Friday, September 21, 2007

The Zapatero government has recently announced a raft of promises which are likely to cost the next administration dear. It’s no coincidence, of course, that there’s a general election next March. For this, Sr. Zapatero’s strategy appears to be to dress his government in caring, left-centrist colours while labelling the opposition party right-wing extremists. In Spain, of course, this is code for Francoist fascists. This approach is not far removed from that of Blair/Brown in the UK over the past few years and is pretty much inescapable when the parties are fighting over the same narrow central ground. In this, I suspect fortune favours the left-of-centre parties, as it’s much more credible to the populace at large that a leftist party has become an economically literate but caring centre party than it is for a rightist party. Witness David Cameron’s trials in the UK, both within and without his party. Here in Spain, the PSOE has certainly been helped in this challenge by the rather strident stances of the PP over the last four years. In a nutshell, it hasn’t actually been very hard to make the label of ‘right-wing extremists’ stick. And I suspect Zapatero’s PSOE party will edge it in March. Rather ironic to think they almost certainly wouldn’t now be in power and so able to retain it but for the Madrid bombs of 2004. Especially as Islamist attacks haven’t ceased.

As part of the revision of Catalunia’s Constitution, Madrid has agreed to up investment there by around 25%. As is traditional, this has immediately led to game of regional leap-frog. So far, 6 regions/’nations’ have demanded at least equal treatment. At a time of declining tax revenues, this may prove hard to achieve.

And still on politics . . . A couple of years ago, the Spanish government relaxed the laws on motor bike licences. After an utterly predictable increase in fatalities, they’ve now gone into reverse and tightened the regulations, at least for larger bikes. Not before time; here in Galicia, another 3 riders lost their lives on Tuesday alone.

It seems the vineyards of southern France are full of Andalucians working on the grape harvest, while the vineyards of southern Spain are replete with Rumanians and Bulgarians doing the same thing there but getting half the salary and living in much less salubrious quarters. The obvious questions are:- 1. Why would French employers pay twice as much as they need to? 2. Will it be long before the East Europeans twig they’re just as entitled to work in France as they are in Spain? And 3. What will become of the Spanish workers then? I would guess labouring in the construction industry is no longer a good alternative.

The sun continues to shine here in Galicia. In fact, today it’s the only place in Spain where it won’t be raining. Certainly a September to remember. Pontevedra’s old quarter has been an absolute joy. But don’t come next year: I know for a fact it’s gong to pour down. I blame it on global warming.

Finally, this is again coming to you from a cyber café. My internet provider – not Telefonica but Deutsche Telecom/ – has written to me saying they’re improving my service. This seems to mean cutting my connection, promising me a text message which has yet to arrive and offering me a special free number which is permanently engaged and a helpline which doesn’t work. Impressive, no? Infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure. Not quite what it should be.

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