It's time for Juan Arza and Societat Civil Catalana to apologize, but I'm not holding my breath

Last month I wrote about how Societat Civil Catalana, a group of around 70 people opposed to Catalan independence, and its spokesman, Juan Arza, lied about SCC's links to Spanish far-right groups. The article was carefully researched and edited to ensure it contained nothing which wasn't demonstrably true. I wouldn't like to defame anybody, just as I wouldn't like them to defame me.

So what was the response? The article was shared a few hundred times on Twitter and garnered a vague legal threat from SCC itself. Typically, whenever someone reveals the truth about SCC and its founding members' political allegiances, the group trots out some stuff about how they're going to stand up to "accusations, threats and intimidation". This time around, they tweeted that they would be taking me to court for defamation, or something like that. They block me on twitter, so I can't actually read their threat. They have also threatened Catalan journalist Jordi Borràs, one of whose photographs I used in my article, and UK-based anti-fascist magazine Hope Not Hate, which published one of his articles. To the best of my knowledge, they have yet to open legal proceedings against anybody.

Societat-Civil-Catalana-constituye-independencia_EDIIMA20140407_0358_4

Photo from: http://www.eldiario.es/politica/Societat-Civil-Catalana-constituye-independencia_0_247075680.html

And it's not hard to see why. As this photo clearly shows, Javier Barraycoa was present at SCC's first major event, its presentation to the Col.legi de Periodistes. You can even see Arza sharing a platform with him (Barraycoa is second from the left, standing next to SCC president Josep Ramon Bosch. Arza on the, er, far right – no double entendre intended).

Juan Arza finally commented on the article a couple of days after it was published. He said he was writing in a personal capacity and that he had recently blocked me on Twitter for 'lack of respect' (I asked him whether SCC could call itself a 'transversal' movement when its spokesman regularly campaigned for the PP on his Twitter account – this is Arza's definition of lacking respect). He went on to fail to refute any of the claims I made in my article, claims by which I still stand. He referred to my articles about SCC as a "witch hunt" and insinuated that I was pursuing this topic for personal gain. Now, that's kind of defamatory.

I don't expect SCC or Arza to apologize for insulting me. It's part of the deal when you write articles like that. But they should apologize to everyone they are deceiving regarding SCC's links to the far right. They should apologize to the journalists and media outlets that SCC has threatened simply for publishing the truth. They should apologize to the European Parliament which awarded SCC a medal under false pretenses. And they should apologize to the true civil society of Catalonia, whose name they have usurped.

Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath.

The UK property bubble is the key to the next financial crisis

Property prices, particularly in London and the south-east are completely out of control, and have been for years. Osborne's economic policies seem determined to keep the whole dodgy scheme running despite the fact that more and more people are being priced out of the market. What's interesting about the London property bubble is that it is increasingly fueled by foreign banks and investors. Meaning that exposure to its eventual collapse is distributed. Quick: everybody buy a second home now!

Societat Civil Catalana lies about its links to the far-right

Exclusive: Juan Arza lied about Javier Barraycoa's involvement with Societat Civil Catalana

A few weeks back, I asked anti-Catalan independence pressure group Societat Civil Catalana to confirm or deny Javier Barraycoa's reported involvement with the group. SCC's spokesman and key political mover, Juan Arza responded unequivocally:

Mr Javier Barraycoa was present in some meetings previous to the creation of Societat Civil Catalana, however he is not an associate (socio) nor is he part of our executive council (junta ejecutiva), nor does he have any link with SCC.

In response to a follow-up question, he was even clearer:

During our early stages and before registering the association many meetings took place with the participation of many people. Mr. Barraycoa was one of the attendants to some of these meetings (he presented himself as an historician [sic] and University professor, but never mentioned his political activities).
Indeed, he came to Madrid with us on April 8 2014 paying his own expenses. He didn't participate in any of the meetings we had with politicians.
He didn't play any role in our presentation to the public on April 23, and he distanced himself from us just after that date.
He was never a partner of SCC.

