Saving the Union
Will Mariano Rajoy and some unlikely regional party functionary be celebrating in three years time like Theresa May and Colonel Davidson do here?
“Together we saved the Union” claims PM pic.twitter.com/rNP629MqlB
— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) October 1, 2017
It seems unlikely.
Catalonia is not Spain but Catalonia is not Scotland either.
The Spanish state sent in thugs and riot police. The British state sent in Eddie Izzard and John Barrowman.
As we live vicariously through the transformation of Spain, the mesmerising parallels (and huge differences) between our indyref and the Catalans are worth exploring.
State violence – as we’ve seen in Ireland, through the Miner’s Strike, the policing of protests, attacks on the travelling community and the recent Spycops case, is not something Britain is shy of. Ask Jean Charles de Menezes. Ask Joy Gardner. Ask Sheku Bayoh. Ask Ian Tomlinson.
It’s just not what they employed in our referendum in 2014. They didn’t need to.
The single violent incident of the Scottish referendum (Kirkcaldy albumen smattering aside) came from a lumpen loyalist mob acting under no other orders than their own hyper-nationalism.
If there’s a sweetness for those of us who saw Rajoy – frequently carted out to denounce Scotland’s European prospects – nothing is certain. Spain may be tonight a pariah state, but it still has powerful allies. The European elite tend to stick together.
The Rule of Law
If the British government didn’t send in the troops or the militarised police, they might have. And the naked contempt shown by many Unionist politicians and commentators for the use of violence against peaceful citizens in a European country in the 21C, is shocking, and does nothing to dispel the idea that they could stand idly by if the same happened here.
Labour’s Sean Duffy said:
Ladies and gentlemen the voice of the Secretary of Labour’s Campaign for Socialism pic.twitter.com/hYMXtUsvUg
— Steven Anderson (@St_Anderson38) October 1, 2017
Labour’s Duncan Hothersall said:
while Iain Martin wrote:
Other than a lot of SNP shouting, haven’t had convincing explanation of why SNP MPs are there interfering in affairs of Spain.
— Iain Martin (@iainmartin1) October 1, 2017
It’s quaint that those who bleated about ‘No Borders’ and ‘internationalism’ now look the other way as women are beaten in the street.
In Hothersall’s example it expresses just an astonishing state of deference. Those who protested gay rights, women’s rights or trade union rights all acted ‘illegally’. So did Rosa Parks. So did Nelson Mandela.
It’s just the worst aspect of unquestioning British quietism transposed onto the Spanish crisis.
But it’s not good enough for us to virtue signal our international solidarity, and there is no real sense yet of where this leaves European democracy, other than undermined and ridiculed. Nor is it clear where post-Brexit Britain lies in the wake of the Catalan referendum.
Imagine being a pro-Brexit recently liberated ex-pat Brit abroad retired in Spain. Omelette and Chips at the Flag and Castle, golfing with Dave.
How you feeling watching your timeline? That women having her fingers broken doesn’t go down so well with the sangria does it? Or maybe it does.
Oh, and in case it needs to be said, and it probably does, the case for UDI for Scotland is not made by the Catalan experience.
There will be many in the nationalist community who will be inspired by the Catalan referendum – and their courage in the face of violence should be an inspiration to us all. But the idea that you can just grab power with a quick and botched UDI here in Scotland is pure-Unicornism.
It may well be that the violence of the Spanish state has swung the referendum in Catalonia’s favour.
If anyone has any doubts which side lacks ‘legitimacy’ they need their head examined.
But Catalonia is not Spain and Catalonia is not Scotland either.
Maximum solidarity to the people of Catalonia, and the experience has once again exposed the anti-democratic streak that runs through elements of Unionism in Britain where deference to the rule of law would trump an expression of democracy.
As Simon Tisdall writes (‘Ripples from Catalan referendum could extend beyond Spain’):
“Previous polls suggest most Catalans do not support independence from Madrid. But not unlike Scotland, a majority does appear to question the legitimacy of a distant central government that speaks a different language, hands down political diktats, levies unfair taxes and allegedly gives back less than it takes.
The attempt by Rajoy and his ministers to depict the Catalan independence movement as belonging to the wider, recent phenomenon of rightwing European nationalism, xenophobia and populism was an obvious smear. Many Catalans distrust rule by Madrid. That does not mean they have renounced values of tolerance and inclusion. Quite the opposite, as any visitor to Barcelona knows.”
This was the attempt by Theresa May in the election when she compared the Yes movement to ISIS, with barely anyone blinking.
What has happened is the inherent violence of state power as been exposed. The failure, inadequacy and narrowness of the Spanish government has been shown to the world. They have lost many friends but watch as the European Union stands together in silence to support the suppression of democracy in their own countries.
Neither Rajoy nor May saved any union.
Just as the Tory party seem to have simultaneously discovered devolution, the under 50s and that some people that live outside London, as if they’ve just been brought round from a self-induced coma, the continuity is far more important than the Freak Show of replacement candidates. The commentariats love-in with Ruth Davidson as a credible leadership candidate is as delusional as when people used to watch the West Wing because watching the real White House in action was too painful.
Examining Ruth Davidson’s conference speech is worth a few minutes aside from her cheerleaders. The idea that she represents a benevolent strain, a variant of Toryism that is ‘One Nation’ and a kinder more moderate version from others around the cabinet table doesn’t bear examination.
Her speech is littered with grandiose claims and delusions. She urges that we be:
“a beacon in the world. To help those that are hurting and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. To go into bat for our friends and allies.”
This on the week that Michael Fallon conducted a PR exercise at Faslane that Kim Jong-un would be proud of and a week after he descended on the London arms fair to announce: “As we look to life post Brexit and seek to spread our wings across the world, it’s high time we do more to compete for a share of this international export market.”
At the moment Britain is batting for Saudi against the people of Yemen.
She continued …
“We are a remarkable Union, conference. Because of the leadership of this party – our Union is known the world over as a Union of choice, not of force.”
That statement would need some testing. But again the idea of Britain being a global beacon is just a less oafish version of BoJo, but it’s the same delusion.
“Let’s say it loud and proud – that this is a Union that that does not hoard power to the centre, but has sought to push it out. And again, did so thanks to a Conservative party which – as Edinburgh, as Cardiff, Manchester and Teeside will attest – is now THE party of devolution.”
This is extraordinary. Britain is one of the most centralised states there is and the Tory party opposed devolution with tooth and claw. Recent polling showed they still do. They cling to power by instinct and have treated the devolved governments through the Brexit negotiations with complete contempt.
She continued claiming: “to ensure that the power surge that will hit Britain when we leave the EU is felt in Edinburgh, in Cardiff Bay and in Stormont too.”
From a bonanza to a power surge.
Now in her stride she declares that: “it’s wonderful that our small island nation plays host to the capital of the world.”
We’re not a nation and London is not the capital of the world, but let’s not interrupt the fantasy.
As the Conservative party try and not tear each other apart on live television the response to the Catalan referendum from our Foreign Secretary is shameful if not at all surprising. But lets not pretend that the actions of other leadership contenders who are also British nationalists would be any different. These are politicians defending the power of a centralised state and quite happy to send in riot police to attack their own people, or to turn a blind eye when their colleagues in neighbouring countries do so.
As Ruth Davidson said today in Manchester: “We’re not leavers or remainers any more – we’re just Brits,”
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