemocratic, anti-modern and that sees itself as ‘the mother of Parliaments’. It is also a book in which the state of England is central to this mindset – its gathering unease at events in Europe and the European project, and in which a reactionary English nationalism is emerging, initially around Enoch Powell (who was obsessed with ‘sovereignty’), but then taken up by Thatcher, and now by Brexiteers.

Brexit has caused many surprises, but it should not have come as a surprise. The UK Government has shown a scale of incompetence unprecedented in recent times. Leavers have had a cavalier disregard with coming up with a feasible plan for leaving, while the Labour Party has been too often posted missing in action without a Brexit policy worthy of the name. And to cap it all, Theresa May and her Tory Government have managed to lose three Brexit parliamentary votes in a single day – including for the first time having a UK Government held in contempt of Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

This should be the time for Corbyn’s Labour but so far it isn’t

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 28th 2018

This should be the moment for Corbyn’s Labour. They face a divided, incompetent Tory Government. A party that has lost nine Cabinet ministers in the last year, which has no domestic agenda to speak of, and is not even bothering with the pretence of a Queen’s Speech.

The Government has no direction or purpose, no credo beyond continuing limpet-like in existence, clinging onto office and pursuing the project of Brexit. And yet at this moment of decision, when Labour should be harrying this government and holding them to account on Brexit and more, despite everything it is the Tories who consistently lead Labour in the opinion polls, rather than the other way round.

As profoundly, the intellectual climate has turned against mainstream Conservatism, as well as moderate social democracy, opening up the terrain for Corbyn’s Labour.

The zeitgeist of the age has finally turned against the assumptions that have dominated British politics for so long. The assertions that markets should be left unfettered, that deregulation is a good thing, that government and the state should just get out of the way of private initiative and believe in the super-rich, that making things doesn’t matter, and that ownership is ultimately just an irrelevance, have all been shown to be bogus. Read the rest of this entry »

The Continued Allure of the Beatles and the Sixties and Listening to ‘The White Album’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 20th 2018

The Sixties never really went away. We have had the baby boomers and their endless nostalgia about themselves and their youth – followed by the soft disappointment for many of the decades that came after, culturally and politically, which has meant that the allure of the sixties has continued to burn bright.

The Beatles ‘White Album’ turns fifty this week – last year it was ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and next it will be ‘Abbey Road’. It has been marked by a mammoth rerelease – with a Super Deluxe edition of what was already a huge double album becoming a remastered six CDs and one Blu-ray disc.

‘The White Album’ (so-called because of its striking blank white cover but officially called ‘The Beatles’) was released into the world on November 22nd 1968. This was an environment in which the Beatles as a group and as individuals were seen as major shapers and shifters – whose every utterance and activity was seized upon and closely examined. Read the rest of this entry »

It was twenty years ago: Scotland, our Parliament and the limits of Devolution

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 14th 2018

Twenty years ago Scotland began the devolution era when the Scotland Act 1998, which established the framework for the Scottish Parliament, achieved Royal Assent on 19 November 1998 – the final parliamentary debate having taken place two days before in the House of Lords.

Much has happened in the intervening twenty years. The Scottish Parliament was set up with a Scottish Executive, which morphed into the Scottish Government. Donald Dewar became the first of five First Ministers, and died tragically in October 2000. Labour-Lib Dem coalition administrations gave way to minority, then majority, then minority SNP rule.

A Parliament set up in George Robertson’s words to ‘kill nationalism stone dead’ has ended – by next year – with twelve years of continuous SNP administration following on from the first eight years of Labour-Lib Dem rule.

There was the rise and fall of the Scottish Socialists; the role of the Greens; the falloff of the Lib Dems; and rather implausibly for some, the return of the Scottish Tories from the shadows under the leadership of Ruth Davidson. Read the rest of this entry »

Glasgow Govan: The Seat that Rocked and Made Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 7th 2018

Thirty years ago Scotland was a very different place. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, the poll tax was yet to be implemented, and there was no Scottish Parliament.

Then along came the Govan by-election – a seat that produced a political sensation and set of shockwaves that reverberated throughout Scottish and UK politics with an impact years after the event.

Exactly thirty years ago this weekend – on 10 November 1988 – Jim Sillars, ex-Labour MP, left-winger and powerful orator, won the seat from Labour in a high profile, octane campaign. It was not always assumed that this would happen. Labour had polled well in the previous year’s general election, winning 50 of Scotland’s 72 seats, but soon the ‘fighting fifty’ became known as the ‘feeble fifty’, with the SNP querying what Labour’s strength in numbers was able to do to protect Scotland.

All of this came live in the contest, but still Labour remained favourites. What decisively shifted voters was the energy and dynamism of Sillars and his campaign, alongside a haphazard and badly judged Labour campaign which exuded complacency and was also harmed by UK Labour’s lack of understanding of Scotland. 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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