Spain and the EU test democratic legitimacy and consent

Growing up as I did  in a settled country with a strong but flexible constitution, the issue of government  legitimacy and democratic consent were ones for the history books.

The transfer of major powers to the EU changed all that. I came to realise I was caught up in a re run of the democratic struggles of earlier centuries in the UK, as many people and some in Parliament  came to challenge the authority of government – not this time of the King, but of the EU.  We have now found our resolution, through the ballot box. We have also resolved the issue of Scottish nationalism through a democratic vote of the Scottish people, which was agreed to be a once in a generation matter by both sides prior to the vote.

In Spain they are far from finding a resolution. The Spanish state has always had tensions between the powerful regional states and the centre in Madrid. The Basque country has chafed at Spanish rule, and Catalonia has long had an independence movement.  These feelings have attracted more support as a result of the EU demanding more austerity year after year from the Spanish budget, and because the EU has assisted with a general economic policy which has failed to deliver good levels of employment and income.

In December 2016 the Spanish voters elected a Parliament which was simply incapable of forming any kind of government. Another election ensued in June 2017. Again no majority government could form. Instead the second largest party, the socialists, agreed to abstain so the leader of the largest party could win a vote to head a  minority coalition government. Mr Rajoy, the PM, was elected on a ticket of no tax rises, but has to put some into his budget to try to comply with EU deficit rules.

It is this very weak type of government that has to handle the Catalan crisis. It is true Mr Rajoy can count on more Parliamentary support from Spain outside Catalonia, the Canary islands and the Basque country. Most of the rest want to keep Catalonia in Spain, where it makes a substantial contribution to tax revenues above its share of public spending.

The Spanish government’s decision to deploy national police to take control by force set public sector workers employed by the Spanish state against public sector workers employed by the devolved Catalan government. It has shaken the whole question in many Catalan’s minds, of who should have the authority and the power over them? Mr Rajoy may come to appreciate  that in a democracy those with the power must behave in a way which preserves the implied consent to the system by most of the people for most of the time. If too many people come to resent or challenge the democratic authority, the fact that it was elected does not solve the problem. When elected to office, particularly in a weak coalition that cannot even command a majority as a coalition, office holders should understand the need for sufficient consent to exercise their constitutional powers.

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74 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Exactly.

    You say:- “Mr Rajoy may come to appreciate that in a democracy those with the power must behave in a way which preserves the implied consent to the system by most of the people for most of the time.” Well he might but is it too late, he has been remarkably obtuse indeed so far.

    Damian Green on Question Time last night said it was a shame the content of May’s speech got lost due to the stunt, voice loss and other problems. But the content of the speech was nearly all misguided socialist drivel (in the Corbyn/Lammy mode). It badly needed drowning out. The sooner May goes now the better. There really is no point in dragging it out – we need a proper Conservative in charge with some positive, low tax, cheap energy, pro growth, real Brexit vision – not a wet imitation of Corbyn. We need someone who can win elections decisively.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Someone to undo the damage to the economy done by Cameron, May, Osborne and Hammond. Someone who will cut taxes slim down the bloated and largely inept state sector, go for cheap energy, cut the green loon subsidies and cancel Hammond & May’s totally misguided vanity projects, gender pay drivel, the other damaging red tape spewing and her dreadful “David Lammy” agenda.

      • Hope
        Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        A couple of points. When was there a legitimate signing of the Lisbon Treaty? Moreover Cameron promised us a referendum on it if got to power. EVEL? Cameron promised to send the article 50 letter the day after the referendum. English parliament so we have the same as Wales, N.Ireland and Scotland. FCO paper 30/1048?

        Let us not worry about democratic consent and legitimacy in Spain let us concern ourselves with our country and why your party has repeatedly failed us in this regard. You appear silent on this, why?

        We voted leave, this does not fit in with May’s Florence cave in speech does it match her: No deal better than a bad deal! Perhaps you think it will be one of her enough is enough strap lines, or cut immigration to tens of thousands, or we have control of our borders last year with five attrocities this year graphically showing she lied to keep us in the EU? To a lesser extent we are a low tax party nonsense with over 300 tax rises, or she believes in free market s but is going to implement price caps! Climate Change Act has increased energy prices by green subsidies and closing perfectly good power stations. Mass immigration crisis not housing crisis and our young people suffer again.

        Oh dear JR, party before country once more.

        • Mitchel
          Posted October 7, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          “You appear silent on this,why?”

          As the Soviet dissident poet,Yevgeny Yevtushenko, wrote :

          “The truth is replaced by silence and the silence is a lie.”

          (I hope-and am sure-this does not apply to our host.)

  2. Dave Andrews
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the people of Catalonia should consider if they want to separate from Spain, but remain in the EU, their ambition for self-government will be futile.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      It would indeed.

      As it would have been had Scotland done the same.

  3. Nig l
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Absolutely but linked with consent must come hope or else you will get a revolution if a different kind (Corbyn) Recent research by Vodafone indicates that people here expect their standard of living to decline over the next ten years. Hence their new ‘future is exciting’ ad.

