Young Catalans wanted a country. They’ll settle for a steady paycheck.

Once the vanguard of a roiling independence movement, Catalonia's youth have started to ask what's in it for them.

Young Catalans wanted a country.  They’ll settle for a steady paycheck.

Daniel Beizsley teaches Criminology at the Open University of Catalonia.

BARCELONA — Catalan independence leaders have been willing to face batons, prison and exile in the belief that they are building a better country for their grandchildren. Unfortunately, what their grandchildren say they want is a better job and cheaper rent.

The independence movement — long associated with Catalans old enough to recall the Franco dictatorship — has started to show a younger face in recent years. Students as young as high-school age bore the brunt of the police violence during the 2019 demonstrations against harsh prison sentences handed out to independence leaders.

Lately however, among young people, doubts about the cause have been creeping in. If trend holds, it will spell the end of the independence movement. Support for independence among people aged 18-24 in the region was 60 percent as recently as 2014. Now surveys show it has fallen to 39 percent among the same group. The movement’s leaders can longer take the support of young Catalans for granted.

There’s a chance the tide could change again. But if it doesn’t and independence leaders have lost the future generation for good, then the movement is probably over in any serious sense.

The movement’s drift toward populism and identity politics appears to be alienating younger people. Earlier in the 21st century, as support for Catalan secession rose sharply, an increasing number of people in the region began describing themselves as Catalan — and not Spanish. The shift was a marked change from the generation reared in the late 20th century, post-dictatorship period, when dual Catalan and Spanish identities typically held sway.

Polls show support for independence rises with the number of people identifying as “only Catalan” (a group in which over 90 percent is in favor of secession) and “more Catalan than Spanish.” But recent survey evidence suggests the number of young Catalans who see themselves this way is falling.

In 2014, 28 percent of young Catalans described themselves as “only Catalan.” By 2021 this has slumped to 19.5% percent. In 2014, less than a third expressed a dual identity — feeling equally Spanish and Catalan. Today just under half do so, the most common response in polls.

The tumble of support among Catalan youth contrasts sharply to the situation in Scotland, where support for independence has reached 70 percent for the same age range. In Catalonia, the movement appears to be following in the steps of Quebec, where new generations of young people have lost interest in sovereignty, engaging instead with issues relating to work, race and the environment.

Young people gravitate toward idealistic social movements, but they’re not fools. The increasingly confrontational line adopted by Catalonia’s independence parties, scaffolded with historical grievances and identity issues, doesn’t speak to most younger Catalans, who have been locked out of the employment and housing markets for a generation.

Facing a 41 percent youth unemployment rate even before COVID-19, younger Catalans are being told by independence leaders that the only path to stability is to have their own country. That’s starting to ring hollow for a cohort that’s trying to begin their lives and are all too aware they’ve received almost nothing in return for years of support for independence.

Nothing is ever fixed in Catalan politics. Support for independence could make a return among young people, reaffirming the independence movement’s raison d’etre. But for this to happen, secessionist governments must have something of substance to offer the young, beyond protracted social conflict.

So far, they haven’t offered much, and they may be running out of time.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Lib Dems defeat Tories in stunning UK by-election upset

The Chesham and Amersham seat has been held by the Tories since its creation in 1974.

Lib Dems defeat Tories in stunning UK by-election upset

The Liberal Democrats on Thursday inflicted a severe defeat over the Conservatives, with candidate Sarah Green winning the Chesham and Amersham constituency with a majority of 16,000 and a swing of 25 percentage points to the party.

“I am humbled by the faith you have placed in me,” Green said in her victory speech after the result was declared just before 2 a.m. overnight. Green won 21,517 votes — against 13,489 for the Conservative candidate Peter Fleet. Labour’s candidate Natasa Pantelic polled just 622 votes.

In an address to supporters, Fleet admitted that he faced “an absolutely extraordinary result which must take into account the fact that the Liberal Democrat party didn’t just throw the kitchen sink at this constituency, it was the microwave, the table, the oven, the dishwasher, the dog, the cat and anything else that was lying around as well.”

Green, a self-described “independent-minded businesswoman”, becomes the 12th Lib Dem in the Commons, grabbing the seat from Tories who held it since its creation in 1974. The by-election was called after the death of the sitting MP and former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan.

“Across the South, the Tory Blue Wall is beginning to crumble,” Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said in a statement overnight.

People in those constituencies “feel they’re being ignored by the Conservatives, taken for granted,” Davey added on the Today Programme on Friday morning.

The result is in line with a trend in recent local elections where Conservatives suffered losses to the Lib Dems and Green Party in wealthier areas in the South of England.

“There’s an element that our party is trying too hard to be Brexiteers,” one southern Conservative MP (who supports Brexit) told London Playbook on Thursday night. “If we’re driving our core votes off to the Greens and Lib Dems we could have a surprising upset at the next election.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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