Monday, December 21, 2015

We can, citizens

If the Portuguese election result a couple of months ago was a touch complicated, tonight's Spanish election result is truly epic.  Once again, we have the conservatives emerging as the largest single party, but without any real prospect of forming a stable government in the absence of a deal with the socialists.  Unlike Portugal, however, this state of affairs has come about in spite of the combined centre-right forces having the slight upper hand in the parliamentary arithmetic.  If the preliminary results are correct, this is how it works out...

Right and centre-right : 178 seats
Left and centre-left : 172 seats

The reason why the centre-right majority is meaningless is that eight of those 178 seats will be held by a "separatist" Catalan party, which for obvious reasons is not about to reach an accommodation with the incumbent Madrid government.  So a more realistic way of looking at the result is this -

Right and centre-right : 163 seats
Left and centre-left : 172 seats
Catalan centre-right nationalists : 8 seats
Basque and Canarian centre-right nationalists/regionalists : 7 seats

I've no idea what attitude the Basque and Canarian centre-right take towards Mariano Rajoy, but even if you hypothetically assign those seven seats to the combined centre-right forces, the left still can't (quite) be outvoted.  So, on the face of it, it seems almost inevitable that the socialists will be involved in the next government - either as the junior partner in a grand coalition, or as the senior partner in a left-wing coalition involving Podemos and others.  The only possible alternative is that the current government might limp on for a few months on a caretaker basis until a new election can be held, but that would probably only happen if there is genuine deadlock in the negotiations.  Unfortunately, deadlock isn't inconceivable, because the socialists will need to cobble together an absolute majority (ie. 176 seats) to override any vetoes from the Senate, which remains firmly in the hands of the conservatives. 

Whatever arrangement is reached, it's already clear that this election won't in itself resolve the Catalan dispute, because the anti-"separatist" centre-right have the blocking minority they need to prevent any constitutional changes.  (The current constitution outrageously precludes even the theoretical possibility of Basque or Catalan independence.)

All the same, those of us with radical left sympathies should certainly keep our fingers crossed for a socialist-led coalition, because if that happens, there'll never have been a time when the radical left have held such influence within the European Union.  We'd have Podemos as junior coalition partners in Spain, Syriza as senior coalition partners in Greece, and a  Portuguese government that owes its position to a formal deal with the communists and the Left Bloc.


  1. "Those of us with radical left views"

    Really, you define yourself as radical left?

    1. Oh, come off it, Niall. I suppose in your mind I have to be an unquestioning Corbyn fanboy before I qualify as radical left?

    2. That's a rather intemperate response. I remain surprised that you appeared to hope for a UKIP victory rather than a Labour victory in the recent Oldham by-election, I'm not sure that only 'unquestioning Corbyn fanboys' wanted Labour to win that one.

      Anyway, I would have had you down as part of the mainstream/social-democratic left myself. I'd be curious to know how you would differentiate 'radical left' from 'social-democratic left'. You can discuss these terms globally rather than in the Scottish or British context if you like. Asking not to start a fight but because I'm genuinely interested!! :)

    3. D'you know what, Niall, it would help if you actually READ WHAT I SAY. You seem to have eccentrically concluded that I wanted UKIP to win the Oldham by-election on the basis of two blogposts in which I weighed up the pros and cons, and came down in favour of a Labour victory. It really does seem that even questioning for a moment the moral necessity of a Labour win counts in your mind as cheerleading for UKIP.

      Doubtless you'll - as usual - tell me that what I've just said is "intemperate", but I'm not quite sure how you expect me to react when you keep insisting that I said the polar opposite of what I quite clearly said in plain English.

      I'm baffled as to why you think I'm anything other than radical left. Is it cos I is SNP, Niall?

    4. By the way, you're quite correct that it wasn't just unquestioning Corbyn fanboys (and me) that wanted Labour to win the Oldham by-election. The Conservatives did as well.

  2. My apologies James, having reread your posts I see that you did indeed come down in favour of a Labour victory in Oldham, but only on the grounds that, to quote you, "what we don't want to see is Corbyn eventually being replaced with a charismatic leader who can transcend the divisions within the party': in other words, you wanted Corbyn to stay in place because you want him to fail. But I suggest since the Oldham election is done now we move on to more fundamental questions.