    This is what your government has created and with the grey people in the cabinet all looking after their own interests and for that reason determined to stop Boris, you will lose next time and be directly responsible for what follows.

    Incidentally the same results were found in Germany and we saw what happened recently and Italy and who knows what will happen there.

    For ***** sake be bold and not always risk averse which will certainly means you have lost. You may lose being bold but at least you would have given it a go.

  4. Anthony
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Hmmmmm. Is that a hidden message for Theresa May at the end there? Is she about to do something Brexiteers won’t like? Or is she to be removed? Hmmmm.

  5. Mark B
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Good morning. And a special ‘good morning’ to all those elsewhere in the world no matter what time it is. 🙂

    Another excellent article today.

    I argue that the root cause of this is the Euro and the agreement between the then German Chancellor, Helmut Khol (sp) and French President, François Mitterrand. The agreement centred on getting Germany to join the Euro and German reunification. Kohl agreed to join the Euro but only if France agreed to to not only allow German reunification but, and this is crucial to today’s story, that Germany would never be the lender of last resort. This is why Germany, despite all the wealth she is gaining can not and will not transfer funds to other Euro members. The only alternative therefore is to impose crushing austerity measures. It is these measures that are fuelling much disquiet.

    Spain needs cash and, as it is not going to get much from the EU (Germany) she has to rely more on the restless Catalans. And with the situation looking like an abusive and financially dependant spouse threatening and abusing its partner, the urge to leave will just get stronger and more acrimonious.

    When the UK leaves this will add further pressures to the EU and its member countries. Currently many EU Countries are in receipt of funds from the UK. Once out, this will no longer be the case. And woe betide the Tory party if it is not !

    Another area where the EU will suffer is in the form of immigration. No longer will EU Citizens be first in line over non-EU nationals. They will have to wait their turn just like everyone else. This means they will have to compete for jobs and will no longer enjoy equal rights to services as UK Citizens do. Once again, woe betide the Tory Party if this is not the case !

    All in all things are not looking good long term for the EU as I have stated many times before. In the short term, the UK will have all the advantages. But in the medium to long term I see a bright and prosperous future.

  6. Mark B
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Opps !

    In the short term, the UK will nothave all the advantages. But in the medium to long term I see a bright and prosperous future.

  7. Newmania
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    When elected to office, particularly in a weak coalition that cannot even command a majority as a coalition, office holders should understand the need for sufficient consent to exercise their constitutional powers.

    I point I have made regularly

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      A weak coalition because it has a Remain and liberal leadership which offered nothing but a punishment manifesto to its core voters.

      Everything defaults back to Remain with you, Newmania.

  8. oldtimer
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    The EU Commission will prefer a weak national government to a strong one. Even better must be no government at all. I understand that it has not yet been possible to form a new Dutch government since the election last March. It looks as though it will be months rather than weeks before a new German government is formed. I have little doubt that the EU is seeking to undermine the UK government by dragging its feet over Brexit negotiations and by encouraging the Remained in their opposition on parliament and in the media. Divide and rule is assisted by weak governments.

  9. Duncan
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    At what point will a EU member state stand up and say enough is enough? The destruction of national democracies on the altar of the creation of a sovereign nation state called Europe will lead to violence and resentment

    You cannot take away a nation’s freedom, independence, sovereignty and the control with which its people assert their authority without repercussions

    An aside to the Catalan question, is Macron who is forcing a more aggressive EU integrationist policy which will lead to a backlash. This idiot needs to confront reform, which is what he was elected to do, rather than forcing more EU down the throats of nations that do not want it nor have the appetite for

    • Hope
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      They did Italy and Greece, unortunately both economically weak and the EU removed the respective govt.s!

      What did the UK or other large countries do to protest against legitimate govt.s, nothing. What did the UK go to do when the EU over threw a democratic elected govt in the Ukraine? Support it!

      How about Iraq or Lybia outside the EU? Maggie Thatcher made it clear that every country had the right to self determination and it was not in her mandate to overthrow Hussien. Unfortunately Blaire and Cameron had no such moral fortitude and believe in some world order that May spouted on about at the UN. It has become the norm to overthrow govt.’s that do not fit in with the world order! The EU has a taste for it and has been allowed to take this action with the support nad connivance of elected govt.’s. Disgusting.

      • Mitchel
        Posted October 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        I strongly suggest everyone reads the “How Putin came to rule the Middle East” article by John R Bradley in this week’s Spectator to understand how utterly morally bankrupt has been our foreign policy and how Mr Putin,by excluding the West,might be on track to bringing peace to the entire region (including possibly even the Israel-Palestine situation).

  10. Ian Wragg
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    The last paragraph reminds me of the current government.
    We see many on manoeuvres to destabilise the government with the intention of reversing our referendum result.
    The BBC is in overdrive trying to oust the Prime Minister and then no doubt pushing for a general election as the new leader lacks legitimacy. That’s unless you elect a rabid remainer then they will be quiet.
    Rajoy is Spain equivalent of Mrs May only he has EU support.

