No sooner had Catalan president Artur Mas guided his nationalist coalition to victory at Catalonia’s plebiscitary elections on Sunday night than a court in Madrid announced that Mas would face formal charges relating to civil disobedience and the ‘usurpation’ of Spanish constitutional powers.
The complaints were filed against Mas before Sunday’s vote and refer to his involvement in an unofficial – and, in all likelihood, illegal – independence referendum staged by the Catalan government on 9 November last year.
When veteran socialist politician Jeremy Corbyn joined the race to become the next leader of Britain’s Labour Party on June 3, his candidacy was widely dismissed as a token gesture, a sop to Labour’s restless left flank after a bruising defeat to the Conservatives at the UK general election on May 7.
Even Corbyn himself seemed to acknowledge that his role in the contest was largely symbolic. “This decision to stand is in response to an overwhelming call by Labour Party members who want to see a broader range of candidates,” he said. “I am standing to give members a voice.”
Fasten your seat belts, folks, because we are about to do it all over again.
Britain may have survived one recent constitutional crisis – last year’s vote on Scottish independence – but it is already hurtling violently towards another.
Activists rush in and out of Natalie McGarry’s campaign office on Westmuir Street in Parkhead, a short walk from the towering grey-and-green stadium of Celtic Football Club. The Scottish National Party candidate for Glasgow East, an energetic 33-year-old policy officer who rose to prominence during last year’s independence referendum, is preparing her team for the first of its twice-daily canvassing sessions. “OK, let’s go,” she says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” If on 7 May the Nationalists can win here, where the sitting Labour MP, Margaret Curran, has a majority of almost 12,000, they will sweep the country, defeating Labour in its west coast and central belt heartlands.
In Glasgow East, as in Scotland at large, ideology, identity and class have merged to shape a new political landscape. Left-leaning voters, voters who consider themselves strongly Scottish and voters from low-income or working-class backgrounds account for a large section of the SNP’s expanding post-referendum base. According to a recent survey by YouGov, 40 per cent of Scots who backed Labour at the 2010 general election now support the SNP. A similar proportion of Labour supporters voted Yes on 18 September.
From the outside, there is nothing remarkable about the Pho Binh noodle bar on 7 Ly Chinh Thang street in Saigon’s third district.
With its faded sign and open storefront, it looks much like any other restaurant in this bustling Vietnamese neighbourhood.
On 17 September last year, the day before Scotland voted by a 10-point margin to remain part of the UK, I attended the SNP’s final referendum campaign rally at the Concert Hall in Perth. The event began smoothly enough—saltires were unfurled, the PA system played nationalist pop anthems (such things exist, by the way), and activists gradually massed in front of the main stage, waiting for Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon to arrive.
About 25 minutes in, however, the mood suddenly changed. A BBC News team, led by its political editor, Nick Robinson, had appeared in the gallery and a section of the audience had started jeering. SNP officials gestured frantically for the heckling to stop. Moments later, Robinson and his colleagues left.
Before last year’s independence referendum, there was a broad consensus among unionists. A defeat for the Yes campaign would rob nationalism of its momentum. With the SNP humbled, Scottish politics could return to a more stable dynamic: Labour dominant at Westminster and—at the very least—competitive at Holyrood.
Jim Murphy’s election as Scottish Labour leader in December was meant to be the first sign of normalcy reasserting itself. In contrast to Johann Lamont—his underwhelming (and overwhelmed) predecessor—the East Renfrewshire MP was a “substantial” politician. As a member of the shadow cabinet and former minister in both the Blair and Brown governments, he had the “experience” to match Nicola Sturgeon.