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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday National’

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 »

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 Queen’s role in politics is one of the last remnants of feudalism

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, September 15th 2019

The Queen has been publicly involved in politics in the past few weeks on an unprecedented scale. There has been Boris Johnson’s suspension of the UK Parliament, the nature of his advice to the Queen, the Court of Session judgement calling his actions ‘unlawful’, followed by Johnson saying when asked if he mislead the monarch: ‘absolutely not’.

The Queen is the public front of an intricate, complex institution called ‘the Crown’. As any watchers of the Netflix series of the same name will understand, this entity sits at the centre of the British establishment and its networks of power and influence, and is staffed by a host of experienced, but nearly always discreet, advisers and courtiers who work for the royal household and Queen.

There are also what are called Crown powers or the Crown prerogative. This is the ancient ways that government has been run in the UK, once practiced by the monarch, but which have come to be used by the executive, and in reality, the Prime Minister, rather than Parliament. Tony Benn described the royal prerogative as ‘the final guarantee that democratic decisions by Parliament and the people could never be allowed to undermine the hierarchical and semi-feudal system we have.’ 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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