    • Mitchel
      Posted October 7, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ve noticed the BBC has been quite kind to May over the past day or so;now that she has had the stuffing knocked out of her and is effectively just a glove puppet in the hands of her advisors and senior civil servants-all hand picked to put her on the “right” course-why shouldn’t they be?

  11. Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Spain is not UK.
    Catalonia had an integral part in the very recent Civil War and Madrid had an integral part in Fascist suppression under Franco which lasted until the 1970s. In the past, the Hapsburgs and Bourbons micro managed the entire country. And there were several military coups too. We are not looking at Lord Palmerston and Mr Gladstone here.
    And to go right back to Roman times, the cream of Imperial society lived in Catalonia, while the barbarian converts lived in the rest of Spain.
    Catalonia is more like the French that the Spanish. El Cid fought there and it was never really part of Islam like the rest of Spain (except for the North) was.
    Like us Brits in the EU, they never really fitted…

    Now what?

  12. Cobwatch
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Good article. Well written John. This situation became inevitable when neither side would cede ground. Catalonia have been re-buffed for more than 7 years and been told that they cannot even ask the question. Under the constitution a majority in all of Spain need to agree first and that will never happen. It is difficult to see how a minority member can ever leave the union under such rules. Rajoy is drawing strength from the rest of Spain and an EU that is in denial. The Catalan regional government,albeit with a small majority even in coalition,had a mandate to hold the referendum. Spain has sent the army in to assist the Guardia Civil. The Catalan populous were picking on them! Pandora’s box is open.

  13. agricola
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Spain is not one cohesive country in terms of governance. It is divided into many, to a large extent autonomous regions, all of which have more power than for instance the regions of England.

    Catalonia, the last redoubt of republicanism during the civil war , was suppressed in terms of language, culture and control until Franco died in 1975. He was still murdering the opposition in the 50s. There is still a marked sense of separateness from Madrid felt in Catalonia, much as there has been in the Basque country. This sense of separateness has diminished over the years to the point where there was probably not a majority in favour of independence at the beginning of this year. There was resentment that as producers of 20% of Spain’s income, they were not given due credit. Madrid is the dependent in the same sense that Scotland is in the UK.

    Rajoy, the only just PM, badly misread the Catalan desire for a referendum on independence. A referendum he would have probably won. This was a gross misjudgement of what democracy is. By then putting the boot in with the Guardia Civil he exacerbated the very situation he was trying to avoid. Remember the Guardia Civil was Franco’s instrument of repression and murder against the people of Spain. Two big mistakes from an authoritarian politician that have increased the demand for independence in Catalonia. He has further exacerbated the situation by persuading the King of Spain to pile in on the side of the Madrid government, so closing one possible route to mediation. The whole situation has not been helped by that bastion of democracy the EU having nothing sensible to say on the subject. In our departure from the EU make sure the interests of Gibraltar are fully protected from the malevolence and ineptness of Spanish central government.

  14. Prigger
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Michael Gove says on Sky News this morning that he is “full of appreciation” for Mrs May. You can see where he’s coming from , if you look behind you.

  15. Iain Moore
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    What did these politicians think they were getting with the EU and its regional policy, if it wasn’t regions and the diminishing status of the nation state?

    Its telling that the British state, rather than unraveling further with Brexit, as was predicted by the Remainers , has in fact become more cohesive.

  16. Bert Young
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The truth is Spain does not fit easily into the EU . Its economy is a long way down the list and it finds it very hard to respond to the disciplines required from the Germany inspired Brussels bureaucracy . Catalonia is a relatively successful region and its efforts to secure independence from the rest of Spain is understandable . The hard fisted intervention from the Spanish Government was the worse thing to happen ; all it has done is to stimulate more resentment in Catalonia .

    The coming days will show whether some sort of resolution can be agreed to between the 2 regions ; the central Spanish government has to reach out with a conciliatory effort very different to what has existed in the past . Brussels has no answer to this sort of quandary .

  17. Know-Dice
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Now posted under the correct heading 🙁

    Catalonia’s bid for independence, could have some huge “knock-on” effects for the UK and Brexit.

    1. Catalonia declares independence, it’s fair to assume the Spanish government will send in the Spanish army to retain control. Will they also call on the EU’s rapid reaction force, namely the German commanded Bundeswehr with its Dutch brigades?

    2. Overnight Catalonia becomes a “Third Country” to the EU. What divorce bill will the EU demand, how will they deal with the very large land border, what about citizens rights and trading?

    3. Scotland and the Basque Country will be watching this very closely as it’s a route that they will no doubt consider for their own independence.

    4. Currency, I’m sure that they will continue to use the Euro, but with no ability to adjust interest rates or issue their own Euros

    My point 2. I’m sure that we know how the EU will handle that…Catalonia will overnight become the 29th EU country, problem solved…or will they?
    As a net recipient of EU funds why would they want anything else?

    So are the EU caught between a rock and a hard place over Brexit? lets hope so and can David Davis turn this in to a Brexit win-win despite Mrs May and Mr Hammond?

