Monday, April 21, 2008

The leader of the PP Opposition party [Sr. Rajoy] has called on the President of the Madrid Community [Sra. Esperanza Aguirre] to put up or shut up, rather than to go on sniping at him because he lost the recent general election. Specifically, he’s stressed that the PP is a broad church, with room for right-of-centre voters of all stamps. However, if Aguirre really wants to lead a ‘liberal’ wing, then she should quit the PP and start a party of her own. What’s confusing me is that the real liberal, centre-right politician in the PP was said to be the mayor of Madrid [Sr. Gallardon], who is at daggers-drawn with Aguirre. Worse, the person I rely on for political insights – Graeme at South of Watford – clearly regards Aguirre as being to the right of Attila the Hun. I fear it will be a while before I really understand Spanish politics. Meanwhile, the left-of-centre El País is having a field day with all this stuff. And who can blame them? They even suggest that Rajoy has been burnishing his centre-right credentials by attacking both El Mundo and the Catholic radio station, Cope. And Graeme has chosen this moment to go off on holiday!

Explaining why French nationalisations had been more successful than those in Britain, a French expert said it was because the people in command of the dirigiste state were the clever, well-educated elite of the country and knew how to run businesses properly. It struck me that this top-down model of government is not only that of the EU but also of China. Though possibly not that of the other emerging giant, India. So the question is, in dealing with the economic threat posed by the Chinese command-economy model, will the similar model of France and the EU be more successful than the ‘liberal’ model of the USA, Britain and [perhaps] India. Time will surely tell.

My reader Moscow feels I’m unfair in painting a picture of Spain as a very corrupt place. In a short dialogue, we’ve agreed that Spain is certainly not the ‘systematically corrupt’ sort of country in which, for example, you’re called on to bribe your way to your entitlements. It’s not Russia, then. Or even Italy. And I’ve admitted to a rather wide definition of the word ‘corrupt’. But, if I have indeed been unfair in using this term, what would be the right description for a country in which recent developments such as these are reported on a regular basis:-
- A priest defrauds an old woman of €600,000.
- The Finance Director of the Guggenheim in Bilbao is found to have embezzled €450,000
- A priceless collection of pre-Colombian art is discovered to be missing from a warehouse in Santiago
- The leading cosmetic surgery clinic is accused of charging women for much cheaper implants than the ones they’d ordered.
- The leading abortion clinic is accused of operating on women way beyond the legal term.
- Medical consultants – not administrators – are accused of keeping false records so as to be able to publish satisfactory waiting-time statistics
- Police officers are accused of organised theft and blackmail.

At the very least, all this suggests you’re more likely to be cheated here by professionals you should be able to trust than in other countries. And this fits with my previous borrowing of someone else’s term of ‘low-trust’. But my question is - If ‘corrupt’ really is too strong, what is the right way to describe Spanish society? Suggestions welcome.

I occasionally comment on driving standards here but, in the interests of balance, I should stress I think most Spaniards drive well and in a sober state. However, there’s a significant percentage who drive like imbeciles or who are dangerously drunk at the wheel. Occasionally, of course, you get both at the same time. So it was at the weekend, when a young man who was at twice the legal limit tried to undertake a coach on a curve in the rain and caused an accident which cost nine tourists from Finland their lives and seriously injured another twenty-two. Sadly, he survived. It will be interesting to see how harshly the courts deal with him.

Galicia Facts

The Diario de Pontevedra says 30,000 people lined the city’s streets to cheer the local hero in Saturday’s men’s triathlon event. If so, they must have decanted from their houses after I’d left for home, chilled to the marrow. At my vantage point along the river, there’d been only me and a local policeman to discuss the arctic weather as we waited for the ladies in bikinis on bikes.

The Pontevedra gypsy wars continue. The usual manifestation is the eruption into the streets of all the residents of each village or town in which the authorities try to move one or more families from the illegal camp near me which is being demolished piecemeal. One wonders how and when it will all end.

At the recent general election, the President of the Galician Nationalist Party called for more votes so that the party could gain pivotal power with a minority governing party in Madrid. My impression is he didn’t have great success with this ambition. However, his line has now been taken up by one of his new friends, the President of the Scottish Nationalist party. The latter is openly seeking a trebling of Scottish Nationalist MP’s in the London parliament so that they can hold the whip hand in a future Labour or Conservative minority administration and so force the pace of Scottish independence. I fancy he stands rather more chance of success than Sr. Quintana.

