Jim Lawley

Jim Lawley is a former university lecturer who has lived and worked in Spain for 40 years.

Why are the Spanish so loyal to the EU?

An upright Englishman, some years after marrying into a Spanish family, finally breaks his cardinal rule. In a moment of sudden daring at an extended family lunch, he challenges the totem of the Spanish renaissance: the Euro. The stunned silence that follows this blasphemy is filled by one of his in-laws: ‘Aha! Just what I expected… I

Pedro Sanchez’s grubby deal to stay in power

In 2017 the Catalan premier, Carles Puigdemont, having first organised an illegal referendum and then declared unilateral independence from Spain, escaped arrest by hiding in the boot of a car. While other Catalan leaders went to prison for sedition, Puigdemont fled to Belgium where he’s spent most of the last six years living comfortably in

The Catalan volte face that has disgusted Spain

This weekend saw protests across Spain after the acting prime minister, socialist Pedro Sánchez, agreed to a general amnesty for Catalan separatists in return for parliamentary votes to enable him to stay in power. The amnesty will benefit hundreds of separatists facing fines or imprisonment for their involvement in the illegal referendum on independence for Catalonia

Spaniards are horrified by an amnesty for separatists

When has a government ever offered an amnesty to fugitives from justice in order to stay in office? That’s what’s happening in Spain at the moment. Following July’s general election the only way in which the caretaker prime minister, the socialist Pedro Sánchez, can cling to power is by cutting a deal with a hodgepodge

Can Spain’s monarchy survive?

‘We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are no better than us, to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our laws and liberties; but if not, not.’ This famous oath of allegiance, sworn hundreds of years ago by the noblemen of Aragon in northern Spain

The secret to learning a language quickly

Becoming proficient in a so-called ‘easy’ language (for English speakers, French is relatively easy) often takes hundreds of hours; a difficult language (Mandarin anyone?) takes several thousand. That’s good for language teachers, but not so good for the learners.  Language teaching today is where medicine was in the 18th century Even after putting in all

What to do about rude words in Scrabble

‘Nice,’ my junior school teacher once surprised the class by announcing, ‘isn’t nice.’ We shouldn’t, Miss Morris went on to explain, describe food as ‘nice’ but instead as ‘tasty’, ‘delicious’ or perhaps ‘tempting’. Similarly, rather than saying that a person is ‘nice’ we should indicate in what way they are nice, describing them for example

The quiet thrill of moss hunting

Did you know that an expert on mosses is called a bryologist? And did you know that there are 754 species of moss in The British Isles? No? Well then you can be forgiven for not knowing that my brother, Mark, I write with pride, recently discovered another moss – number 755 – new not only to The British Isles

Spain’s controlled anarchy

Life expectancy in Spain is 83 years – amongst the highest in the world. Deep, trusting relationships with family and friends surely contribute to this longevity. Orwell emphasised the ‘essential decency’ of the Spanish people, ‘above all, their straightforwardness and generosity. A Spaniard’s generosity, in the ordinary sense of the word, is at times almost embarrassing

When will Spain’s political paralysis end?

Sunday’s general election in Spain was supposed to answer the question: will Spain be governed for the next four years by a right-wing coalition or by a left-wing coalition? If the question was easy to understand, the answer certainly isn’t. Like the four previous general elections, this one was inconclusive – only even more so. 

How Spain’s politics succumbed to radicalism

If Spain’s left-wing government loses tomorrow’s general election, thousands of people including many senior civil servants stand to lose their jobs. Their positions are discretionary; if the political masters change, so do the personnel. When the left took office in 2018, for example, an estimated 6,000 public servants were fired, including several hundred advisers. The

Can Spain forgive Pedro Sánchez?

Voters in Spain’s general election on 23 July have a clear-cut choice. They can choose to continue with the left-wing coalition currently in power or they can replace it with a staunchly right-wing government. Since 2019 Spain has been governed by a minority coalition consisting of PSOE, Spain’s main left-wing party, with 120 seats, and Podemos, further to the left, with 35.

What the rise of Vox means for Spain

Vox, the most right-wing of Spain’s mainstream political parties, has emerged considerably strengthened from Sunday’s local and regional elections. With the left-wing vote slumping badly, the Partido Popular, the largest right-wing party, also had an excellent night, but crucially it will need the support of Vox to govern in many regions and town halls.         

Spain’s shift towards the radical right

Yesterday’s snap election in Castile-León, one of the 17 regional autonomies into which Spain is divided, was another excellent day for Vox, the most right-wing of Spain’s mainstream parties. Vox, which previously had just one seat in the 81-seat regional assembly, now has 13 and holds the balance of power. Vox’s success prevented the Partido

Can Spain save its dying villages?

In a little village on the Spanish Meseta, I once asked an old lady about the next village some three or four miles away. She shook her head as if considering a hopeless case and said, ‘Oh, the people there are very different.’ To me, those villages seemed like two peas in a pod. But

Bronze is the best medal

In the 50-kilometre walk at the 1948 Olympics, the gold and silver medallists were aged 28 and 33 respectively. The man who took bronze, Britain’s ‘Tebbs’ Lloyd-Johnson, was 48 years old. Still the oldest person ever to win an Olympic track and field medal, Tebbs is now more famous than the men who finished ahead

Spain’s growing culture war over General Franco

There are hundreds of mass graves dotted around the Spanish countryside. In roadside ditches, down hillside gullies, dumped in pits and down disused wells lie thousands of bodies: civilians murdered in cold blood by Franco’s death squads during the civil war that convulsed Spain between 1936 and 1939. Over the nearly forty years of Franco’s

Spain’s pardoning of Catalan separatists may backfire

In one of his adventures on the highways of 17th-century Spain, Don Quixote encounters a gang of prisoners ‘manacled and strung together by the neck, like beads, on a great iron chain’. Undeterred by Sancho’s protestations that these are criminals on their way to serve as galley slaves in just punishment for their crimes, Don

Is this a new dawn for the Spanish right?

In Tuesday’s regional elections in Madrid, the right-wing Partido Popular emerged as by far the most successful party, more than doubling its representation to win 65 of the 136 seats in the assembly. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the 42-year-old local Partido Popular leader who was seeking re-election, won more seats than the three left-wing parties combined.

Can Spain’s Europhilism last?

‘Suppose a man be carried, whilst fast asleep, into a room where there is a person he longs to see and speak with; and be there locked fast in … he awakes, and is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which he stays willingly in … I ask, is not this stay voluntary?