  18. a-tracy
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure where I sit with all of this. First, it is up to the Spanish, none of my business. However, how would I feel if London wanted to suddenly go it alone like Catalonia with its changing demographic and big immigrant areas who have no loyalty to the United Kingdom. The concentration of people’s and opportunities for high powered jobs is concentrated in our United Kingdom in London and has been for a Century and more. It is a draw for the most ambitious, talented and bright Northerners who just find can’t the same opportunities nearer to home. It is easier for our biggest organisations to ameliorate head offices in this centralised area because our transport and cheap connections elsewhere in the Country are just not existent.

  19. formula57
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    You address the crux of the matter most eloquently: it is the pity of the world that all this eludes Mr. Rajoy et al, the distressing point that the Catalan government are chancers on the make notwithstanding.

    Mindful of this Catalonian context, one wonders though if our own quislings and remoaners realize what they would be unleashing were they to succeed in thwarting Brexit?

  20. Bert Young
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    It is seldom I respond off topic but today has featured the announcement from the former Conservative Chairman that he is behind the move to replace Theresa .

    His statement echos the feelings that have been been made by myself and my group of friends – one of whom has provided private advice to Theresa in the past . Her dilemma at the Conservative conference was not her health or anything to do with the idiotic intervention , it is entirely due to her intrinsic character and lack of leadership skill . She is far too nice a person to create the sort of control that is required from her office and to invoke the discipline in her cabinet that a PM must have . The Conservatives are now crying out for a leader who can cement them together and restore the faith that is required in its members . If a new leader is not in place long enough before the next election , then the outcome will be a disaster for the country . Theresa must recognise this problem and do the decent thing by stepping aside .

    • a-tracy
      Posted October 7, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Then she just puts in place a deputy leader to give her the muscle, she knows who that right person is, she will give a clear message she is prepared to be the mediator leader, the compassionate conservative with someone next to her providing the muscle and mean.

  21. Prigger
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Politicians of Catalonia in favour of staying part of Spain are not on our media. This should disturb the international community.
    Over 50% of Catalonians just prior to the illegal referendum was acknowledged as being opposed to the separatists. In any democratic setting this 50+% should have promoted a majority in the Catalonia Parliament. Yet that Parliament voted by a majority for an illegal referendum.Even the separatists, who ran the illegal referendum, handed out ballots and were in charge of counting say that there was only a 40% turnout and only 90% of the 40% voted for separatism.
    1. Why is our media not showing the majority politicians of Catalonia?
    2. Why are Catalonian nationalists telling their followers that 27 EU nation states will treat their 7 million people as though they are independent if they or could be accepted as EU members?
    3. Where are the anti-separatist leaflets, radio and TV broadcasts in the run-up to the illegal ballot?
    4. Why does the BBC interview the Head of the Catalonian Government as though he is not an international criminal?

  22. Monza 71
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    When opinion polls told the Spanish government that there was a majority of Catalonians in favour of remaining within the Spanish state, it should have acceded to the demand for a referendum. After all, Nationalists don’t go away, as we found out with Scotland.

    By deciding on a course of action in line with its autocratic history, Madrid set out on a road that was inevitably going to end in some kind of conflict. Sending in the troops to try to stop the voting was the worst possible decision. Madrid should have allowed the Catalans to have their referendum which they would probably have lost. End of problem.

    Now a great many Catalans who supported Madrid will have been so disgusted by the treatment metered out to their fellow citizens that there is now likely to be a significant majority in favour of independence.

    Madrid ( and Brussels ) have a serious problem on their hands. Forget the minor matters over which Brussels has been so critical of Poland and Hungary, here they have seen real fighting on the streets of a sophisticated city within the EU – and of all things, over the people’s right to vote ! As usual, the response of Brussels and the leaders of the 27 has been found seriously wanting.

    I am ashamed to say that even our own government has failed to condemn the violence in forthright terms.

    I cannot see how this can end well unless common sense prevails and Madrid very rapidly agrees to a short but fair campaign followed by officially-recognised referendum. Now there really is nothing else Madrid can do that has any chance of successfully defusing this problem.

    The Spanish equivalent of our own Project Fear will no doubt be enacted but the EU needs to be mindful of the possible outcome so it should and must remain neutral. After all, the last thing they would want would be for an independent and financially secure Catalonia to join the UK outside the EU, would they ?

    • Monza 71
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      PS Unlike Scotland, the EU should be ready to welcome an Independent Catalonia as, unlike Scotland, Catalonia has no deficit and would be a significant net contributor to the EU budget.

      After all, as we know from our own negotiations, In Brussels it’s all about the money.

  23. Brit
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Boris is quoted as saying the Catalonian question is an internal matter for Spain. The EU takes a similar line. Referencing the Scottish Referendum in this matter is not helpful. The majority of people in the UK were excluded from the vote. It should have been seen internationally as an illegal vote despite being stupidly authorised by the UK Government. Legality is about people, human rights, not just the technicalities of what some Government in the UK might wish to happen and any one time. We were denied our vote by our own government as only a few million people in the north of the UK were eligible. Our human rights were violated.