Meanwhile, the Galician Nationalist Party here has fallen out with its Socialist coalition partner over the former’s new law changing the rules for the construction of flats in Galicia. You may wonder what on earth a government is doing defining the minimum size for a kitchen, a bedroom and even a wardrobe but the Nationalists are to the left of the Socialists and presumably don’t believe either the construction industry will do the right thing or that the people should be left alone to take their own decisions as to what they’re prepared to pay for. So, low trust again.


Anonymous said...

Actually Colin COPE and SER pretty well sum up the "two Spains". If you want to know the politics of your taxi driver simply look at their radio...

Graeme said...

I'm back Colin - but I'm suffering from Google Reader overload. I think the problem you are having is with the way the word "liberal" is used in Spain (very different from the UK or US interpretations) - and given this the difficulty the difficulty of distinguishing the liberals from the conservatives. I did read something yesterday by someone using the Spanish definition who did indeed state that Gallardón is a liberal. Espe would not agree.

Alberto said...

The right wing of the PP likes to call themselves "liberal" (in the classical sense of being pro-free market and small government) to avoid the "conservative" label.

Of course when they are in power (like in Madrid) their politics then to be very conservative and interventionist while paying lip service to the low-taxes issue.

So Ruiz-Gallardon could be called more "liberal" in the anglos axon style and Aguirre, claims to be liberal is the continental style (In that style Thatcherite politics were called ultra-liberal by the left)

In practice both are clearly conservative and the difference is more in style that anything else (Gallardon tends to be more inclusive and less aggressive toward the rivals while Aguirre never takes prisoners)

At the end is an issue of personal enemity.

moscow said...

Thanks Colin for including me in your post. Firstly, I checked TI's index, and Russia is more corrupt than Iran and Indonesia, although Indonesia and Russia are in contiguous positions. So I got that wrong. They are, however, close to each other in the ranking, and all three have a dismal record, born witness by their extremeley low positions in the ranking. Obviously, it is your prerrogative to use the terminology you see fit. You may call Spain corrupt if that is what you think Spain deserves. I am not interested in correcting someone's words. But, I think international rankings and the media, are unfair to countries like Spain, which have more problems in this area than the (relatively) squeaky clean nordic and anglo countries, but which compare well to the rest of the world. In this sense, it's sounds slightly off-beam to say that Spain is more corrupt than the UK, but less than Iran. I would phrase it this way: Spain is a somewhat more corrupt country than Britain, but Iran is infinitely more corrupt than Spain. To answer your question, I would define Spain as fairly or largely uncorrupt.
As for the meaning of liberal, I see three different versions:
1) An American definition. For the Republican right a liberal is what the Spanish would call a 'progre', in other words, an abusive word for left-wing unpatriotic godless social vanguardists, usually from privilegued background.
2) A Spanish definition:
Heartless pro-American right-wing business-friendly Thatcherites, usually from privilegued background, in other words, 'fachas'.
3) A British definition. Social and economic libertarians, who eschew being defined as left- or right-wing (which is the one I adscribe to).
I have a problem with Aguirre. I realise she is supported by some very distasteful section of the right-wing media, but I would say Rajoy is, overall, much more conservative. I think she is more open, and flexible, and that she would be much better at conducting a dialogue with conservative Catalan and Basque nationalists.
She is definitely liberal in economic terms, and in some social issues she seems also ahead of her own party. I would put her to the left of Rajoy. Her new law on the liberalisation of shop opening hours is simply brilliant. AS for Gallardon, I believe he is more liberal than both Aguirre and Rajoy on social issues, but I am not that sure on the economic front. He strucks me as a bit of a social democrat, almost like a German Christian democrat, but on the left wing of the CDU.

moscow said...

and I think I meant 'strikes me' not 'strucks me'.

kerote said...

corruption in galicia and spain was increasing, perhaps we stay at the maximum just now.
I see "social vice"; you a bmw and me a porche; a lot of Law but no respect (Roca, afinsa, gescartera,...); ... silly the last one.