Long-term resident

Time after time

Last month, The Times of London published an editorial about the results of the Spanish general election, in which it described Vox as an ’ultra-nationalist party’ and Ciutadans as a fake centrist party that had ’tacked to the right’. So far, so correct. But when the editorial gets around to talking about Catalonia, it comes out with the same weary old tropes that could have been secreted by any staff writer on La Razón (or El País, for that matter). Catalonia, we learn, is ’one of the wealthiest regions of Spain’, the implication being, as always, that the pro-independence movement is nothing more than an attempt to take the money and run: ’the more that is offered to the Catalans, the more is demanded by the radical separatists... its politicians want to hang on to tax revenue’, something that ’burdens a nation [Spain] which still has pockets of serious poverty’. (By the by, what is so ’radical’ about wanting political independence? Does that make, say, the SNP and the New Caledonians radical too?). The Times then recommends that prime minister Sánchez strikes ’a firmer tone on Catalonia’. Whoever wrote – or lifted – this text, clearly hasn’t seen the surveys among those Catalan residents who want political independence, which show they are motivated by a wide range of factors, including taxation (Catalonia has a fiscal deficit of nearly 10% per year; the next most taxed region of Europe, Bavaria, loses a mere 4.5%); other issues are improvements in public infrastructures (including 11 major road building projects long since promised and never executed, plus 200 million euros – pledged over a decade ago – which have not yet been invested in Catalonia’s rickety overground rail network; major social reforms, which the state keeps prohibiting, such as Catalan government support for those who can’t afford their utility bills (Catalonia too has ’pockets of serious poverty’); guarantees that the Catalan language won’t be whisked out of sight (the three right-wing parties in Madrid want to shut down Catalan public television – an audience leader – and ’introduce’ Spanish into the Catalan public education system, as if it weren’t already there, and if the Spanish spoken by Catalan school leavers weren’t two points higher than the average for Spain as a whole). The editorial also fails to point out that the independence movement is mainly left-wing and non-ethnic (for instance, the Catalan minister for social affairs is of Moroccan origin, and the pro-indy candidate for the mayorship of the town of Figueres in last month’s elections is a member of the Roma community). And just how much ’firmer’ does The Times think Sánchez can get, with seven artists and elected politicians in necessary exile, and a kangarooish court judging nine political prisoners (five of whom were voted into the Spanish parliament, only to be ’suspended’ two days later). What a pity The Times staff hadn’t read the Scottish journalist Neil Ascherson, who, also last month, published a well-informed and up-to-date piece on Madrid’s attitude towards Catalonia in the New York Review of Books, concluding: ’In Western Europe, a central authority that can only maintain itself by repression must change its ways or perish’. Bingo. Compared to Ascherson, The Times is manifestly behind itself.

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