  24. David Holland
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    The refusal of the EU Commission to castigate the Spanish government for allowing the violence against a groups of EU citizens lays bare the lie that it is best fitted to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the independent state that UK will become at the end of March 2019. There is a clear parallel with the Brexit negotiations. Catalonia has for long been a significant net contributor to a Spanish state which has treated it with contempt.

  25. acorn
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Westminster pulled out all the stops to crush “regionalisation” in England, it would have become a power base that threatened the central command; the UK’s elected dictatorship. Just as Catalonia has become for Spain.

    The reality is that most other EU states are more democratic than the UK; and, vote for things that matter far more often; raise much larger shares of tax at local levels. Most actually have some kind of popular vote for a President or a Prime Minister. Unheard of in the UK with a permanent Monarchy.

    The UK socio-economic management system is closer to Soviet style than Swiss style. We have a binary option vote, an inevitable consequence of a FPTP election system. Then there is a change of PM and you get a different government from that you voted for! Still as my late father said. The UK citizens get the government they deserve and nothing better.

    • Mitchel
      Posted October 9, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      “The UK socio-economic management system is closer to Soviet style…”

      Yes;something I have been pointing out for a long time.

  26. Lancelot
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The UK spends money on small countries Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and others in terms of their defence via the EU and in financial support. So Catalonia would presumably be in line for our money in overseas aid before it could even attempt to stand on the feet of the EU if it ever would get membership. It would not be a viable stand-alone state. We can expect legal and illegal persons coming from that region of Spain should the separatists be encouraged instead of being jailed as they should be. There is free speech and they lost that argument some time ago. Nothing wrong with speaking about Catalonian independence as we speak of King Arthur going away to Avalon.

  27. Original Richard
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    “The Basque country has chafed at Spanish rule, and Catalonia has long had an independence movement. These feelings have attracted more support as a result of the EU demanding more austerity year after year from the Spanish budget, and because the EU has assisted with a general economic policy which has failed to deliver good levels of employment and income.”

    This is all going to plan for the EU who wish to see the break-up of all nation states so they can rule smaller, weaker, more compliant regions and the EU do not care how this is achieved or what destruction and discord it will take to achieve their goal.

  28. Epikouros
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Democracy is the best form of government as yet devised but it does not eliminate dictatorship completely. The voting system ensures a minority are dictated to by the majority. The EU of course has adopted an older feudal system and governs by fiat only giving lip service to the idea it is democratic. It’s members are all client states of Brussels either giving tribute or receiving largess to stay within the fold. The democratic system leaves many dissatisfied so solutions are sought devolution and succession being the most prevalent. This allows for smaller constituencies and are therefore more conducive to consensus. In theory this is an obvious solution but the left have found that they can exploit it to their benefit as it gives them easier access to gaining power. Telling is that all independent parties are rabidly left wing.

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Firstly I am always reluctant to poke my nose into the affairs of other countries.

    But, secondly, I could find it difficult to condemn the government of Spain for using a Spanish law enforcement agency to enforce Spanish law in a part of Spain.

    And then thirdly I think that while that public security body, the Guardia Civile, probably went about its task with unnecessary force it is after all a police force of a military nature, which qualifies it to contribute to the EU’s European Gendarmerie Force:

    http://www.eurogendfor.org/organisation/participating-forces/members

    Fourthly if the SNP-led Scottish devolved authorities abused their devolved powers in the same way that the Catalan devolved authorities have abused their devolved powers then I would expect the UK authorities to react firmly to uphold the supreme law, that passed by the UK Parliament, albeit hopefully without a similar level of violence.

    Fifthly I think that if the Catalan authorities go ahead and make a unilateral declaration of independence then the UK government will need to be very cautious about how it reacts to that, or maybe even deliberately refrains from reacting to it.

    Theresa May could be tempted to try to suck up to Madrid and Brussels by joining in a general condemnation of the illegal secession of Catalonia from Spain, but that would probably be a mistake.

  30. My Land
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The Catalan chief of police, Josep Lluis Trapero, is appearing before a judge in Madrid on suspicion of sedition against the state. It is to be hoped the BBC and all media in the UK will be warned now not to support illegal activities in Spain or face legal consequences in the UK both on their organisations and their journalists. Also any Scottish politicians at whatever level should be warned in advance that any social media promotion of illegality will be met with a personal lawsuit upon themselves and possibly their party including imprisonment and fines. Or do I personally have to take them to court????
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41523250

  31. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, I would highlight just one sentence in this article:

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-law/uk-top-court-seeks-clarity-on-how-to-handle-eu-rulings-after-brexit-idUSKBN1CA16U

    “UK top court seeks clarity on how to handle EU rulings after Brexit”

    And that sentence, quoting the new Supreme Court President Brenda Hale, is:

    “Whatever parliament decides we should do, we would like to be told because then we’ll get on and do it.”

    As the supreme legal authority in the UK it’s up to Parliament to decide what should be done by the courts, and to make its intentions clear in its legislation.

