Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.
Monday, September 01, 2014
Doulas: Tapped; Corruption; Politics; More corruption; Good news?; And Rousseau's dog.
few days ago, my friend Dwight introduced me to the word 'doula', in
the context of the birth of his latest grandchild. It means a
non-medical person who assists a woman before, during and after birth.
Yesterday, I heard this new word again but this time in the context
of an imminent death. Quite a coincidence.
of English words . . . My younger daughter has introduced me
to the word 'tapped' in its new guise of 'crazy'.
a letter from yesterday's El País on the first or second
concern of most Spaniards:-
a la Carte
and his wife, Princess Cristina, under suspicion. Barcenas, in jail
for theft. Matas, in jail for the same thing. Jordi Pujol, a
confessed fraudster. Aguirre, fleeing from the police. Cañete,
recidivist. León de la Riva, sexist recidivist. The HQ of the
governing political party searched by the police. The governments of
Valencia and Andalucia questioned about irregularities in the recent
past. A host of mayors, councillors and CEOs in the dock. Hundreds of
public office-holders with charges against them, with most of them
still free, without bail. Dozens of cases: Gürtel, ERE, Nóos,
Brugal, Fabra, Pokémon, Palma Arena, Pallerols, Millet, Malaya, ITV,
Baltar, etc. If they say that a political class is the reflection of
a society, my God, what a society! Eliminating corruption begins with
oneself, day to day. Let's see if we succeed in the the challenge set
out in this newspaper by Judge Gómez Bermúdez: "To educate the
next generation that, e. g. jumping a queue is unethical and
reprehensible behaviour. The day we get our kids to understand this
it will be much more difficult for there to be such a high rate of
corruption." And if you are not so young, you should be reminded
that it is one thing to get a few bottles of good Rioja wine for
Christmas and and another thing to be made a venal shareholder of the
now Spanish Politics: Graeme of North of Watford has
made a welcome, if belated, return to the blogosphere and his acute
analysis merits reproduction, rather than just a citation. Scroll down if politics is not your bag. As they used to say.
Spain's government has decided that its priority for the coming
months is what it describes as 'democratic
These are words that few have ever associated with the Partido
Popular and Mariano Rajoy but there's no need to worry; Spain's right
wing hasn't suddenly caught the democracy 'bug'. The weight of that
long political tradition is still sufficient to ensure that the PP
regards anything smacking of greater democracy as something to be
avoided at all costs.
we are getting a response to the dismal results that Spain's two main
political parties obtained in May's elections for the European
Parliament. 2015 is a big election year in Spain, if everything is
scheduled as expected the country will have municipal and regional
elections followed a few months later by a general election. The
shock of the European elections was twofold, firstly because support
for the two main parties combined fell just short of 50% of the vote,
and secondly because of the surprise emergence of Podemos as a
potential threat to that two party hegemony.
PP does not panic in a very public way, but results which had the
party not even reaching 30% of the vote in their strongholds of
Madrid and Valencia have had a profound effect internally. Were this
pattern to be repeated in the municipal and regional elections then
the PP faces the prospect of losing power in places where they have
governed for decades. Imagine the bonfire of incriminating documents
that might mean, assuming of course that any incriminating paperwork
that exists hasn't already already been destroyed in the wake of all
the corruption scandals of the last few years.
PP has an abysmal problem in reaching agreements with other parties,
and the prospect of either governing in minority or passing to the
opposition is too terrible to contemplate. Something must be done,
and that something appears to consist of manipulating electoral law
to ensure they can still govern with fewer votes. Pioneer in the
gerrymandering exercise has been Maria Dolores de Cospedal, who
combines her job as secretary general of the PP with that of
president in Castilla La Mancha. Using the excuse of austerity,
Cospedal has pushed through a law drastically reducing the number of
members of the regional parliament. The new law has the happy effect
of both making it harder to dislodge the PP from power and of
effectively excluding any smaller parties from representation unless
they can overtake one of the big two.
by such an impeccably democratic example, Mariano Rajoy has announced
that he intends to change the electoral law for the municipal elections
so that the party which receives the most votes gets to govern
regardless of whether they have an absolute majority or not. Although
they talk of a minimum threshold necessary for a party to claim
control of a city without winning the election, we will have to wait
and see what the PP tries to get away with. Currently they talk of
40% of the vote, but that could easily be lower if the poll data they
manage isn't looking good. Today's El Mundo poll has them on 30%
nationally, a third of those who voted for Rajoy in 2011 have gone
and many may not be returning. Rajoy seems determined to push through
a major change in electoral law regardless of whether any other party
supports it or not, and the talk of 'democratic
is merely the cynical touch the PP seems to feel is needed to
decorate all of their measures. If that's still not cynical enough
for you they also claim the change will help to avoid corruption.