But a document that has been brought to my attention shows SCC to be lying on several points. In fact, SCC itself described Barraycoa as a 'founding member' of the group. A PowerPoint presentation prepared for its event at the Col.legi de Periodistes de Catalunya on April 7th 2014 includes one slide where Arza and Barraycoa are both listed as 'Membres fundadors' of Societat Civil Catalana. The man Arza describes as being present 'in some meetings previous to the creation of SCC', is identified by the group itself – and one must assume, Arza himself – as a founding member, establishing him as a socio from the very beginning.

SCC's presentation from April 7, 2014. Javier Barraycoa (as 'Xavier'), bottom left. Juan Arza (as 'Joan'), top left.

Of course, Barraycoa was only identified as a founding member of SCC for a short time. In that same month of April, Vilaweb broke the story about Barraycoa's links to the far-right and in the scandal that ensued, SCC quietly removed references to him from their literature.

Arza insists that Barraycoa "distanced himself from us just after that date". Presumably, this is because the press got hold of the story that Barraycoa, a noted ultra-conservative and Carlist, had attended a meeting with Democracia Nacional, an extreme right-wing party, on February 8th 2014. He was apparently there to promote his book and unfortunately for him, his talk was filmed. You could almost mark that down as a mistake on his part. If it weren't for the fact that he turned up at another Democracia Nacional meeting, this time in November. The meeting was once again filmed. Fool me once, shame on you, as the saying goes. Based on this evidence, there is no question that Barraycoa has links to the far right.

Arza is also misleading us when he says that Barraycoa "didn't play any role in our presentation to the public on April 23". Because although he wasn't on stage, he was there outside the event, with his accreditation hanging from his neck. Only organizers of the event were provided with accreditation.

Javier Barraycoa outside SCC's introduction to the public (note his accreditation, and the falangist he's talking with). April 23, 2014. Credit: Jordi Borràs. Used with permission.

Javier Barraycoa at SCC's inaugural event, welcoming the public outside the Teatre Victòria on April 23, 2014. (Photo: Jordi Borràs.)

The third lie:

…he presented himself as an historician [sic] and University professor, but never mentioned his political activities

– implies that Barraycoa simply walked in off the street and presented (some of) his credentials. But Barraycoa is closely linked to Josep Ramon Bosch, SCC's President. They ran the right-wing group Somatemps together. Somatemps was effectively the precursor to SCC, the latter only being created when it was clear that Somatemps didn't have a hope of passing for the transversal group that SCC has presented itself to be.

The idea that SCC didn't know the background of a founding member and long-established collaborator with its own president is patently absurd.

The suggestion that Barraycoa and SCC distanced themselves from each other is another lie. Months after his connections to the far right were revealed, and at which time SCC was hiding its relationship with him from the public eye, Mr Barraycoa manned an SCC stand in Badalona on August 21st.

Barraycoa in Badalona

Javier Barraycoa at SCC's stand in Badalona, August 21 2014. (Photo: SCC)

SCC secretary Isabel Porcel and SCC Board member José Domingo were also present, as this SCC video shows. Which indicates that they had no problem with Mr Barraycoa's presence there.

Juan Arza and Societat Civil Catalana insult our intelligence when they claim not to know about Javier Barraycoa. They've lied about his status as a founding member of the group and his activity for the group, continuing at least as recently as August of last year. And they've failed to publicly distance themselves from him. Why? It can only be because while they're perfectly happy having the support of the far-right, they would rather keep it a secret.

Coercive democracy and the legal argument against Catalonia

Consider the following situation: a democracy cracks down on a wave of peaceful street protests against its elected president, citing the constitution and the rule of law. The protests are illegal. Unconstitutional. The protestors undemocratic. Legal methods are found for making protest even more difficult. Some of the street protesters comlain that the protests should be permitted. A government spokesman responds that if the protesters want to be allowed to protest, they should try to get the constitution reformed (a process made practically impossible by the fact that the ruling party has an absolute majority in both houses of parliament, and the constitutional and supreme courts both generally agree with the government). Commenters mutter that protest doesn't have anything to do with democracy. That in a constitutional democracy like theirs, universal suffrage and the rule of law are what counts. That maybe the army should be sent in.