    • rose
      Posted October 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Political activism again, as with her predecessor. If a judge wants to speak to the government, they can, without making political points in public.

  32. James Matthews
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    “the issue of government legitimacy and democratic consent were ones for the history books.”

    Well not entirely. FPTP voting sometimes produced governments by parties at Westminster with, overall, the second largest number of vote cast. That surely raises a question about democratic legitimacy.

    In Northern Ireland the legitimacy of the designated electorate was always questioned by a large minority of the population.

    Finally of course, since the asymmetric devolution of the 1997/8, English government has not been fully legitimate.

  33. Jason Wells
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Yes..Rajoy has behaved in a miserable way – sending in the Guardia Civil was too heavy handed..central government should have let the vote go ahead instead of behaving as if they had something to be afraid of. And then what about the Kings appearance? he looked like one of the old Czars in russia laying down the law on what he perceives democracy to be and we know what happened to the Czars. This whole business of seperatism in Spain and other places can be settled within the EU framework if the EU has the will. As time goes on I’m sure there are going to be upsets like this in other regions of europe as well that are going to have to be reckoned with so it’s about time the EU or the UN or some other world body started about drawing up some rules and precedures to allow for new assimulations. The old days of sending troops and Guardia Civil out onto the streets have gone and not acceptable anymore, just like we tried in Northern Ireland in the 1960’s and 1970’s- this kind of stuff is just not acceptable anymore- there has to be a different way

  34. William Long
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Spain has a sad and troubled history and one can only hope that the situation in Catalonia is not going to provide another chapter. For some time it has seemed that the restored monarchy would provide a change from the past and the qualities of the previous King gave considerable grounds for hope. So far it does not look as if his son has inherited his sureness of touch. If ever there was a time for negotiation this must be it; of course a constitutional monarch must support his Government, or be prepared for its resignation, but there is room for tact and flexibility in any relationship, particularly when the Prime Minister is in as weak a position as Mr Rajoy seems to be.
    Any doubt that one may have had that the EU has any respect for democracy must have been removed by its reaction to this episode and no doubt some of the more recently joined members must be wondering whether they would not have been better off staying as clients or members of the USSR.

  35. Chris
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I think this letter in D Telegraph, asking for the services of Mr Redwood, is spot on about Brexit and Theresa May (apologies, slightly O/T):
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2017/10/06/letterstheresa-may-won-sympathy-need-new-leader-pull-country/

    Richard Clark
    6 Oct 2017 10:34AM
    This week May demonstrated, as if we needed proof, that she does not have real leadership quality. She cannot think on her feet, lacks humour and has too low-key a personality, quite apart from having no convictions about conservative values. She is a zombie PM. The substance of her speech was watered-down Labour policy, and nothing about Brexit. If she stays in office, Labour will win the next general election because people will have had enough of fudge.

    Brexit is being delayed and diluted by Philip Hammond with the aid of Amber Rudd, so that it can be dropped in a couple of years’ time when people have been bombarded with enough pro-EU propaganda. We need now a prime minister who has the personality to stand up for Brexit and conservative values generally, and the charisma to appeal to the public, not just party members. The only such person at present is Boris. Talented people like John Redwood and Rees-Mogg need to be brought into cabinet. Rudd and Hammond are not unique talents – far from it!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      In a couple of years’ time we will have been out of the EU for more than six months; that is, unless Theresa May had resigned and her successor, or their successor*, had persuaded the other EU governments to agree to tear up our Article 50 TEU notice, with or without some kind of penalty such as promising to join the euro.

      * Because it must not be supposed that the media would accept that her successor had no need to gain a personal mandate through another general election.

      • Mitchel
        Posted October 7, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Not just the media,Momentum’s Red Guards would be out on the streets demanding an election and seeking to disrupt the country until they were given one.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Indeed my main problem with the speech was exactly the same:- “The substance of her speech was watered-down Labour policy” prefaced bizarrely by her claim that she “believes in free markets”.

      Her policies will clearly will damage jobs and the economy. The voters want an uplifting alternative to Corbyn’s half witted socialism and one that will work – not a daft watered down version of Corbyn and Lammy.

    • Bob
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      “Talented people like John Redwood and Rees-Mogg need to be brought into cabinet.”

      I agree.

      If Mrs May is going to cap energy priced, why not cap oil prices, that should keep a lid on inflation. While she’s at it, how about a cap on house and grocery prices too? #Genius

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        She is, when all said and done, a half witted, socialist, tax borrow and piss down the drain, climate alarmists, geography graduate – infected with other religion as too.

        As Enoch Powell might have asked:- “Has the Right Hon. Member for Maidenhead taken leave of her senses? This assuming he thought that she ever had them.

  36. James Doran
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Seriously? That’s today’s subject? We have A PM floundering and without a coherent idea with which to challenge Corbyn, conservative ideas and opinions are on the retreat everywhere, the party a laughing stock and this is the issue you choose to write about. Hopeless, utterly hopeless.

