As I understand it, the date for the start of official electioneering is a few weeks away. But you’d never know it. Hardly an hour passes without the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition making a promise which tops that of the other an hour previously. So, when the latter said there’d be a reform of income tax levels resulting in an average 16% cut, the former responded with the statement that, if the government is returned in March, it’ll give everyone 400 euros in May. When asked why there would be a delay, one of the Deputy PMs said it was a ‘hyper-progressive’ idea which required ‘technical measures’, preventing it being paid until after the voting had taken place. I’d like to think the Spanish electorate is too sophisticated to be much affected by this Dutch auction approach to political manifestos but it worries me that people who understand the voters much better than me obviously don’t think so. Anyway, now that a limelit pork barrel has been shoved onto centre stage, it’s hard to see it being removed before polling day in early March.
Meanwhile, the government has increased its lead in the opinion polls, probably reflecting reaction to an insane row between the PP’s Madrid big names which left the Leader of the Opposition looking weak and indecisive. But, with the EU further reducing the forecast of 2008 economic growth to 2.6%, I guess there’s enough time left for the faltering of the economy to be laid at the government’s door. At least by those who are not planning to let themselves be blatantly bribed. So, another PSOE administration then.
En passant, not everyone will get the 400 euros. Remarkably – to me at least – it will be denied to the country’s self-employed entrepreneurs. As if they didn’t have it tough enough already, having to pay 2-300 euros a month in social security taxes before they have even a centimo of revenue, let alone profit.
But at least there was something to laugh at in yesterday’s news. In the face of the serious downturn in the property market, the Professional Association of Real Estate Experts has drawn up a crisis plan for its members. This is based on ‘better training and new sales techniques’. That should do the trick. Titanic and deckchairs are two words that spring immediately to mind.
Another weekend, another . . Well, you know the rest - 3am. High speed. Lamppost. Eviscerated young man extracted by oxyacetylene torches. Destroyed family.
On a lighter note, the weekend also saw the 40th annual festival of cocido up in Lalín. So it’s too late now to enjoy the spectacle of Brazilian dancing girls who might have looked more at home in Rio. Cocido is Galicia’s traditional stew, involving everything you’d expect a rural community to chuck in a large pot. And a few other things as well. One of the other delights available was grelos, which is usually translated as turnip tops. Not the most appealing of dishes, perhaps. So I wasn’t surprised to read that someone – a turnip farmer? – had insisted they’re an aphrodisiac. Just like those other unappetising offerings – durian fruit and Galicia’s own percebes. Or goose barnacles.
And the third notable event of the weekend was another fox-shooting competition up in Portomarín. Interestingly, this was attended by the police, who had to come – Brit style - between protesters and participants. However, this didn’t stop the latter bagging 69 of the creatures. Foxes, I mean.
I was wrong to say the world’s largest and naffest zebra crossing was flanked by 8 poles with green/red lights on top of them. There are actually 12. Talking of Pontevedra, I’ve learned this week the city had a four-year experiment with parking meters sometime in the 90s. So far, I’ve been proffered three reasons why these were withdrawn:- 1. they were found to be illegal, 2. the private company operating them couldn’t make a profit out of the game, and 3. Pontevedra’s drivers simply declined, en masse, to put anything in the machines. The first of these sounds rather implausible but the second two could well be connected, of course. But What is truth, asked Pilate. And departed smiling.
To end on a numerical note – Someone has pointed out that Bobby Fischer died at 64, the number of squares on a chess board. So I’m turning to astronomy.