Who you consider to be right in a situation like this might well depend on your understanding of the possibilities and limitations of constitutional democracy. It's true that the protests are against the law. It's true that avenues of action exist for the protesters, but also true that they are practically useless. It's true that a basic or universal right seems to be threatened by the constitution itself. But is the right to protest really inalienable ? Isn't it accepted that the right to protest is curtailed in most democracies one way or another? Couldn't you argue that protest is inherently undemocratic? What about the people who feel scared when they see a protest march?

How should the government act, then? Should it maintain its position: 'rule of law trumps all'? Should it toughen its stance and jail the ringleaders? Or should it look for a negotiated settlement? The choice is between two forms of constitutional democracy: coercive and consensual. And it's a problem which most countries struggle with at one time or another, in one way or another. The decision the government goes for will generally reflect its ideological position: does it tend to liberalism and consensual democracy, and so want to negotiate? Or does it tend towards authoritarianism and coercion? But it will also reflect a calculation: is the section of the electorate which needs to be coerced big enough to cause problems for the government?

The right to self determination isn't the same as the right to protest. No rights are exactly the same. But it has interesting similarities in that few countries accept either right unconditionally. I don't think that any of us doubted that the PP would tend towards an authoritarian, coercive method of government when it was elected. We've seen multiple examples of this approach over the last few years (though to be fair to them, their abortion law reform was dropped – proof that the PP can be pragmatic when it comes to moral and ethical political issues, if not others).

I've written this to make it as clear as possible that when SCC/PP/whoever trots out the argument about the rule of law and democracy, they're really using a smokescreen. Every government has it within its power to push for a pragmatic solution to a problem like Catalan separatism if it chooses to. The PP has made a calculation that in electoral terms, ignoring Catalonia is the best policy. This is a political issue, not a legal one, and arguments to the contrary are misleading.

Do you think the Catalonia question is a legal question or a political one?

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Societat Civil Catalana adds nothing to the debate about Catalan independence

Reading through the interminable policy statement PDFs issued by Societat Civil Catalana, you realize that there is a fundamental problem with SCC's approach. Partly, it lies in the way it chooses to define democracy (and what is 'undemocratic'). But most of all, SCC fails to offer a compelling argument for remaining part of Spain. It instead focuses on a cold, legalistic line which is pretty much identical to that used by the Spanish government.

By focusing on this as its main defense of the status quo, SCC has made a strategic mistake. Not only because it's obvious that they've intentionally opted for an unnuanced view of what 'democracy' means, but also because as they focus so heavily on this legal argument, they fail to make a positive case for Catalonia continuing as part of the Spanish state.

When you think about it, SCC actually adds nothing to the debate. Its entire strategy is effectively identical to that of the state, which has repeatedly sought to criminalize an entirely peaceful political process which has seen millions of people taking part in mass demonstrations and non-binding 'consultations'. The SCC, then, whether or not it is actually independent of the Spanish state, is in effect singing from the same song sheet. This may well be the reason why it has failed as an organization: when asked recently how many members the group had, a spokesman eventually responded – "75". Even in a climate where it may be difficult to get people excited about defending the status quo, that number is lamentably poor. This, surely, is the result of a failure to galvanize support for a positive vision of continued union.

I think this could be a huge strategic mistake. By demonizing those well-meaning citizens of Catalonia who would like to be able to vote on self-determination as 'illegal' and 'undemocratic', rather than promoting the benefits of continued union (as 'Better Together' tried to regarding Scotland and the UK), the SCC isn't making an active case for union. Indeed, it seems that the SCC and the Spanish state have both given up on a large section of Catalan civil society. Much like the PP in Catalonia, which really only exists as way of leveraging more votes in places like Extremadura where an anti-Catalan attitude always goes down well. What this says about the inevitability of eventual independence, I will leave for another day.

The question is: why doesn't SCC open a new front in the debate? Why can't it advocate for staying part of Spain?

