Saturday, June 06, 2009

By now possibly everyone knows that El País this week published photos taken at President Berlusconi's Sardinian villa. What fascinated me was that, although the paper disguised one man’s face, they treated us to his erect penis. My guess is it would have been the other way round in the UK. Anyway, it seems that the not-overly-blessed gentleman was actually a Czech politician, betrayed by his wrist band. He claims the photo had been touched up – which is possibly what he had in mind for the prostrate women he’s seen approaching with his invitation – but he doesn’t tell us how. Perhaps he has reasons to be pleased.

Over in the UK, Gordon Brown has today had some respite, attending the D Day commemorations in Normandy. Looking back on a disturbing few days for him, perhaps the most telling development was the editorial from The Guardian - the Bible of the Left - which called for him to be ‘cut loose’ now, rather than later. It’s hard to argue with this. Especially as it was written on Wednesday, before the debacles of the last few days. But what I found most interesting about the editorial was the way in which it several times described Labour party members as ‘progressive’. This is standard Liberal thinking, of course - viz. that anyone who disagrees with them is immorally regressive. More impressive was the endorsement of my comment the other day that the only way for Labour to survive is via a strategic alliance with the Liberal Democrats.

Against this background, it was inevitable that the “high priestess of the Left”, Polly Toynbee, should finally put an end to her year-long dithering in The Guardian about Gordon Brown and call for his departure in no uncertain terms. Can he really have much longer? And will be able to avoid clinical depression?

Talking of editorials, El Pais today has one which reminds us that the Spanish European elections campaign has been of a low tone and completely domestically orientated. Clearly unimpressed, the author says what’s at stake is really the legitimacy of the EU. But I wonder whether there’s anyone else in the country who takes this view.

In its second editorial, the paper high-handedly castigates Messrs Blair and Brown for not correcting the policy errors of the Thatcher era. Indeed, it accuses them of continuing them. If the writer means the policy of centralising power in London, then he or she is clearly in agreement with Simon Jenkins. Of course, what New Labour is being punished for is doing this at the cost of massively increased taxes for the middle classes, with no commensurate improvement in those public services that are more controlled than ever by the government. As I’ve said many times, possibly one of the worst administrations in British history, in stark contrast with its professed ideals and, indeed, its promises. But brilliant at electioneering. And possibly well-studied by Señor Zapatero, who yesterday reminded us the Opposition are really just modern fascists who are planning to lay waste to the country. Not at all progressive, then.

Here in Spain, so-called property experts are still predicting it will be years before the country’s property overhang is disposed of. No one knows what the current total of unsold properties is but it’s somewhere between 800,000 and 1.2m. Whatever it is, it can only get bigger in the short term, as places started 3 to 5 years ago come onto the market. No wonder the consensus is that prices have a lot further to fall yet. Meanwhile, the banks are trying of offload those properties taken as security against loans that are now bad. Primarily to their own staff at considerable ‘discounts’. I wonder if they are taxed on these benefits in kind but guess not.

Talking of slow-moving constructions, two stainless steel rubbish bins were added to the bus-stop-in-progress this week, though I never happened to coincide with any of the workers on my four trips a day past it. My amateur guess is that, with proper project management (¿Que?), it could have been built inside a week, against the several months so far. But it hardly matters as it’s only going to be, like its predecessor, a glorified parking space.

You won’t be surprised to hear that the driving offence most committed here – or perhaps this should be most policed – is that of speeding. Followed by not wearing a seat belt, not having the correct child-protection measures in place, driving over the alcohol limit and then using a mobile phone. The police have announced that ‘safe drivers’ will at some time in the future be rewarded with additional points on their licence, safe in the knowledge that, thanks to their chicanery, there won’t actually be anyone in the country innocent of any offence.

Very close to home, there were two very adverse developments yesterday, to add to my catalogue. Firstly, Tony junior has found the bloody saxophone someone gave him last Christmas. And, secondly, I heard the dreaded word “Papa!” through the wall. Sure enough, Tony is back from the sea and I was woken early this morning by triple bawling. Time for extra earplugs.

Finally, did the Spanish royal family really not realise that Ryanair would take publicity advantage of the Queen’s flight from Santander to London last weekend? How touchingly naïve, if not.

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