    " Is it cos I is SNP, Niall?"

    Well, kind of, though I voted SNP in May myself. I don't consider the SNP to be a party of the radical left. Do you? What do you consider to be the difference between radical left and social democratic left?

    1. My views are extremely radical, and I've set them out on this blog on countless occasions. I don't really understand how you missed them, but then you don't seem to read things with any great care.

      I want to abolish the monarchy, I want to leave NATO, I want reasonable equality of outcome not just of opportunity, I'm attracted to the idea of a Citizens' Income, I want nuclear disarmament, I want a measure of renationalisation, etc, etc. Does that sound like the sort of programme that Tony Blair and David Miliband will be gagging to sign up to?

      A large part of your stated reason for wanting Labour to win Oldham was the same as my own. It was the same reason that the Tories had for wanting Labour to win. It was tactical, it was strategic, you thought it would shore Corbyn up. The only difference is that I and the Tories had another reason for thinking it was a good thing if Corbyn was shored up. It wasn't that I wanted him to fail (yet more words you've put in my mouth), it was because I believed that his remaining in harness ensures that the Labour civil war will continue and harm the party electorally. The Tories wanted Labour to win Oldham because they believed that it makes a Tory general election victory more likely. If by any chance they're right, you'll have that on your conscience, so perhaps you should take some time off from your holier-than-thou sermonising to consider whether it's you who was wishing harm on the left in Oldham.

    2. Well, James, I've only been reading you since a couple of months before the Independence referendum so I've missed your posts on some of these subjects, I'm afraid.

      With respect, I disagree that the views you have presented here are 'extremely radical'. Countries like Austria or Finland qualify as nuclear-free republics, outside of Nato, with a measure of government intervention in the economy, strong social welfare services and so on, yet these are still economies which adopt the premises of advanced capitalism, and have also bound themselves to the Eurozone's austerity logic. What you have suggested does sound fairly radical within a British context, and wanting to make Scotland more like a small, social democratic European economy is a laudable goal in many ways, but I think describing yourself as radical left requires you to go further, to challenge the desirability and inevitability of capitalism at some level - as, for example, organisations like RISE or indeed in a different way the Greens explicitly do.

      " It wasn't that I wanted him to fail (yet more words you've put in my mouth), it was because I believed that his remaining in harness ensures that the Labour civil war will continue and harm the party electorally"

      Without wanting to put still more words in your mouth, for Corbyn to preside over continued civil war and electoral defeat certainly SOUNDS like failure to me.

    3. In actual fact, the views I set out go further than your unionist hero - Corbyn has already given up on his desire to leave NATO, and for whatever reason was willing to accept Labour reaffirming its status as a pro-nuclear party at the party conference.

      As for your apparent desire to overthrow capitalism completely, words fail me. Is it communist-era Albania you're hankering after? Not even Syriza have attempted to do what you're suggesting.

      On your final comment, it seems to me you're willfully missing the point. I want Labour to fail, not Corbyn. Luckily, those two objectives coincide beautifully at the moment.

    4. Corbyn is a socialist who won election to the Labour leadership with a fairly moderate social democratic programme - people's quantitative easing, national investment bank and the like. You are right to note that there are elements of his programme he is struggling to get past his party. I hope he manages to consolidate his grip on it.

      BTW I am an admirer of Corbyn but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call him a 'hero' of mine, and his unionism (such as it is - it obviously does not include Ireland) is incidental to my views of him.

      " Is it communist-era Albania you're hankering after?"

      Umm, no. I would look to the examples given by the various latin american movements: in venezuela, bolivia, argentina, ecuador, and parts of brazil in their own way - to reclaim national sovereignty and entrench the democratisation of both the state and the economy - something which goes beyond mere (re)construction of a welfare state on post-1945 lines: snd something Podemos, whom you make approving reference to above,explicitly associated itself with, though it also states a transition to socialism in the commonly accepted meaning of the term is not possible now (see Pablo Iglesias' NLR piece here: Hell, even the Scottish Greens see the need to democratise the economy in some way.

      " I want Labour to fail, not Corbyn. "

      Explain to me how precisely Labour could fail but Corbyn could succeed?

    5. I think we're talking about different things. To me, Corbyn succeeding means that he remains leader of the Labour party. To you, it apparently means him becoming Prime Minister and abolishing capitalism in the UK.

