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Posts Tagged ‘Social Democracy’

The Summer of the Living Undead: A Labour Party for What?

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 15th 2015

The Labour leadership contest is noteworthy for a number of factors, none positive or helpful for the party.

Labour have just suffered their second consecutive defeat. They finished 113 seats behind the Tories in England. It has now become a cliché to say they face an existential crisis; as Matthew Norman pointed out in ‘The Independent’ this week, it is in fact a ‘post-existential crisis’ (1). The party is in collective denial, retreating into its comfort zones, and almost numb at the position it finds itself in.

Previously when Labour lost (and it has lost many times), the party did attempt to wake up and regroup. Post-1979 the party in opposition had five leadership contests. Excluding the Benn kamikaze run in 1988, when he won a mere 11% of the vote, the other contests – 1980, 1983, 1992 and 1994 – all provided rich evidence of a party with debate, energy and ideas. No longer.

This is a defining moment about whether Labour has a future, what it is for, as well as for centre-left British (and in particular English) politics. Here are ten observations about the state of Labour and the current contest: Read the rest of this entry »

The Rise and Fall of the House of Scottish Labour

Gerry Hassan

June 22nd 2015

The story of the Scottish Labour Party was, until recently, one of the defining stories of Scotland over most of the 20th century.

First there was its rise – the emergence of ‘Red Clydeside’ and the socialist pioneers, and how radicalism gave way to respectability. Second, there was the ‘golden era’ of action and purpose – of Tom Johnston, and the big ideas and schemes, which began to fade as Labour morphed in the 1960s and 1970s into the political establishment. And finally, there has been the slow decline of the party, which accelerated in recent reverses to the SNP – most spectacularly, the near complete wipeout at the May 2015 general election.

A month and a half after the SNP triumph and Labour rout, which historian Tom Devine called Labour’s ‘Culloden’ (1), there is still an inability on all sides, victors and vanquished, to come to terms with the new landscape. There are still missing stories and voices. On the most basic level, politicians are human beings first and politicians second. A whole host of Labour politicians taken out in May are going through various stages of shock, bewilderment, even anger – equivalent to coming to terms with bereavement.

It isn’t a surprise then, that in the immediate aftermath, a number of Labour MPs who lost their seats just took themselves out of public life. For BBC Scotland’s documentary, ‘The Fall of Scottish Labour’ (2) shown tonight, in which I am interviewed, several former senior politicians including Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran refused to be involved, intimating that it was just too early. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a Future for the Scottish Labour Party?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 17th 2015

Should he stay or should he go? That is the question Scottish Labour have been asking themselves since a week past Thursday.

It is, however, the wrong question. Leave aside whether it has come up with the answer for now, with a damaged Jim Murphy staying at the helm for a month, at least.

Murphy isn’t the problem for Scottish Labour. He has only been leader for just five months. Granted, in that time he has done little to make it look like he is the answer.

Post-election, the party has shown little inclination of understanding the predicament it finds itself in. Len McCluskey, head of Unite, didn’t help matters by saying that Murphy made ‘certain’ that Scottish Labour lost and so should resign. Read the rest of this entry »

The disunited Kingdom and the confusion in Britain’s political elites

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, April 5th 2015

Scotland is still making the news. The tartan tsunami that is the SNP surge shows little to no sign of abating as election day approaches.

Beyond Scotland’s shores the UK and international media are making frequent references to the debate north of the border. Strangely some of this coverage – mostly in London based outlets – is even more ill-informed and inaccurate than was seen during the indyref. This is itself no mean feat.

Then most neutral and pro-union opinion thought No would win. They had two years to understand and come to terms with the indyref debate, knew its date from a distance and some of the contours of the environment.

After the indyref things were meant to return to the status quo. Normal service would be resumed. Scotland anchored into the union anew would do its usual thing and return a bloc of 40 or so mostly non-descript Labour representatives to Westminster. The SNP after its rebuttal in the referendum would slowly see the shine wear off their credentials in government as fiscal realities and the constraints of devolution took their toil. Read the rest of this entry »

Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Left Project, December 5th 2014

It is a frenetic, dynamic time to be living in Scotland – politically, culturally and in many other aspects of public life.

Nearly three months since the momentous indyref Scotland is still gripped by a sense of movement, possibilities and new openings – up to and beyond the 2015 and 2016 elections.

Yet at the same time in parts of the independence movement there are unrealistic expectations of political change, of belief that the union is finished, and that Scotland can embark on its destiny in the next couple of years.

Any radical politics has to have a sense of what is possible, to push it as far as it can, to understand timescales and how these dovetail with strategy. And critically it has to understand the political culture beyond its own boundaries – in the Scotland which voted No.

The independence referendum was a historic moment, an epic time in Scotland’s political evolution, and an awakening of the democratic impulse. Yet, it produced a comfortable victory for No and a defeat for Yes. For all the commentary that Yes won the campaign and that the idea of independence has been normalised, defeat has an upside: an opportunity and release which shouldn’t just be squandered. 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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