An open letter to Societat Civil Catalana

Dear SCC,

Firstly, congratulations for the European Parliament medal and everything. I'm not entirely sure why you were nominated. You don't seem to have done anything.  Except publish press releases and organize two or three sparsely attended demonstrations at which pretty much the only reliable will-shows were the boot boys from Democracia Nacional and Plataforma per Catalunya. Still, it's not for me to explain the workings of the European Parliament, and I won't ask you to either.

But I do have a question or two for you. They're about one of your founding members. No, not Josep Ramon Bosch. I couldn't care less if the alleged highlight of his Dad's year was organizing a mass in honor of General Franco. The sins of the father, etc.

No, I'm more interested in Javier Barraycoa, listed as a founding member on Wikipedia. He is, apparently, also the secretary of the Catalan section of the Carlist party 'Comunión Tradicionalista Carlista', a party dedicated to 'God, Fatherland, Charters and King'. CTC promotes a sort of 'organic democracy', (known by pretty much everyone else as 'authoritarian democracy'), generally considered to be a key component of Mussolini and Stalin's respective brands of totalitarian dictatorship. He's on the record as saying that he "doesn't believe in elections".

Question 1: Is Javier Barraycoa a member or official of SCC? I ask because a search of your organization's website shows no sign that he has any connection with you. But at the same time, I can't find any press stories detailing his expulsion from SCC. So I have to ask. You understand.

Question 2: Do the values of Carlism fit with the values of the SCC?

Question 3: Did you never worry that linking your so-called 'plural' organization with someone from Spain's traditionalist far right wing could look bad? Is that perhaps why his name doesn't appear on your website?

Question 4: As proud members of a plural Catalan and Spanish society and defenders of democracy, do you as an organization condemn the military rebellion of 1936 and the dictatorship it led to?

I look forward to your responses! Have a great week!

 

Yours,

Tom Clarke

From the left towards Catalan independence

Fellow traveler Kate Shea Baird sums it all up quite well. I feel it's important for those of us on the left who support Catalan independence to remember that we want independence in order to deliver a better country. Not just any country. An independent Catalonia, sí o sí, is not the aim and never should be. I don't consider Catalans to be living under a repressive regime (unless you mean the Mossos) and so I don't buy the liberation trope. And while I wouldn't like to see Artur Mas behind bars for organizing the consulta, I'd crack the cava open if he and the rest of his party were sent down for corruption.

The pro-independence left (mainly the CUP and elements of Iniciativa and a handful of people at ERC) must maintain its focus through all the twists and turns in this process. We must, above all, fight for our values as the keystone of our support for independence: we want a better country. We want a country that helps the poorest, defends labor, looks after its citizens' health, educates its young people, invests in the arts and culture, promotes sustainable living and tourism, and rejects CiU's corruption and the neo-liberal model. And because we're on the left, we must want all these things for Spain as well.

That's the Catalan republic that I defend.

Catalans, that Polònia joke wasn't funny or clever

If there was one way pro-independence Catalans could bring discredit on themselves, it was to stoop to the level of their opponents. For years, independentists have had to put up with regular accusations of being selfish, greedy, insane, stupid, terrorists, ETA, 18th century throwbacks, fascists, Nazis, Hitler.

So when last week's 'Polònia' on TV3 ran a sketch comparing Mariano Rajoy to Hitler in the famous bunker scene from Downfall, I turned to Gemma and said "That's not good". Since then, the PP has threatened legal action and my fellow independentists have gone into overdrive defending the sketch and mocking the Spanish right's "sense of humor failure". Here's why they're wrong.

The Meme – not great comedy

The sketch was yet another version of a meme based on 2004's German film, Downfall. It's a great film and in context, a powerful scene. Hitler berates his generals for their failures, all the while refusing to accept the truth: that it's all over. That the noise and the rumbling all around them is Soviet artillery already in Berlin.

The meme is first recorded in 2006, with Hitler re-dubbed in German complaining about Microsoft writing off its popular Flight Simulator game. Since then, around a thousand more parodies have been made, generally dubbing the original footage but sometimes simply imitating it.