      Part of me would quite like to believe that's a possibility, but then I'd quite like to believe in pixies as well.

  3. a "separatist" Catalan party, which for obvious reasons is not about to reach an accomodation with the incumbent Madrid government.

    nor even an accommodation ..

    1. Or even some inverted commas so we can tell where the quote ends and your own comment begins...

    2. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 21, 2015 at 8:45 PM

      Had to laugh James the Conservatives had a larger majority at the last Scottish election. Well it is the season of good will and the Nat sis need to put in their 2016 manifesto that a sense of humour will be permitted although not necessarily.

  4. My take is that Cameron wants whatever is good for his buddies in the City of London financial sector. That means a “yes, stay” victory, but only narrowly, which would leave open the threat of another referendum at any time. That would allow them to fend off any attempts by the EU to legislate or tax the financial markets and transactions, but let them continue to have the unrestricted access to European markets.

    I expect they will keep a sharp eye on the polls and adjust their MSM campaign accordingly, just like they did in the Scottish Independence referendum. The only question in my mind is how well they can manipulate public sentiment. I am not sure it will work as well the second time around – I suspect it is not only the Scottish populace that is becoming skeptical of the media. A lot of English Labour voters are watching the anti-Corbyn campaign closely, and they do not like what they see.

  5. In the BBC main story they call the possibility of a left-wing alliance the "Coalition of Losers". Meanwhile they call a possible coalition between centre right and centre left a "Grand Coalition". BBC spin in full force. Very glad I don't pay them any license fee.

  6. Link not working on the TNS page, but saying this:

    SNP shrugs off opposition attacks to increase Holyrood poll lead
    The Scottish National Party has increased its lead over Labour in the last month, with its standing apparently unaffected by reported problems in the health service and the disruption caused by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

    1. Here we go:

      58(nc)% SNP
      21(-3)% Lab
      12(nc)% Con
      4(nc)% Lib

      54(+2)% SNP
      20(-5)% Lab
      12(+1)% Con
      4(-1)% Lib
      9(+4)% Green

    2. Nice polling numbers - SNP holding steady.

    3. #UKIPBreakthrough (1%)

  7. Niall "The Bold":
    My guess is you are a Trotskyite troll from the tenor of your "contributions" - a variant, therereof.

    Would you care to declare your identity and genuine allegiance, please?

    As for me, let me pony up accordingly:

    1 I am not an SNP member

    2 I am a Workers Party of Scotland member. A comrade to Matthew Lygate in the tradition of John MacLean and James Connolly

    3 I fully - but not uncritically - support the SNP as the vanguard of the citizens of Scotland's sovereign will

    4 I do NOT support divisive, opportunists like yourself (probably British state planted because, in part, your are so ego-driven in the worst Trotskyite, dividing traditions)

    The ordinary folk of Scotland, fully informed and engaged, will decide the future albeit imperfectly and in their own time (and I believe, personally, imminently regarding reclaiming their nascent sovereignty).

    Time and folk will determine their own path.

    Not you or me (although I hope our debate along with other contributions, will help stimulate the process).


    1. Glasgow Working ClassDecember 21, 2015 at 8:52 PM

      So you are a fundamentalist that believes violence is a political means to an end and the workers of the world are different from the Scottish Workers. This little piece of glaciation on the planet is special. I think there was a workers Vanguard in Ulster during the 70s. Where are they now I wonder!

  8. Biggest obstacle to Spanish Coalition of the Left is that PSOE (Socialists)and Podemos (anti-austerity) really do not like each other at all.

    Plus Podemos have promised an indy ref to Catalonia which PSOE are absolutely dead against. PSOE certainly do not want to be seen to be assisting the break up of Spain.

    Spanish commentators on TV today are saying that behind the scenes the PSOE "wiser heads" are advising to sit this one out and hope for a better result in the next election.

    As I understand it, if no government is formed the constitution calls for another general election in March.

    The current PSOE leader, Pedro Sanchez, is not universally popular within the party. There are mutterings of a coup and his being replaced with Andalucia's PSOE leader, Susana Diez. Especially as Andalucia was one of the few regions where the PSOE vote held up (comparitively) against the Podemos onslaught.