Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Spanish government has finally put a toe into the hot water of labour market reform, something which has been talked about for at least the nine years I’ve been in Spain. The unions, of course, have rejected the proposals out of hand. So it’ll be interesting to see where we go next, in pursuit of ‘sustainable growth’. Not to mention budgetary stability.

Meanwhile, click here for an insight into the often surreal world of the Spanish politico-judicial nexus.

And here for a fine article on the origins of the superb quality of Barca’s football. They’re Dutch apparently.

I wrote of UK government IT incomptence both yesterday and the day before. But, of course, they don’t have a monopoly on this. The Pontevedra Philharmonic Society today sent me sixteen copies of the same email message. Plus a later message apologising profusely for this oversight. Actually, I think they sent sixteen copies - and the apology - to each of the people on the circulation list but I’m not sure how they managed this.

God knows I make enough typing mistakes myself but it’s disappointing to see gaffes like the following in a front page article in of one of the UK’s upmarket newspapers:-
- At the end of the day, Greece has to carry out monumental fiscal tightening even as it slides deeper into recession. They risk chasing their tale."
- A collective effort is needed to get us out of the whole we are in.”

Finally . . . I’ve been a little dismissive of the UK’s Daily Mail but it had an editorial today which seems beyond reproach. At least to those of us who’ve despaired at the onwards march of the bureaucrats. The background is the imminent General Elections in the UK and the issue this week of the various party manifestos:-

Yes, it's easy to be cynical. But the central message of yesterday' s Conservative Manifesto  -  that power should be returned to the people  -  is at least a breath of optimism in an otherwise depressing political landscape.

After years in which Britain has suffered under an ever-more-bloated state's centralising, box-ticking, finger-wagging, authoritarianism, slowly destroying any sense of individual or community pride and responsibility, it was a moment to savour. Here was a major political party unflinchingly committing itself to a smaller state with power taken from the bureaucrats and career politicians and given to the people. Yes, there will be problems. But we should welcome plans to free schools from local education bureaucracies, to give people a chance to elect local police commissioners, to insist that patients have proper access to GPs, and to enshrine the right of constituents to sack failing MPs. And yes, why shouldn't communities buy their local pubs and post offices to keep them going? Above all, though, we should rejoice at the Conservative Party's clearly stated belief that government spending, borrowing and taxation - all to prop up a vast, incompetent, self-reliance-sapping state - must be reduced if Britain is to have a hope of prospering.

Ensuring the people at every level have control and responsibility over their lives will contribute to bridging the gap between a disillusioned and cynical electorate and a discredited and disgraced political class. 

It's easy to say that this is a naive vision, but the fact is that communities in France and America have far greater involvement in running their affairs. The decline of active local politics has been one of the more damaging forces in British life of the last fifty years.

Of course, there are inconsistencies in the Tory programme. Crucial areas like the monolithic NHS have been placed off limits, immune to reforms that might make it both more efficient and more effective. Nor are there any plans to reform local government taxation. It's hard to see how it will be possible to revitalise local democracy if town halls remain dependent on central government for most of their funding. But at least there is original thinking here. It deserves a fair hearing.

Amen to that. Even if it is unlikely to happen.

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