What is the point of having the king of Spain on TV saying exactly the same as Rajoy and his ministers have been saying every day? What’s the novelty? Something very important: the subject of the verb has shifted. Rajoy is the government, whereas the king is the State. So far, you could argue that the Spanish government threatens Catalonia and turns its back on the demands of the Catalan people. But after his TV address, it is the king of Spain who takes on the historic responsibility of responding to those demands by using force, looking to lock horns and leaving no room for political play. It is not the Spanish government anymore, but the State.
It is yet another example of Rajoy’s talent for shirking his responsibilities and passing the buck. For many Spaniards, the change of subject is hugely relevant. If the choices made by the State to address the Catalan issue (which affects the very foundations of Spanish democracy) prove to be wrong and elicit international outrage or lead to confrontation and disaster, it will be the State who will foot the bill, not the government.
If that were to happen, a new government will not be the answer to the problem, because the accountability now lies elsewhere. It will require a change of State. Regardless of its effect on Catalan independence, perhaps King Felipe’s speech has paved the way for Spain’s Third Republic.