    • Posted October 6, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I must contest very strongly Mr Doran’s remarks that this post is hopeless. On the contrary, I think the Catalonia situation is extremely important and sheds very valuable light on the issues of democracy and sovereignty which have been at the heart of Britain’s relationship with E.U. and the decision to leave. Mr Redwood’s comments upon the need for consent by most of the people and most of the time are astute. I have personally seen very little philosophical debate about democracy / Catalonia and the E.U. response in the mainstream media.

      There are plenty of days for challenging Mr Corbyn. Regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of Mrs May, I think it ridiculous to argue, as some people appear to do, that she must depart because she had to deliver a speech while plainly unwell, was plagued by a self-publicist who masquerades as a comedian, and letters on a sign fell down behind her.

    • Landlord
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      🙂 Yeah it is a bit of To Hell with it I’m going to the Pub subject

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      JR is sensibly staying out of it.

      We are surely now in the last few day of socialist May’s government. Let us hope they can find someone to unit them who is a real Tory, can keep the appalling Corbyn out of power and can keep the wet Tory, pro EU MP’s sufficiently on side.

    • libertarian
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Doran

      WTF is the point of your post? Drivel

    • Doug Powell
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes, on the face of it a wrong call, JR. Perhaps you are keeping your powder dry! Lets hope so? May will sell us out on Brexit – she must go now!

      I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. In order to be re-elected, and save itself from oblivion, the focus of the Conservatve Party has to be Brexit, Brexit, Brexit!

      All this nonsense of trying to compete with Corbyn for the youth vote is a waste of time, effort and money. Corbyn has the youth vote in the bag for the next election if Maythink continues.

      Brexit is the Tories’ trump card. Get out as soon as possible – sooner with a decisive leader – and no transition crap. Then use the 4 years’ available time and energy to DEMONSTRATE to the population that Brexit can be a success! As this happens the public will see that the World hasn’t stopped turning – Lidl and Aldi still open – jobs, education, and travel in the EU the same as before.

      This would blow the Remoaners ‘Doom and Gloom’ bollocks out of the water. Then people, even the youth, would question the Remoaners’ claims. Attacking Corbyn makes the Tories feel good, no doubt, but it falls on stony with his supporters. In fact there is good reason to believe it reinforces their loyalty. Remember how much abuse was heaped upon Corbyn during the GE by ‘President’ May? Seven weeks of unremitting character assassination! What happened? He increased his parliamentary representation.

      Wake up! For Christ’s sake learn something! An immediate favourable Brexit now! – Then take it from there!

    • acorn
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Admittedly James, JR’s EU bashing posts are getting more tenuous by the day; and, it would be difficult to find a decade in which this country had been so badly managed, and economically damaged, as this current decade.

      Alas, changing the PM will not change the ideology of the Conservative Party. The Labour Party has adopted a Conservative-Lite ideology and, in reality, would run the Treasury very little different to now. They both will continue to pretend that the government’s budgeting, is the same as a private sector household or business.

      That ideology is NEO-LIBERALISM, which has gone viral since Thatcher-Reagan forced it on the western world, particularly the EU, half baked, straight out of the “Chicago School of Economics” (Google it on WIKI).

      Enthusiasticly promoted by the IMF (not needed after we came off the Gold Standard and otherwise would have been out of work). And our own IFS; OBR; financial media pundits and the like; who still insist that the government has to “borrow” its own monopoly currency before it has any “money” to spend.

    • Chris
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Reply to James Doran: wise men keep their counsel. This may be one of those moments. I don’t dispute that all manner of awful things are happening to the country (and to the Cons Party), but there is too much intrigue, briefing, counterbriefing, and worse going on. Better to hold fire?
      (Post about Shapps tonight though).

  37. David Peppiatt
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    John very properly writes, “in a democracy those with the power must behave in a way which preserves the implied consent to the system by most of the people for most of the time.” But this intelligent condemnation applies unequivocally in respect to endless (word left out ) immigration and the demographic revolution that entails. None of the leaderships of the Western democracies have observed or sought the will of the people on this existential issue. Quite the contrary, every one of them has done everything in its power to escape that will. In most cases that has involved dehumanising it.

    This situation has obtained for longer … sixty-nine long years … in Britain than anywhere; and it’s not just an issue of democratic deficit. We English, Scots and Welsh are the constitutional sovereign of this land, and that is not a civic claim constructed on citizenship or nationality. It is not merely implicit in the originating constitutional documents. It is explicit, deriving from use of the simple, fateful word of in “the people of England”. No other entity in the land … not government, not parliament, not the monarch, not the judiciary … has the constitutional power to change the sovereign, which is exactly what demographic change means. None of what has come to pass, therefore, is constitutional.

    John goes on to observe that, “If too many people come to resent or challenge the democratic authority, the fact that it was elected does not solve the problem.” In the 2014 British Attitudes Survey some 25% of respondees, asked about the migration issue, ticked the box for “full repatriation”. I would judge that to equate to about one third of the English, who bear the brunt of it all. In an opinion poll on EU membership just a year later, only 34% of respondees were in favour of leaving. Another year later 52% actually voted Leave. So, to quote John, the fact that parties have been elected to power over the last 69 years in no way solves the problem of race and the English right to a sovereign and free life.

