Throughout a lifetime, there are persons whom one meets who, although circumstantially they never become friends, colleagues or even close associates, nevertheless, they leave an indelible impression on one’s life. There have been a number of such persons who have imprinted my life in this way. One of these is Professor Stephen Haseler.
I first became aware of Stephen Haseler when he was key speaker at a seminar sponsored by the British Republican Movement. He was a convinced republican and his public address expressed his firm and deeply held republican principles. I was later to re-acquaint myself with Professor Haseler when he was a member of a panel at an event organized by The Federal Trust, a pro-European Union organization that seeks to enlighten debate on good governance.
Once again Stephen Haseler impressed me with the scope of his vision, the depth of his principles and the conviction with which he spoke on his subject. When first I listened to Professor Haseler, I was convinced that he was an Australian – for such seemed the derivation of his accent. However, he was to later inform me during a private conversation that he was, in fact, an Essex boy – born in Colchester, Essex, in 1942!
My last attendance at an event at which Professor Haseler spoke was on 28th June, 2017. It was a seminar sponsored by The Federal Trust and located, appropriately, in Europe House, Westminstert. The title of the event was “Hard Brexit? Soft Brexit? No Brexit?” Professor Haseler’s line of argument wondered whether or not there would actually be any kind of Brexit at all! His address was powerful, factual and uncompromising. It was to be Stephen Haseler’s last speaking engagement at a public meeting of its kind.
Sadly, Professor Stephen Haseler died suddenly on 20th July, 2017.
As previously stated, Stephen Haseler was a well-known British republican and was the chair of the British Republican Movement from 1990 to 2004. The current CEO of Republic, Graham Smith, alludes to the fact that Stephen Haseler was instrumental in getting him involved in the movement at the end of Professor Haseler’s time in that role (although he continued as the honorary chair from 2004-2007).
Professor Stephen Haseler, who was awarded his PhD by the LSE in 1967, was an authority on British politics and economics. He was notable for his critique of the British monarchy and an advocate of radical constitutional change, including a written constitution and a republican form of government. Amongst his many engrossing publications, is the The Grand Delusion: Britain after sixty years of Elizabeth ll (2012). In this book, written in the public glow surrounding Elizabeth Windsor’s Diamond Jubilee, Professor Haseler critically explores the history of Britain’s post-war ‘establishment’ – with the Queen and her prime ministers at the heart.
He argues that, over a period of sixty years, the British monarchy has been central to the ‘delusions of grandeur’ suffered by the British establishment – including politicians of various stripes. It is a book that provides a political and social history of post-war Britain. Characteristically, the writing is provocative, informative and entertaining, while at the same time shedding a deeply questioning light on the essence of Britain’s identity today.
Stephen Haseler had a long history of political involvement in Britain. This saw him active in standing for the Westminster parliament, involvement in the Greater London Council, and associations with several political parties – including being a founder member of the Social Democratic Party in 1981.
In a recent tribute to Professor Stephen Haseler, the chair of The Federal Trust, Brendan Donnelly, said the following:
“The Federal Trust is deeply saddened to have lost one of its most distinguished members through the sudden death of Professor Stephen Haseler, a member of the Trust’s Council and Director of the Global Policy Institute. For all of us at the Trust he leaves a gap, both personally and intellectually, that can never be filled.
“Stephen Haseler occupied a rare and valued place in British public life as an unashamed controversialist whose views were always underpinned by academic rigour and deep reflection.
“As a writer and broadcaster his concern was always to present his audience with the real political and social choices that he believed confronted them. These choices, in Stephen’s view, rarely corresponded to the traditional party divisions of British politics. The clarity and good humour with which Stephen presented his ideas ensured that he had friends and admirers on all parts of the British political spectrum.”
“The Federal Trust… will have an abiding memory of his robust and invigorating contribution to our debate on the European issue. The Trust has been exceptionally lucky in recent years to have benefitted from Stephen’s defining participation in our activities. The Trust’s work in future years will be encouraged and reinforced by his memory.”
Fittingly, The Federal Trust will hold a memorial event in the autumn to celebrate Stephen Haseler’s life. This event will include contributions from the Federal Trust and other academic organizations with which Stephen Haseler was associated. These were many, including the London Metropolitan University, where he was formerly the Director of the Global Policy Institute, and a number of academic institutions in the USA – including Georgetown University, Washington DC.
There will be many, including this writer, who will retain an abiding memory of Stephen Haseler’s robust and invigorating contribution on many topics and in a variety of forums, as well as, of course, his contribution to warm private conversations. The man defined his work.
Professor Stephen Haseler: 09/01/1942 – 20/07/2017. RIP