illusion of change in order to ensure that everything remains safely
in the same hands seems to have become the trademark of Rajoy's
administration and the management of the country's crisis. As the
two-party system shows signs of weakness they change to law to try
and prop it up. If someone like Pablo Iglesias becomes popular partly
as a result of television appearances, then the PP has a solution;
try to make sure he doesn't appear on television. It's the concept of
the managed democracy they hoped for after Franco's death, sure
people can vote but not just for anybody. Come on. This is not just
the attitude of the PP, the whole establishment of the transition
years gets intensely nervous at anything that might upset the cozy
cronyism they have nurtured carefully for so many years.
is a delicious irony in seeing all those who shouted in 2011 that
what the indignados had to do was form a political party and
present themselves for election changing their tune. Now that a
section of the movement appears to have done just that and with a
certain amount of success, not just the music changes as laws get
quickly changed to preserve the status quo at any cost. This is not
just about Podemos, new broader based civic platforms are quickly
forming to present alternative candidacies in big cities like
Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid. The common denominator is a rejection
of the old way of doing politics, and of those who administer the
crisis in their own interests.
emergence of Podemos, placed just behind the PSOE in El
poll, has had the effect of provoking some kind of crisis in almost
all of Spain's political parties. This was most evident with the
PSOE, who finally realised they had to renovate their image after
over 2 years of steady decline rather than improvement in opposition.
The unconvincing way they have done this, with all sorts of
manoeuvres to try and fix the election of a new leader, doesn't bode
well for a significant change of direction. The PP, who vilified
Rubalcaba as being the epitome of evil, suddenly realised how much
they will miss him as they become the only party of the 'old
They were much more comfortable with the ritual 'y
sessions that the increasingly rare parliamentary debates in Spain
the party which has taken the biggest hit from Podemos has been
Izquierda Unida, who found themselves pushed behind the new party in
several regions. IU had benefited from disenchantment with the major
parties, but not as much as they should have. Podemos come in a with
a different language and fresher style, and the leadership of IU has
been left wondering what happened. The dead hand of the Spanish
Communist Party has damaged IU's prospects for years as many of those
who could be attracted to the platform left to do other things. Those
behind Podemos amongst them.
Unión Progreso y Democracia, who presented themselves as a safe way
to break the two party hold, have a crisis of their own as they are
no longer in pole position to be the alternative. Still very much the
personal project of Rosa Diez, the party machine reacts badly to
dissent and those who favour a fusion or agreement with Ciudadanos
are subjected to insults by the loyalists. Diez apparently believed
she could eclipse the Catalan upstarts, but her right wing media
allies seem to be in favour of the merger and have fanned the flames.
Again, the emergence of Podemos leaves UPyD looking every bit as much
a part of Spain's political establishment as the two big parties, a
case that is supported by the reaction of its leaders to the new
opinion polls differ greatly on just what is happening, and are also
subject to ever greater manipulation as part of the, occasionally
hysterical, counter attack. The attempt by El País a few weeks ago
to spin a revival in the PSOE's fortunes following the election of
Pedro Sánchez as leader was widely criticised because of the way in
which they found a 10% increase in support for the major parties that
no other poll seems to detect. The pollsters in general have yet to
offer any explanation for how they got the voting pattern so badly
wrong in the European elections, and given that there have been no
elections since you have to wonder how they are adjusting their polls
to fit the new scenario?
European elections in Spain are special in that they are the most
representative, despite the low participation. This is because it is
a national vote and therefore doesn't suffer the sort of deformation
present in general elections here, that which allows Rajoy to have an
absolute majority in parliament with well under 50% of the vote.
Precisely the sort of system he now wants to introduce in municipal
elections too. Incidentally, if you think that the Spanish electoral
system has been brutally unfair in past general elections, just wait
and see what happens in the next election if the two major parties
have a lower vote but are still clear of any rivals. That could
really provoke some democratic regeneration.
that wasn't enough to make one worry about the state Spain's in - or
what kind of state it is - then there's this.
this. Allegations of massive fraud - under 12 headings - at Getafe's
it's not all bad news . . . The relevant minister says he wants to
respond to public outrage by reducing the number of politicians, etc,
who are protected from judicial process from a staggering 17, 621 to
just 22. The fact that this is still 22 more than in most other
democracies doesn't seem to worry him. But Rome wasn't built (or
disassembled) in a day, I guess.
. . . Philosophical Thoughts – If somebody told you that one of
history’s greatest writers, Jean Jacques Rousseau, had lived in
Staffordshire, would you believe them? Well, he did. For a year or
so, in 1766/7. And his stopover there is described in the
book ‘Rousseau’s Dog’.
Query: Do I now have to pay Graeme a 'Google Tax' for C&Ping his post?