  38. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    This is quite amusing:

    http://www.thenational.scot/news/15579810.Alyn_Smith__The_EU_s_response_to_Catalonia_was_a_poor_show__Scotland_should_now_offer_to_mediate/?ref=rl&lp=3

    “The EU’s response to Catalonia was a poor show. Scotland should now offer to mediate”

    As the author is as SNP MEP he clearly feels that the rule of law counts for nothing, and the Scottish devolved authorities created by the UK Parliament’s Scotland Act 1998 can simply disregard the fundamental legal fact that foreign affairs are expressly reserved to the UK authorities under Schedule 5 of that Act:

    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/46/schedule/5

    and so they have no legal standing to offer to mediate in this or any other dispute in a foreign country without special authorisation from a UK minister, and moreover they are not entitled to use any public resources for that kind of purpose.

    Meanwhile, on the right hand side, the man who proudly claims to have drafted Article 50 TEU, but who does not admit that he made a bit of a hash of it, is complaining that the UK is now wanting to break the devolution settlement …

    http://www.thenational.scot/news/15579715.The_man_who_wrote_Article_50_says_Westminster_is_trying_to_break_Scotland_s_devolution_settlement/

  39. Yossarion
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Though the English are still waiting for Equality and a Parliament of their own without continued overbearing influence from the North West and East, with its Capital Usurped as a EUSSR Region.

  40. James neill
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Here we have Rajoy head of a party set up by former spanish ministers in Franco’s government talking about hard won rights and democracy on one side, while on the other side is a hereditary monarch also talking about democracy, while he conveniently forgets he is not only a monarch but that he got the job because the fascist dictator Franco appointed his father as king. These are the very people preaching about democracy- the mind boggles..Viva le Republique de Catalan

  41. Daktari
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Mrs May is not perceived now as the weakest link, the headline of weakness. The weakness of the Tories is, possibly through cronyism and political device, an inability to shake off Mrs May. She is a lingering bad cold.

  42. Tabulazero
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    “When elected to office, particularly in a weak coalition that cannot even command a majority as a coalition, office holders should understand the need for sufficient consent to exercise their constitutional powers.”

    Wouldn’t you agree that the same could apply to the current government decision to go for the hardest form of Brexit possible after a 52%/48% vote and a general election that saw the Conservatives shrink their majority ?

    Reply No. The government in the UK is a strong coalition with a majority speaking for a majority of the people on Brexit. There is no soft Brexit. There is a successful or unsuccessful approach to the talks, with people like you wanting to undermine the UK position at every opportunity.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      There was only one form of Brexit. The other versions have been concocted by Remain since the referendum.

      I have yet to hear a Leave voter say “I meant ‘soft’ Brexit.”

      The option didn’t even exist.

    • Tabulazero
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr Redwood,

      I do not think you need any help undermining the U.K.’s position at every opportunity. On this topic, I doubt I come even close to competing with your exceptional Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

      Best regards as always.

  43. Norman
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Be realistic – put yourself in his shoes!
    Anyway, there are certain parallels. Look up the meaning and context of ‘mene mene tekel upharsin’; and ask yourself what sacred thing has become such a poison chalice to those that boast in its desecration – as was evident to the whole world, to whom we would seek to export ‘British Values’!

  44. Andy Marlot
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Rajoy and the Madrid government are (unpleasant people ed)that hanker back to the days of Franco. Their attack on the Catalan people was criminal and should have been condemned by every EU government yet what did we hear- hardly a whisper. Why hasn’t May issued a condemnation? I think we can see exactly how much democracy actually matters to politicians., all good as long as they get their way and if they don’t Catalans get beaten, we get a long, slow betrayal.

  45. margaret
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    The content of Mrs Mays speech was spot on for a conservative government. To appeal to the many she must not dictate, to keep the conservatives in power she was not go far right, The hype now is to get Mrs May out and as Dennis says might be a ploy to remain. They will not give up trying to twist the vote.
    I am ashamed of the Spanish police treating the Catalonians in such away . This is the sort of behaviour which ignites feelings of being at the mercy of despots.

    • Miss Brandreth-Jones
      Posted October 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      grammar ‘she has not got to go too far right’

  46. acorn
    Posted October 6, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    JR, I have two (2) comments on this page today. If one or both do not pass moderation, I will assume that you have given up and I win by an ideological knock-out.

    There is still time to come back from the dark side. Have a read of “Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World” William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi. (Waterstones) 😉

  47. A Briton
    Posted October 7, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Now is NOT the time to ‘dump’ her. Mrs May should have gone immediately after the GE. She lost track when her two principal ‘clerks’ were quite rightly forced out and in hindsight it is clear that they were her ‘backbone’ and having gone it would appear that she is what she has always been – weak and indecisive. What happened to the woman who was once labelled as the 2nd Margaret Thatcher -fearless and uncompromising? Just ‘front’ – she never was and never will be. Her time will come.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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