I've written poorly about comedy here in the past. I watch a lot of comedy, read about comedy, listen to podcasts about comedy, read comedy scripts, think about comedy: it's something I love and an important part of my life. And in my opinion, the Hitler Bunker Meme got pretty tired pretty quickly. Around about the time that guy used it to complain about Microsoft Flight Simulator. A thousand versions later and it's one of the worst jokes I can think of. Dull, trite, derivative, unimaginative, OLD. Let's face it: if you're writing comedy in 2014 and you think the Bunker meme is right for this week's main sketch, you need to catch up. That joke is 8 years old (and wasn't that funny at the time).

Polònia's Downfall

Which brings me onto Polònia itself. Since 2006 (yeah), it has been one of the best comedy shows on Spanish TV. It brought a kind of satirical irreverence which people across Catalonia (and Spain – Dan Hancox records in Ghosts of Spain that anarchists in Andalusia enjoy watching it) just drank up. Its treatment of the royal family and the main political actors in Spain and Catalonia became legendary and made it the most popular show of the week on Catalan TV. I adored some of its musical numbers, including Imagine reimagined by Artur Mas and Oriol Pujol in 2012.

But shortly after that sketch aired, something happened to Polònia. In a fairly short time frame, the show suddenly started to poke far less fun at Artur Mas, previously mocked for his vanity and his upper-class attitudes. It started to treat him with reverence, which I found pretty unpleasant. Since then, Toni Soler's show has continued to go downhill. If I catch it, I'll still watch. But I get few laughs out of it now. Basically only if the princess is on it.

You can be sure that the writers at Polònia wouldn't never even consider using the Bunker meme to joke about Artur Mas, even if he were in the middle of a deep crisis. It would undo the work of the last 2 years.

Banal and self-defeating

Besides which, it was ideologically foolish. Much has been made in Catalonia of the 'banalization of Nazism/fascism' on the part of the PP and Ciutadans. And quite right, too. Unwilling to debate the political issues surrounding potential independence for Catalonia, both parties (now representing a combined 10% of the Catalan vote, according to recent polls) have used the most atrocious rhetoric to criticize the process. They've almost certainly encouraged some fence-sitters to join the pro-independence side, sick of the insults and the dismissive attitude.

And now they've thrown all that goodwill away.

As for the independentists who have howled like banshees over the last week, complaining that the PP lacks a sense of humor, or the intelligence to understand a joke… they should take a deep breath, read their words back and see whether they can detect any discrepancies in their attitudes. The joke wasn't remotely funny by any real comedic standards. And calling Rajoy Hitler in the Bunker is not the way we're going to win the argument.

I won't be watching tonight's Polònia. El Gran Wyoming, however, always has a place at my table.

Perfect timing for Catalan independence on #9N?

One of the recent posts I wrote on here asked at which point the Catalan government would 'cross the Rubicon' into potential illegality in the 'process' towards independence. Today, less than 48 hours from the popular consultation on independence, it seems like that moment has arrived.

The Spanish government has had the Constitutional Tribunal suspend all preparations for Sunday's 'participatory process'. Today, the Catalan government has made clear that it will not hand responsibility for organizing 9N over to civic associations. In other words, The Catalan government appears to be at the least very nearly in breach of the Constitutional Tribunal's suspension order.

So why now?

There are several factors that make 9N the perfect moment for disobedience on the part of the Catalan authorities.

1 The Catalan government already backed down from the original consulta. In order to maintain the process, the government needs to stand firm now.
2 Disobedience at this point could have multiple effects but the most important aspect is how the Spanish government responds. Having already stated that it would not act "if the consulta were organized by civic associations", it seems like the Spanish government may have nearly committed itself to instructing the police to interfere with Sunday's vote. This might be a deciding factor in the future of the process. If the Spanish interior ministry were to order police (including Mossos) to seize the ballot boxes, it would be doing so under the gaze of hundreds of accredited foreign journalists and press agencies. For this reason, I strongly suspect that it won't act but will try instead to dismiss the poll as meaningless.

