A monumental call

PSOE leader Sanchez himself has said “we know the majority of Catalans want neither immobility nor a breakup”. So why not do it?

I have several hats, professionally speaking, and the one I have worn the most in my life is that of impartial journalist, editor and commentator. I worked for one daily newspaper in the UK for 22 years, a paper proud to have no political allegiance and which has always expected the same of its writers.

I have covered countless local, regional and national elections and the consequences of assorted policies of the left, centre and right – bandwagons of all colours and all in fanatical pursuit of perpetual economic growth; and at the same time I have witnessed the creeping but catastrophic undermining of family values, community and the moral compass. These family and community values are the high ground all parties say they hold, but they can be fundamentally at odds with the economics. I have sought to read between the lines of manifestos, political edicts and budgetary statements to explore the truth, the detail and the consequences, to unpick the weave of the strategists who, naturally, always have one eye on victory and power.

But sometimes the political judgements are so simple they cannot be hidden or dressed up. When confronted with a simple yes or no answer so much is always at stake, not least how the voters, the king makers, will react. These fascinating moments of clarity are rare in the fog of politics, but when forced, such a call can radically change the fortunes of a party, the course of nations.

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the diminished but still powerful PSOE's policy room since the Spanish election result.

Question: Do we want Catalonia to leave? Answer: An emphatic, consistent NO.

Question: Do we oppose a referendum on secession? Answer: Given the answer to the first question, obviously YES.

Question: Shouldn't we dwell on that for a moment? Answer: Why? Anyway, we can't. No time, no choice. The country needs to know where we stand and, besides, it puts clear air between us and Podemos.

Notwithstanding the other monumental PSOE conundrum, whether to work with Rajoy in a government of implausible Spanish unity, these no/yes policies on Catalonia may unravel badly for the party.

The PSOE's stance on secession is indeed clear and consistent, and its carefully weighed policies regarding greater autonomy for Catalonia through constitutional reform are constructive. But the ruling out of a referendum (and in the same breath de-railing any chance of a socialist governmental alliance with pro-referendum Podemos) could well tip the balance towards independence for Catalonia.

If there was a referendum now, as was triggered in Scotland and Quebec (1995) when secessionist parties took control of the provincial governments, there is significant doubt that the majority of voters would opt for independence. PSOE leader Sanchez himself has said “we know the majority of Catalans want neither immobility nor a breakup”. So why not do it?

The Canadian and British parliaments saw the need for expediency and conclusion not uncertainty, to give those for unity as well as those for independence a chance to decide, and the issue was faced and resolved democratically in both those places. But with every passing day in Catalonia and every anti-referendum edict from the brokers of power the balance tips.

The risks are obvious, but has the PSOE made a terrible mistake and hence missed the opportunity to form a Spanish socialist coalition government that could have resolved the Catalan question in favour of the unionists? Or has the party called it right?

Write to Catalonia Today. I would dearly like to know your thoughts.

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