Whilst reading the paper this morning (a real, printed one on a dead tree!) – and thinking about what to write about in the English Life – Spanish Life categories on my blog over the next few weeks – I jotted down a few current problems which the UK and Spain seem to share.
Some are longer-term, some more immediate and they’re not ranked in any particular order:
- Swine flu hysteria: general media panic in both countries has provided journalists and politicians with some welcome relief from yet another disastrous economy-related headline. There are now confirmed human-to-human cases in both countries. Will it get better in a few days or develop into a more life- and economy-threatening condition?
- Overly violent policing: the Catalan regional (national!?) police force – the Mossos d’Esquadra – charged a student demonstration last month in Barcelona and were a little bit over-enthusiastic with their plastic batons. Ditto London’s Metropolitan Police during the G20 riots in London. In both cases there have also been complaints about not being able to identify the police officers filmed beating the innocent bystanders because they all looked the same and were not wearing name tags (I’m not a number, rock on the New World Order, etc);
- European elections in June: general apathy in both countries towards these elections despite their importance for the future. They seem to have more influence on national political posturing, serving in both countries as strong indicators as to the relative health of the government or the strength of the opposition. What exactly do we want Europe to become anyway?;
- The Olympic Games: London beat Madrid to the 2012 Olympic Games, Madrid is trying again for the 2016 Games. The Olympics are on the horizon in one form or another for both capitals, not that it matters much in the current climate;
- Economic woes: the financial crisis and recession (depressions) should force both the UK and Spain to take a long, hard look at how they need to change their national business models, as well as forcing them to deal with massive levels of unemployment, adapted fiscal policies and housing market collapses. Both countries also have very strong tourism industries. Both incumbent socialist governments are rapidly floundering and both conservative opposition parties appear to possess a lack of coherence or belief in their suggestions for balancing the books;
- Foreign policy: is Zapatero really Obama’s new best buddy or has Brown clinched it by getting The One to mention the special relationship between the UK and America – despite the incident with Churchill’s bust and those DVDs? Or is Obama’s new best mate really France’s Super Sarko? Perhaps it doesn’t matter, Sarkozy has been outdone by his wife during state visits to the UK and Spain anyway. What is the best way to contribute to the war in Afghanistan – or at least be seen to be contributing? How are two once great Navies, historically tied by strong pirate traditions, going to fare swashbuckling together against 21st century Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa?
- Socialist governments vs. conservative opposition parties: both socialist governments are doing very badly with their handling of the financial crisis and the recession. Zapatero is stuck between a lack of ideas, massive unemployment and the trade unions and Brown is facing the chop sooner rather than later in the UK after a particularly disastrous month which he seems to have brought entirely on himself. Will Rajoy in Spain and Cameron in the UK be able to make the best of a bad job and oust the socialists?
- Devolution of political power: from London to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and from Madrid to (mainly) Bilbao, Barcelona, and Seville, the last few years have seen much devolution of political, legislative and fiscal power in both countries as new concepts of national identity in Spain and Britain have not not just been talked about but legislated into existence, to the delight of some and the angst of others;
- Immigration, multiculturalism and national identity: what to do with all these immigrants, especially now unemployment figures are storming upwards? Should our societies continue to be more lenient or should we define and enforce stricter nationality and immigration rules? What effect will immigration have on our demographic time bombs and economies? And – again – what exactly does Spanish or British national identity consist of nowadays?
- Abortion, euthanasia, cloning and medical experimentation: although on a human and medical level the components of these related debates are the same, attitudes towards these subjects in the UK and Spain have differed widely and have so far provoked different social, political and legislative responses.
What do you think? Do you agree? Which other subjects would you add?