There was a two-and-a-half hour meeting between the laughable (yet viciously contemptible) President of Spain, leader of the corrupt and corrupting PP group in parliament and the leader of the opposition and general secretary of the so-called socialist party PSOE. The President does not have an overall majority in Parliament, but is able to govern because of the supine attitude of PSOE who (incredibly) abstained during the last vote of confidence against the government, and the active support of C’s the right wing sluts of Spanish politics.
God knows there is more than enough for these two ‘leaders’ to talk about ranging from the rampant corruption that marks the way that politics is lived in this country to the crucifyingly high youth unemployment rate; the rising numbers of the poor and dispossessed to the rising cost of living. And much, much more. But the pressing problem at the moment (leaving aside their own real failings and those of their parties) is Catalonia.
On the first of October of this year the government of Catalonia has said that it is going to hold a referendum asking the simple question of the population of if they are in favour of forming and independent republic of Catalonia. If the vote is positive, the government has said that it will start the formal process of withdrawing from Spain within days of the vote.
This is not the first vote that Catalonia has had. There was a previous vote where the overwhelming majority of those who voted, voted for independence. The qualifications in that last sentence are important.
The PP government in Madrid said that such a vote was illegal. The question was referred to various courts including the Constitutional and High and all of them ruled that the vote was both illegal and invalid. The government did not allow government buildings to be used to facilitate the vote; voter registration lists were denied to the organizers; various threats were made about the participation of any civil servants; there was a propaganda war against the government of Catalonia.
The vote was held and I voted. The result was dismissed by the same government that had done all it could to make the holding of the vote difficult. Considering the difficulties and the opposition, the turnout was remarkable.
The government in Madrid prosecuted the president of Catalonia for holding a democratic vote and he had to go to court. He was found guilty and was banned from taking part in public political life for two years. The Spanish government was a laughing stock for being seen as such an active opponent of democracy.
We have had the same sort of build up by the Spanish government for the next vote. Legal arguments have been made and various courts have pronounced on the essential illegality of holding a democratic vote. Our joke president of Spain has said that the only legal vote would be one in which the whole country of Spain takes part. So, for example, the recent vote about Scottish independence, according to the rules of the Spanish government, would have been open to the voters of the entire United Kingdom England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - and not restricted to Scotland! Absurd and ridiculous.
There has been some bellicose talk, with one minister in the past referring to the use of tanks! But surely, even at this late stage, politicians could try politics to work out their problems?
I am constantly amazed by how little politicians in this country actually use politics to try and diffuse situations. Their first loyalties are to party and not to country, and their nauseating repetition of platitudes fails to hide the paucity of ideas to take Spain forward.
Our television screens give us a daily diet of graphic depictions of corruption largely unchecked by what passes for Justice here. The politicisation (in the worst sense of the word) of daily life of the rich and the powerful means that they evade the consequences of their actions. Ministers refuse to resign in spite of votes in parliament and reams of evidence against them; proven criminals walk free from prisons; liars and thieves pay eye-wateringly large sums of money IN CASH to get out of prison; some convicted liars and thieves have yet to be put away. But, speak in the ‘wrong way’ about the Roman Church, or the police, or the royal family, or make jokes in poor taste about ETA and you will find that ‘justice’ in this country can be swift and exemplary. We have laws that ensure that if an individual films say, police brutality, then the person taking the film will be prosecuted before the offenders!
This is a country where a government grant is given to the Franco Foundation (sic.) but the same government is proud that it has not given a penny to fund the work of scientists who are trying to discover the DNA and therefore the identity of those who were murdered during the Civil War and thrown into common graves.
Recently, a 92-year-old woman was able to bury the remains of her murdered father after an Argentinian organization funded the DNA work. In her moving responses on television she expressed her gratitude that she was finally able to give her father the burial respect that he deserved, but she pointedly said that she gave no thanks at all to the Spanish PP government as they had done nothing at all to help.
Catalonia has banned bull fighting in the region and refused it regional finance; the Spanish PP government has tried to get bull fighting listed as of national historic importance and part of the patrimony of mankind and, where it is in power, it has financed it. You go to the Plaza de España in Barcelona and the historic bullring there has been converted into a shopping centre.
That just about sum up the attitude of many Catalans to the central government.
In my view the Spanish government seems set for a showdown with Catalonia, which is going to achieve nothing - except to harden attitudes on both sides.
I would give Catalonia a referendum. Not immediately, but I would commit to holding one in the near future. I would then work with the Catalan government to restructure the relationship between the Generalitat and Madrid. Having drawn up a new map for the relationship between the two, then I would hold a referendum using the new relationship to urge voters to go with a united Spain.
There are many foreigners in Catalonia. Not only those from other countries of the EU and the rest of the world, but also those specifically including important sources of immigration from Morocco, China and Russia. There are many from the ex-colonies of Spain and Portugal in South America. To many those Spanish citizens from outside Catalonia (and there are many in this region) are also foreign. I am sure that a renewed relationship, a more equitable relationship could be sold easily to unconvinced Catalans and a majority of ‘foreigners’ who are uneasy about the position of an independent republic of Catalonia.
But the government of PP shows no sign of reasonableness, shows no sign of being able to listen sympathetically to justified complaints. As is not unusual with sides entrenched in positions because of years of intransigence, it looks as though, as usual, lack of political nous will ensure disaster.
And that brings me to Brexit.
But this post has been depressing enough without that!
Tomorrow I will be more cheerful. Honestly!