Gordon Brown: Nationalists exploiting divisions that could take 'generation' to end

Former prime minister Gordon Brown says the Scottish nationalists had a part to play in creating the UK divisions which he has warned will take more than an election to end. It could take a generation to “drain the poison that is increasingly infecting” national life, the Scot says. Rebuilding national unity will require “tackling head-on divisive nationalisms and racism – not least with new laws to root out anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”, Mr Brown will say.

In a speech in London, he will say the country’s “bitter divisions are now not just over Brexit[1], but between north and south, rich and poor and between the four nations”. And he will caution that “nationalists on both sides are more interested in exploiting divisions rather than ending them”. Addressing a Hope Not Hate summit, the former chancellor will say: “It will take far more than an election – perhaps a generation – to end our country’s now-widening divisions and to drain the poison that is increasingly infecting our national life.

“A huge majority of people in Britain – 77% – now think that Brexit[2] is fuelling prejudice and is making our country more divided than ever. READ MORE: UK is ‘sleepwalking into oblivion’, says Gordon Brown[3] “With more parliamentary candidates than ever sacked because of racism, sexism or homophobia, more and more social media activists exploiting the internet to troll and abuse, and with fake news[4] debasing our public discourse, and with – it is sad to say – so many women giving up as MPs in the face of threats of violence, our country’s bitter divisions are now not just over Brexit but between north and south, rich and poor and between the four nations that, until recently, formed a cohesive United Kingdom.

“With the SNP[5] now threatening the hardest of ‘hard’ separations and the Conservatives whipping up English nationalism with their claim Scotland[6] will run England if there was a Labour[7] government, nationalists on both sides are more interested in exploiting divisions rather than ending them.” His comments came as a Hope Not Hate poll found just over two in three black, Asian and minority-ethnic voters now feel strongly that racism is on the rise, only 7% disagree and 56% say they have experienced some form of harassment in the past year. 

Endorsing Labour, Mr Brown said all the UK “will have to work far harder to heal the wounds of recent years”, and politicians need to “reach out to and enter into a dialogue” with the public. “It will need measures to end the economic insecurity that is the breeding ground for populist nationalism.” In a commentary for the Guardian, Mr Brown said we were becoming a United Kingdom “in name only”.

READ MORE: Gordon Brown warns Scotland is on the brink of a child poverty ‘epidemic’[8] “Central to the new politics[9] of division and hate across the UK is the displacement of an outward looking patriotism by narrow, adversarial nationalisms which need – and invent – enemies, and make it almost impossible to unite the country around any common purpose or shared direction,” he wrote. “In the next few days our political leaders will publish their election manifestos and, as they finalise their commitments, it is not too late for serious parties to rise to the challenge of reuniting our riven and discontented country.

The basic building blocks should be self-evident: radical measures to end the economic insecurity that is the breeding ground for populism; no truck with divisive nationalisms or with intolerance and racism from whatever quarter it comes; new laws and measures to counter antisemitism and Islamophobia; a genuine outreach to the public, from citizens assemblies to a constitutional convention, bringing all the nations of the UK into a project to overhaul our ailing political institutions.

“Put simply, Britain needs a promise of inclusive and principled decision-making – and the rejection of sectarian government geared solely to partisan advantage.

In this way we can re-empower the values of empathy and solidarity, and the aspirations to cooperate and to share that, until recently, made us the most successful multinational state in history.”

References

  1. ^ Brexit (www.heraldscotland.com)
  2. ^ Brexit (www.heraldscotland.com)
  3. ^ UK is ‘sleepwalking into oblivion’, says Gordon Brown (www.google.co.uk)
  4. ^ news (www.heraldscotland.com)
  5. ^ SNP (www.heraldscotland.com)
  6. ^ Scotland (www.heraldscotland.com)
  7. ^ Labour (www.heraldscotland.com)
  8. ^ Gordon Brown warns Scotland is on the brink of a child poverty ‘epidemic’ (www.heraldscotland.com)
  9. ^ politics (www.heraldscotland.com)

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