This highlights yet another oddity in the PP's campaign against the consulta: this 'consulta-lite', adopted because the full non-binding consulta was made illegal, was initially dismissed by the PP. Alicia Sanchez-Camacho urged MAdrid not to act against it because it was such a joke. Then, when the Generalitat managed to get all the volunteers it wanted in a few days, the PP changed its tune and again took the Generalitat's plans to court. This indicates a lack of strategy on the part of the Spanish government.

3 The Spanish government seems to be weakened internationally due to the constant stream of corruption cases (which also affect Catalonia, of course). The Economist, Bloomberg and BBC have all published pieces criticizing Spain in recent days. This adds to the feeling that this might be the best time to take advantage of reasonably positive press coverage for Catalonia, and a slightly negative international attitude towards Spain.

My predictions for #9N:

Turnout – Very important. Unfortunately, I doubt that turnout will reach 50%. It may not even reach 33%. If it did exceed 50%, there would be something to celebrate.

Police – I doubt that the police will be asked to intervene. If they were, the vast majority would obey orders, including the Mossos. But it could lead to unpleasant scenes.

Results – The lower the turnout, the higher the support will be for independence. Some parties, particularly Iniciativa, are calling on supporters to vote Yes to the first question and free choice on the second.

Trouble – I doubt there will be disturbances. That would change if the police were sent in. I read today that Montblanc is setting up concrete barriers to prevent vehicular access to the old town (which strikes me as needless and potentially dangerous – what if there's a fire?). Areas like this would become potential flashpoints in case the vote were stopped by force. The risk of the far-right trying to stir up trouble is always present but these groups have very limited support.

Outcome – Oriol Junqueras will announce his roadmap to independence on Monday. Smart of him to wait for the results of the consulta. The most likely outcome, in my opinion, is that turnout well be lower than desired but will indicate growing support for independence. ERC and the CUP will push for elections soon and will try to guarantee that they take the form of a plebiscite on independence. If they succeed, and Podemos decide to stand (the feeling is that they might not: they're trying to keep their powder dry until next year's general elections), they would be forced to declare a position, and it will probably be in support of union with Spain. ICV, PSC, PP and Cs will oppose any kind of plebiscite and may even refuse to stand on a No platform. In short, by Monday nothing might have changed. But everything might have changed too.

Which is why I'm going to vote.

Juan Carlos I abdicates: Spain enters a new era

So Juanca has finally abdicated, official immediately. It was a 'surprise' announcement which shouldn't really have surprised us at all. The timing was obvious: a week after the EU elections, so as not to get people thinking too hard  about how they want to be governed. This would have been agreed by the twin pillars of a crumbling political system: the PP and the PSOE.

This is the key gesture launching a process which will attempt to preserve the status quo against serious threats including the royal family's declining popularity, the failure of the bipartisan political system and the Catalan independence movement. The plan is probably to have a quick succession, coronation and then a series of constitutional changes 'proposed by the new king' in order to reduce the increasing discontent across the country. I'm not sure that they haven't left it too long.

Has no one told Rajoy that he should be next?

Justifying political violence in Spain and Catalonia

Two cases in the couple of weeks have resurrected the spectre of political violence in Spain. At least, they have if you're a right-winger. Firstly, the man responsible for destroying the PSC – Pere Navarro – was insulted and 'punched' while attending a mystic ritual in Terrassa's main temple. He and his party, along with the rest of the Spanish right, immediately leapt on the incident as a sign of the 'atmosfera de crispació' – 'increasing social tension caused by the pro-referendum sentiment in Catalonia' (paraphrased). Navarro himself did the rounds the next day, telling anyone who would listen that he was 'convinced' that the attack had something to do with the independence movement. No evidence for this link, of course, except that the woman who attacked Navarro called him "un grandíssim fill de puta". (Turns out she was someone who had argued with Navarro for years about Terrassa's town hall's Catalan flag being dirty – she denies hitting Navarro).

