Both Left- and Right-Wing Critics of the NHS Have a Point

A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010
A hospital in London, England, February 21, 2010 (Lars Plougmann)

Crises in Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) always provoke the same ideological debate: the right blames “socialized medicine”, the left calls for more money.

Neither side is completely wrong.

The Financial Times argues there are too many administrators and not enough frontline medical staff in English hospitals.

Repeated government reforms have spurred fragmentation and only added more layers of bureaucracy.

But “cuts” (really: restraint in the growth of health spending) haven’t helped, especially when the population is aging and requiring more services. Read more

Brexit Takes Toll on Kingdom’s Global Influence

Tower Bridge in London, England, January 2, 2012
Tower Bridge in London, England, January 2, 2012 (Michael Garnett)

Politico reports that Britain’s exit from the European Union is already taking a toll on its international clout:

  • EU allies, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, abstained in June from a United Nations vote on the Chagos Islands, a British territory in the Indian Ocean that houses the Diego Garcia military base and is also claimed by Mauritius. The question of sovereignty has been referred to the International Court of Justice.
  • In November, Britain was forced to withdraw its candidate to fill a vacancy on the same court when it became clear it would lose a UN vote.
  • British diplomats are increasingly ignored in international forums. Read more

Catalonia in Common Rules Out Supporting Unionist Government

Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Catalonia's Citizens party, films an election commercial in Barcelona, November 26, 2017
Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Catalonia’s Citizens party, films an election commercial in Barcelona, November 26, 2017 (Ciutadans)

Catalonia’s far left has ruled out supporting a regional government led by the pro-business and unionist Citizens party, making another separatist administration almost inevitable.

Although the Citizens placed first in December’s election, winning 36 out of 135 seats, their gains came at the expense of other parties that want Catalonia to remain Spanish.

The balance between separatists and unionists has barely changed: the former have seventy seats, the latter 57.

The remaining eight seats went to Catalonia in Common, a left-wing alliance that includes the regional branch of Podemos. It rejects both independence and Spain’s suspension of Catalan home rule. Read more

Tabarnia: A Separatist Parody That Gets Too Much Attention

The flag of Barcelona, Spain, September 17, 2013
The flag of Barcelona, Spain, September 17, 2013 (Fredrik Rubensson)

Relatively low support for independence on Catalonia’s Mediterranean coast has caused some to wonder: why not split the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona from the rest of the region?

Spanish media like 20 minutos, El Confidencial, El Mundo, El País, Libertad Digital and La Razón — eager to belittle Catalan nationalism — have given the tongue-in-cheek proposal, dubbed Tabarnia, disproportionate attention.

So have Catalan unionists, including Inés Arrimadas, leader of the regional Citizens party, and Albert Rivera, her national party chief.

It is not entirely without merit. Rural Catalonia is more separatist than cosmopolitan Barcelona and its suburbs.

But a closer analysis of the most recent election results by the pro-independence outlet El Nacional reveals that the region is more evenly split than the unionists would care to admit. Read more

Corsica Is Not the Next Catalonia

Facade of the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Bastia, Corsica
Facade of the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Bastia, Corsica (Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month, a nationalist coalition called Pè a Corsica (For Corsica) won control of the island’s regional assembly with 56.5 percent of the votes.

Pè a Corsica‘s success may certainly entail more bargaining power for the island vis-à-vis a staunchly centralist French government and it represents yet another European region seeking to forge its own path away from a dominant nation state.

But it is unlikely to lead to a Catalonia-style rebellion. Read more

Both Sides Claim Victory in Catalonia

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaks with his predecessor, Artur Mas, in Barcelona, Spain, February 12, 2016
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaks with his predecessor, Artur Mas, in Barcelona, Spain, February 12, 2016 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Both separatists and unionists are claiming victory in Catalonia after the election on Thursday gave a majority of the seats (seventy out of 135) but not the votes (47.5 percent) to the former.

The view from abroad is that nobody won. Read more

A Third Way for Catalonia

View of Barcelona, Spain
View of Barcelona, Spain (Unsplash/Ferran Fusalba)

Catalonia is split down the middle.

In regional elections on Thursday, parties that want to break away from Spain got 47 percent support against 44 percent for those that oppose independence. (The balance going to a party that refuses to take sides.)

These figures are line with the latest government survey, which found almost 49 percent of Catalans in favor of independence and 44 percent opposed.

Clearly neither side has a convincing mandate and with turnout at 82 percent — the highest in living memory — it’s also clear that more voting, whether in the form of a referendum or another election, will not break the deadlock.

There is another way out. Read more