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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Review’

Politics and People Power is changing Scotland and beyond

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 9th 2019

Demos and marches are part of the ritual of politics – from today’s pro- and anti-Brexit gatherings, to the direct action and interventions of Extinction Rebellion, and the spate of pro-Scottish independence rallies criss-crossing the nation.

They are often dismissed by those in power and the mainstream media as pointless and having little to no effect. But that is too easy, glib and cynical. Instead, while many marches have a limited impact, only preaching to the converted and not reaching out to persuade beyond the base, others represent something significant and have a lasting influence – whether capturing a moment, defining a movement, or bringing into sharp focus an argument, cause or defining set of principles.

Historically this is obvious. The huge Chartist rallies for democracy in the 19th century; the Suffragette protests of the early 20th century; the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 led by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement; the huge anti-Vietnam war protests in the US in 1969 which shook the Nixon administration; and the anti-Communist rallies which spread across Eastern Europe in late 1989 and which brought down the rotten Stalinist dictatorships one after the other. All these and more are examples of people power bringing about change – often literally in the sense of regime change, or often in terms of existing regimes changing their behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »

David Cameron: Britain’s worst post-war Prime Minister so far

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 25th 2019

David Cameron has been on our airwaves and TV screens a lot in the past week punting his autobiography ‘For the Record’.

We last saw and heard from ‘call me Dave’ a while ago as he has been away in his shed writing his memoirs and waiting for an appropriate moment in the political storms when they could be published.

It was only three and a half years ago that Cameron was UK Prime Minister, resigning the morning after the Brexit vote, and it already feels like a long time. The politics of Cameron-Osborne, intent of the ‘Cameroon Conservatives’ and the coalition between the Tories and Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, does seem now like a very different political age, yet we are still living with the many consequences of this period.

‘For the Record’ is a strange book. Its tone is a mixture of arrogance, unsureness and at times apologetic. Cameron wants to give the impression that he is reflective – given the albatross hanging over him that he has left the rest of us with – but he cannot quite bring himself to fully embrace this. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Downton Abbey’ Britain: Living with the Ghosts of an Imagined Past

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 18th 2019

‘Downton Abbey’: The Movie opened last weekend in the UK. It came at the end of a tumultuous week with the UK Parliament suspended, the UK government found to have acted unlawfully, and the Prime Minister accused of having misled the Queen.

This isn’t how Britain is meant to behave, and certainly not as portrayed in the cinematic version offered in ‘Downton Abbey’ and other period dramas. The popularity of such productions says something about the state of modern day Britain, and how it is represented and portrayed. This selective, mythologised version of the past is also increasingly framing the present – and our future.

The ‘Downton Abbey’ film is situated in 1927, one year after the General Strike and – despite the nods at division and turbulence such as trouble in the North of England, Communists, Ireland and republicanism, as well as wider anti-monarchial views – presents an England where class, hierarchy and order are defining values. Read the rest of this entry »

The death of British conservatism as we have known it

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 11th 2019

British conservatism has been one of the most successful political philosophies and political parties the world has ever known.

As we speak it is engaged in the latter stages of its thirty year civil war on Europe, which has convulsed the party, bringing it to a state of near self-destruction, abandoning its traditional tenets and debasing constitutional norms that for most of its history have been its raison d’etre.

Whatever happens on Brexit in the next few months and years, much will have long term and irreversible consequences not just for the Tories, but for the rest of us. Michael Heseltine, former deputy Prime Minister, said this week: ‘We are literally fighting for the soul of the Conservative Party’ – which is true, but the reality is actually much more serious than that.

British conservatism used to stand for, or more accurately, claimed it stood for, parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, being pro-business, the integrity of the UK, and protecting and projecting Britain’s geo-political interests globally. This is how it has presented and understood itself although what it has actually done and stood for has long been more complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain is in a mess: Is a different democracy possible?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 4th 2019

Nearly everyone now agrees that British politics isn’t working – and that our political system, politicians and Parliament are in a mess and broken. Even more than this, our economic system and social contract have long ago become frayed, discredited and stopped working for the interests of the vast majority of people.

This is the context in which the country is convulsed by Brexit. Everywhere people are talking, thinking and worrying about it. Out on a Saturday night in a local Indian restaurant on Glasgow’s Southside, I sat near four men in their 30s who worked in the construction industry, who proceeded to have a thoughtful, informed conversation about Brexit, with none of them uber-partisan.

Three years of public conversation on affairs of state could be seen as a positive in many circumstances: a mass act of political education and citizenship indicating the health of the body politic. But Brexit has been the opposite of that. Such is the anger, dismay and feelings of betrayal on both the Remain and Leave sides, and as critically, mutual incomprehension of the most fanatical true believers in each tribe in the opposing side. This has resulted in the UK Parliament being in constitutional and political gridlock for the past three 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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