Dancing out in space
The TC tends to tortoiseness: it took seven years to give its blessing to gay marriage, and four to decide to bowdlerise the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy. But last month, it managed to suspend the Catalan Law of Non-Binding Consultations in just seven hours.
Last month the Catalan president signed a law which allows Catalan citizens to be consulted about whatever a majority of them deems consultable. This law is no magician's rabbit: the power to implement it was conceded to the Catalan government by Spain's Constitutional Court [TC] back in 2010. The TC must have thought – in its retroactively remarkable ignorance of the popular mood here – that it would be used to decide whether a motorway should be widened there or a tunnel drilled here, that kind of thing. But as soon as it was discovered that the law was going to be used to ask whether Catalans wished to leave Spain or not, the court – and, indeed, the unionist politicians who back it to the hilt - flew into a strikingly unprepossessing tizzy. It should be said that in general, the TC tends to tortoiseness: it took seven years to give its blessing to gay marriage, and four to decide to bowdlerise the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy. But last month, it managed to suspend the Catalan Law of Non-Binding Consultations in just seven hours. With the result that anyone, volunteers included, caught making any preparations at all for the consultation - which is due to take place on November 9th – can now be indicted on the spot. The minority unionist parties in the Catalan parliament practically bayed in ecstasy when the ban came through: for them, as for the Madrid government, an abiding kibosh had finally been put on the entire sovereignty process. So it upset them when the following day there were pro-consultation demos in 880 Catalan towns and villages (Barcelona included). Mr Margallo, the Spanish foreign minister - who, a few months ago, had famously claimed that if Catalonia became independent it would find itself 'drifting in outer space' (sic) for ever and a day - warned that any further street protests would be 'highly dangerous'. In short, here we are being muzzled by a relentless legalism which exhorts us all to treat the 1978 Spanish Constitution as if a divine finger had scrawled it in stone. But there are signs that the Spanish state itself is not being nearly so scrupulous: for example, on September 11th – the day of the pro-indy V formed in Barcelona by 1,800,000 people – the main organisers, all of whom were expecting phone calls from various foreign media, found that every five seconds they were getting ones from their own phone numbers, and had to shut down their mobiles. Now who could possibly have orchestrated this (highly illegal) obtaining of personal data and subsequent telephonic bombardment? Answers on an encrypted postcard, please.