Friday, January 23, 2009

The British economy is now is such a parlous state I wonder how long it will be before there are calls for a ‘national’ government, comprising at least the two main parties. This would present the Conservative opposition with something of a dilemma, I suspect. They’d not want to be seen as ‘unpatriotic’ in resisting this but, less than two years away from a general election, neither would they want to be drawn into copping some of the blame for the mistakes of the last decade and the next twelve months. If it ever happens, it will be fascinating to watch.

Meanwhile, the pound continues its downwards progress from a mere ‘competitive devaluation’ to a full-blown run on the currency. For an insight into the reasons why, click here.

In the Byzantine world of Spanish regional-national politics, something deeply odd is taking place in the Madrid Autonomous Community. The President of the latter – who seems to be at constant war with the same-party mayor of Madrid city – is now accused of setting up a special service to spy on one of her same-party colleagues who wasn’t doing her bidding around political control of the regional savings bank, Caja Madrid. At least, I think that’s the situation but you’d need a degree in Spanish politics to really understand it all. Anyway, the hapless President of the right-of-centre PP party – there are a lot of presidents in Spain – has now initiated an investigation into the claims about the behaviour of the Madrid region president. With whom there’ve been sharp clashes in the past. This may be unfair but, taken with the fact that Spain’s judges are about to go on strike, this rather gives the impression that neither government nor opposition are doing their jobs and that no one in this fun-loving country is terribly concerned about its serious economic plight. Perhaps they all think that the EU 7th cavalry will always be there to ride to the rescue. I mean, if France and Germany can bend the rules and remain good members, why not Spain?

And, of course, the Spanish might be right. This article endorses reader Moscow’s view that exit of the EU would be extremely difficult, if not downright impossible. As the author says, “The costs imposed on country leaving the euro would be overwhelming. The markets would take fright and demand a far higher premium for holding the government's debts.” However, the writer adds the rider that “If the situation continues to worsen, electorates may ultimately demand nothing less.” This, of course, is because they don’t understand economics. But are very aware that economic expertise didn’t prevent the current global malaise. And that for every economic forecast, there’s at least another one round the corner. Then there’s the credibility of politicians. About which it’s probably best to say little.

A man from Barcelona is suing his British employer for racial discrimination, claiming his boss poked fun at him using quotations from Fawlty Towers. American readers might find it strange to see the word ‘race’ used for discrete European peoples but it’s certainly possible, I believe, for an Irishman to win a case in the British courts based on the telling of traditional scurrilous English jokes about their neighbours. Though I’m not sure a Belgian would succeed in a French court. Or a Canadian in either a French or an American court.

It comes to something when an Italian newspaper openly claims your country is happily harbouring its most corrupt nationals. But, sadly, La Repubblica says a large part of the construction along the Costa del Sol was carried out, with the full knowledge of local politicians, by companies linked to the mafia. Allegedly, Spain is the favoured destination of the Naples Camorra because it is a ‘more tolerant state, not afflicted by homicides or anti-mafia vigilance’. Or, as the paper puts it, ‘An Eden for organised crime.’ So, not much change since Noel Coward labelled the Costa del Sol ‘A sunny place for shady people’. Except he didn’t. It was the Riviera he was talking about. But he could have done.

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