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Posts Tagged ‘The Scotsman’

Where is the United Kingdom going in relation to Europe and the world?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, December 21st 2013

The United Kingdom is on the move. Firstly, in how it sees itself in relation to Europe, and secondly, in how it understands and places itself in the world.

Take Europe. There is now a rising Euro-scepticism which is very different and more thoughtful, compared to ‘the swivel-eyed loons’ of Tory leadership nightmares, or the retired Colonel Blimp image of Ukip’s unqualified anti-Europeanism.

This more nuanced Euro-scepticism is seen in the ‘Fresh Start’ group of Tory parliamentarians, chaired by Andrea Leadsom, and in the likes of Douglas Carswell, MP and Daniel Hannan, MEP.

Just over a week ago a milestone event took place in London under the auspices of the think tank, ‘Open Europe’. This involved wargaming the scenarios of possible UK detachment and withdrawal from the European Union. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Scotland needs to stop living in the past

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 14th 2013

Who do we have such a powerful propensity to live much of our life backwards?

This can be seen in the power of the past – from mythical wrongs and injustices, to symbolic, psychic triumphs and disasters – the latter ranging from the Darien scheme to Ally’s Tartan Army’s ill-fated expedition to Argentina.

One defining moment of recent history which operates as a lodestar and hinge year politically is ‘the Year Zero’ of 1979.

There are several versions of this. The most visible and noisy is the Labour-SNP contest of who did what to whom all those years ago. There is the accusation of who brought down the Labour Government, and the counter-charge of who inaugurated the era of Thatcherism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem of Patriotism and the Left

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, December 7th 2013

This week Keith Vaz, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, asked the ‘Guardian’ editor Alan Rusbridger, ‘Do you love your country?’.

This was in relation to the ‘Guardian’s’ publication of some of Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the activities of the US-UK surveillance state. Rusbridger, clearly surprised by the question answered in the affirmative, ‘We are patriots. One of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy and a free press’.

Patriotism, for all the uses and misuses of Dr. Johnson’s quote about it being ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’, has proven a messy battleground. Many on the right in Britain view it unconditionally, while large parts of the left see it as reactionary and to be resisted. To add to this many on the right have used it down the years to smear and undermine the left.

Vaz has yet to explain his comments, but even elements of the right-wing press found them hard to defend. The ‘Daily Telegraph’s’ Dan Hodges called it a straightforward ‘definition of McCarthyism’; while the usually pugnaciously right-wing ‘Daily Mail’ Quentin Letts found it an uneasy, uncomfortable use of words. Read the rest of this entry »

The British economic model is bust. Can Scotland be different?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 30th 2013

Just over 18 months ago the much-respected journal, ‘The Economist’, turned its attention to Scotland and the independence debate with its famous ‘Skintland’ issue.

Its front cover was deemed offensive by some for the names it gave to imagined towns and areas that emphasised the world of no hope on offer from independence –  ‘Grumpians’, ‘Loanlands’, ‘Glasgone’, ‘Edinborrow’ and many more. Inside the magazine’s editorial declared that Scots had to face their decision on independence ‘in the knowledge their country could end up as one of Europe’s vulnerable, marginalised economies’.

Since then quietly and unnoticed ‘The Economist’ has been charting some of the success stories of the Scottish economy. It has noted what is happening in the world of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in an Ernst and Young survey for 2012. London with 22% of UK GDP took 45% of FDI, while Scotland has the highest figures for anywhere apart from London – taking with 8.3% of population, 16.1% of FDI. Read the rest of this entry »

The crisis of Britain’s institutions is one of the labour movement too

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 23rd 2013

One of the defining characteristics of the Labour Party through the ages has been its moral dimension – its indignation at the inequities and injustices of a rotten, economically and socially divisive capitalist system.

It has critiqued this via its early socialist, radical and religious roots  – more Methodist than Marx, more the Bible and ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’ than ‘Das Capital’.

As politics and society have changed – the post-war consensus, Thatcher, New Labour – these strands have weakened but remained. There was a hope amongst some that post-Blair and Brown Labour would recover its core principles and purpose and make the case against an economic, social and political system which has clearly lost its way.

Events have proven to be a bit trickier than that. The crisis of British capitalism, its traditional establishment and the world of clubland and ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ are deep rooted. The forces of new capitalism and its brash elites in the City, hedge funds and outsourcers, has proven even more anti-social, selfish and brutal than the old one. 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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