Saturday, November 08, 2014

Podemos, the view from London; Riots or not; RTL; & A cheeky beggar

Well, The Times has come out against Podemos, the new political party here which has caused a lot of feather-fluttering in Madrid's dovecots. Here's what they say today:-

Perilous Populism

In only ten months, Spain’s newest left-wing political party has grown from an idea to a national force that could not only decide the outcome of next year’s general election, but win it.

Podemos — “we can” — is the response of a country still reeling from years of austerity, corruption and paralysing unemployment. It is the brainchild of a charismatic pony-tailed university lecturer, Pablo Iglesias, who brings more than a whiff of Latin American populism to the Iberian peninsula and would nationalise half the Spanish economy if he could.

Mr Iglesias has energised the young, the poor and the disgruntled as no leader of Spain’s two other main parties has in nearly 40 years since the Franco era. “We have gone from being people who were bored by elections to those who are dying for them to arrive,” one supporter said.

Passion keeps democracy alive just as apathy kills it. Protest channelled into politics is better than protest that fills the streets with rioters and tear gas. The trouble is that Mr Iglesias’s policies, from lowering the retirement age to 60 to a mandatory 35-hour week, would throw Spain’s faltering recovery into reverse and saddle the country with debts it could never repay. Spain can certainly thrive again. Just not this way.

Podemos has elbowed its way into contention for power in two new polls. In one, it emerged six points ahead of the ruling centre-right People’s Party and three ahead of the socialist PSOE. That followed a survey that the newspaper El Pais called a “political earthquake” showing that if an election were held now, Podemos would win.

A majority next year for the People’s Party and its leader, Mariano Rajoy, now seems impossible. Such is his reward for forcing through parliament painful but essential reforms without which Spain would still be in recession. Mr Rajoy has slashed public spending, restructured Spain’s banks and cut unemployment and the cost of hiring to the point that the
OECD recently hailed Spain as an example to France and Germany.

Mr Rajoy’s problem is that respect for the political class he represents has been destroyed by graft and cronyism. Last month dozens of political appointees to the board of a big banking group bailed out by taxpayers were found to have run up more than £10 million in expenses on undeclared credit cards. In Andalusia 51 officials were arrested in a separate £200 million embezzlement scandal. Thanks to such cases there is a perception among the foot soldiers of Podemos that austerity has been inflicted on them by a corrupt elite, rather than championed in their name by tough but well-intentioned reformers.

Podemos has drawn support from both left and right. In this respect it bears comparison with Ukip, but it shares most common ground with the hardline Greek socialist grouping Syriza. Both parties have harnessed a broad and deep resentment towards European politics. Both articulate a loathing of lectures from German central bankers. Both have flirted with defaulting as a way of dealing with a ballooning national debt.

Such a policy would be economic suicide. There are plenty of reasons to scrap the euro, but crashing the eurozone economies with a manufactured debt crisis is not the way to go about it. The rise of Podemos is a serious rebuke to Spain’s political establishment, but it does not offer a serious prospectus for Spain’s future.

In Belgium, where the unemployment rate is probably 8-10%, there are riots in the streets of Brussels against the austerity regime there. Here in Spain, where the rate is 24% and the austerity regime just as bad, things are still relatively quiet and my forecast revolution is yet to start. But we do have Podemos. I suspect this is no coincidence. Podemos, I'm guessing, is a creation of the casta, designed to act as a conduit or lightening rod for unrest. Right now, this seems to be a successful strategy but we await the results of next year's elections to see whether or not it's backfired. 

An interesting perspective from RTL today. The Berlin Wall - which apparently had nothing to do with Russia, was a chance for world peace. But the West in general and NATO in particular blew this opportunity and are now threatening world peace by surrounding Russia with military might. Oh, and there were no Russian troops sent into the Ukraine yesterday. It's all lies. As susual.

Finally: A cheeky beggar: The bishop of San Sebastián was yesterday asked by a Romanian gipsy if she could kiss his hand, Before he had time to think about this, she'd done so. And in the process relieved him of his ring. Moral: Beware of Romanian women asking if they can kiss your ring.

P. S. Apologies for writing caldo last night when I meant cocido.

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