This week the PP's cacique in León, Isabel Carrasco was shot dead in the street, in what some English commentators referred to as an 'assassination' [false friend? or does any murder of a politician automatically equal assassination? I think the motive has to be political rather than personal]. This time, the right blamed the killing on the 'atmosfera de crispación' in Spain, whereby politicians are regularly jeered and insulted and in which anti-austerity protests have targeted politicians' homes ('escraches' – a form of protest I thoroughly support). El Mundo's editorial to this effect was published even though everyone already knew that the murder was almost certainly the result of a personal vendetta. The two suspected murderers are both also members of the PP.

Now politicians and newspapers trying to take advantage of farce or tragedy is nothing new. In fact, it's practically chapter 1 in the politics playbook (Spain edition). In this case, however, conservative forces have responded in identical ways to two significantly different incidents. And they way they have responded tells us a lot about the way they think. There is a determination on the side of the Spanish right that any political movement which acts in opposition to its central policies is inherently a destabilising factor which is capable of violence. Multiple parties here talk about 'tensions' and 'division' in society (never along class lines, of course: always along political or ethnic lines) – as a sort of intentional self-fulfilling prophecy.

There's a subtext to all this talk of potential and actual violence in the Catalan and Spanish political scene, and it's not aimed at the left. When El Mundo effectively says that a murder is the natural result of anti-austerity protests, it is not just trying to win political points. There is a subtle implication behind Navarro's words and El Mundo's editorial. The implication is that 'in the current climate', political violence is inevitable. Inevitable and therefore, to be expected. Expected and therefore, to a certain degree, justified.

PP u-turn to offer Catalonia a new fiscal pact – what now?

It looks likely that next week will see Mariano Rajoy offer Catalonia a new fiscal settlement in an effort to deflate growing support for independence. This would represent a huge policy shift for the PP, which until now has refused to discuss any possibility of changes to how much tax revenue Catalonia receives from central government.

The aim behind this offer is obvious and it underlines the serious strategic mistake the Spanish government has made in dealing with Catalonia. Refusal to negotiate since 2012's September 11th demonstration has fostered significant unity and growth in the pro-independence camp. The PP effectively killed off any chance of returning to the days of 'la puta i la ramoneta' – the traditional model that CiU has used to get more cash from Madrid by pretending to be pro-independence. This shift aims to reintroduce a 'third way', with the intention of undermining Unió support for Artur Mas pressing on with plans for an unlikely referendum this November.

The question is, how successful will this manoeuvre turn out to be? Independentists will insist that Mas takes 'ni un pas enrere'. Popular support for a referendum is around 80%. Can the PP really deflate this to acceptably low proportions? The fairest way to judge this would be to include any such offer as a third way in a consultative referendum which includes independence as an option. But the offer will almost certainly be linked to dropping plans for the 'consulta'.

I'm not certain but I get the feeling that the PP has left it too long to change its mind. Artur Mas's constituency has shifted significantly and he knows it. I say this because I don't see Mas as the evil genius mastermind behind the independence movement which seems to be an indispensable position for anyone who seriously doubts the level of popular support for independence here. I think he's an opportunist who has hitched his wagon to the estelada. The Spanish government is clearly hoping that Mas will see sense and unhitch that wagon. Or at the very least, that Mas won't be able to swan around complaining that Madrid won't talk.

As in any political decision, of key importance here is the personal ambition of those involved. I find it difficult to believe that Mas will back down now. And populist that he is, he'll be thinking hard about his changed constituency and his legacy.

Suarez and Son

It's sad when anyone is on their last lap. A deeply personal time which families normally spend together.

Which makes Adolfo hijo's announcement of his dad's impending demise feel more than a little weird to me.

But hey, I've never quite understood the praise for Suarez either. That he was 'important' is obvious: he was the first elected PM since the 1930s. Anyone in that position would have been 'important'. But as with Juanca, I feel he gets a bit too much praise for doing what he had to do. Had he failed to promote the democratic transition, something else would have happened. He was a weak leader and his weakness helped trigger the 1981 coup attempt / reality TV show (depending whether you could be bothered to watch the end of Salvados the other day). In a way, he is the template for poor leadership that Spain has been hobbled with ever since.