Miriam González Durántez on the Catalan Question. Committed Observer comments

Miriam González Durántez isn’t just an ‘international Lawyer’, she is described as both a lawyer and a lobbyist on her Wikipedia page:

She is the wife of Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.’

González Durántez was also on the Board of Directors of Acciona, S.A. between June 2010 and July 2014.


So the opening paragraph of her essay is no surprise , it is the gambit favored by opinion writers, who declare themselves to be, and to represent, the rational centrist position on  any vexing question. Mrs Clegg advocates that ‘political leaders’  provide ’emotional space’ for ‘moderates’ , later in her essay. She refers to herself as that ‘moderate voice’. She is, in fact, the voice of Capital. Hardly surprising given the Financial Times’ politics.

The Spanish government has decided to take back powers from the Catalan region. Legally, it had little choice. However, repairing the covenant that underpins the Spanish nation will take much more than that. As both sides race towards the extremes, the influence of a moderate voice in Spanish politics is missing and urgently needed.

But the patient reader is rewarded, in the third paragraph,  where Mrs. Clegg gains her footing and turns public scold, by way of storytelling.

While the referendum was the catalyst, the most striking moment of the current crisis took place a week later, when anti-independence Catalans, as well as many Spaniards across the country, took to the streets in huge numbers. Catalans who are hostile to Mr Puigdemont had generally kept silent up to then; but that day they finally found the courage to speak up. Years of tolerating and managing demands for Catalan independence gave way to something more uncompromising throughout Spain. Public patience — as well as the patience of all mainstream parties — snapped.

The Financial Times’ editors probably consider the Catalonian secession as a ‘premature’ expression of The Rebellion Against The Elites. So the calculated back and forth of the various political positions presented almost end here:

It is obvious that the solution to this crisis demands more than a tough approach towards the organisers of the illegal referendum-…

Before the reader goes any further, read Dr. Albena Azmanova’s essay at the Social Europe web site. That examines the question in political terms

There is, however, a more fundamental argument. Mr Rajoy’s government and the European leadership seem to be reducing the rule-of-law principle that lays the foundation of liberal democracies to the rule-by-law principle that has empowered many dictatorships. The notion of rule-of-law has its roots in the Natural Law doctrine, according to which the source of basic rights and freedoms is human nature, not a document (be it a Constitution), nor a human agent (be it a Parliament or a democratically elected leader). A constitutional codification might help protect those rights (not always, as we’ve just seen), but their existence is not predicated on a written document, on a judicial ruling or a political decision. By force of their being universal and unconditional, these rights have superiority over any legal provision. That is why such rights are respected in the United Kingdom even in the absence of a written constitution. Another element in the rule-of-law doctrine (in contrast to rule-by-law) is that political rule is based on the consent of the governed. The recent referendum in Catalonia was meant to assess this consent, just like the 2014 referendum in Scotland confirmed the enduring consent of the Scottish to be subjects of the British crown.

Moreover, the Spanish Constitution makes a mockery of the Rule of Law by equating it to the will of the people, as it pledges to “consolidate a State of Law which ensures the rule of law as the expression of the popular will.” The ‘popular will’ is the source of sovereignty in a democracy. The ‘rule of law’ guards individuals from the abuse of power by any power, including that of the ‘popular will’. Sourcing the rule of law from the will of the people, as does the Spanish Constitution, provides a legal basis for a dictatorship: as we Europeans know only too well, all our great dictators claimed to speak with the voice of the people.

No, Europe is not about to fall into the abyss of Despotism, but it has taken a careless step down that slippery slope. Preventing the downgrading of the rule-of-law into a despotic rule-by-law is the business of every European citizen.


Dr. Albena Azmanova will never appear in this newspaper, her ‘Preventing the downgrading of the rule-of-law into a despotic rule-by-law is the business of every European citizen.’ is much too radical an assertion. Mrs. Clegg is the perfect apologist for a Nation State, mirroring the fissuering of the EU: in sum, the 2008 economic/political collapse has hastened what Daniel T. Rodgers has called ‘The Age of Fracture’ ,that seeks to describe an American histoical/political/economic situation. But as an idea, writ large,  has implications for the European Project, and its foundation in a Nation State that seems to be,  at the least, unstable. Veneto and Lombardy  in Italy  are asking the central government for ‘greater autonomy’.


Mrs. Clegg is the voice of moderation, a moderation defined by Corporate alligence, in her pseudo-feminist critique of  ‘testosterone-driven measures’ , that  (the echoes of the language that has become common in Brexit Britain are striking). The Nation State and the EU Cartel share a commonality of purpose.

But there are moderates in every party who are privately uncomfortable with the drift of this debate. Prominent political figures from different parties need the courage to turn their private doubts into public advocacy and to co-ordinate and galvanise a fresh approach. Every day that passes, the Spanish government is further away from a solution to the Catalan crisis. The answer does not lie in testosterone-driven measures, even if they are justified by the law. The answer lies in realising that in moderation lies true strength.              

Will the ‘moderates’ like Mrs. Clegg save the Nation State and the EU Cartel?

Committed Observer




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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