Friday, May 24, 2019

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 24.5.19

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 
                  Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Note: One or two of the items below have been borrowed from Lenox Napier's Business Over Tapas of yesterday.

  • A nasty Trumpian hit to Spain's olive producers.
  • This is news which makes one happy to be living in the North of Spain, rather than the South.
  • A Catalan vineyard offers a cannabis-infused wine and is, naturally, exporting it to the UK. It's cunningly disguised under the name Cannawine.
  • This Asturian festival reminds me of an enjoyable one I attend every year here in Galicia.
  • Impressively, Spain has the 5th highest proportion of parliamentary females in the world at 47% - behind Ruanda (61%), Bolivia (53%), Cuba (53%) and Mexico (48%). 
  • The Local explains here why Spain has more pets than kids.
  • Talking of which - kids, not pets - the most common forenames in Spain continue to be Antonio and María Carmen. Things change rather slowly here.
The UK and Brexit
  • There's universal incredulity/disgust at Mrs May's stance and a growing belief she's only got hours left in office. I continue to wonder whether, in fact, she's a strategic (Remainer) genius who's planned to get to this point from the very outset - in preparation for either a unilateral withdrawal of the exit application or a second referendum that'll surely kill it. As we wait to find out whether this is true or not, Mrs May seems to have rowed back from a promise(?) to present a revised deal to parliament in early June. I'm reminded of the chap who said: "I'm a man of principles. If you don't like these, I've got another set in my briefcase".
  • Below is a nice plague-on-both-parties article from a Times columnist.
The UK and the EU Elections
  • Whatever happens, the results will be over-interpreted. The turnout will be far lower than at the referendum or a general election. And the party that will win most votes will almost certainly not exist in its present form at a general election. The current Brexit Party has no members and its policy will be what Nigel Farage — the key to its financing and organisation — says it is. 
Finally . . .
  • I went to the spot - Kilometre 146.9 on the N550 - where I was clocked speeding on May 2. If you're coming from Porriño, you move from 80 to 60 and then to 50 - for 100m - where there's a crossing. And you benefit from a large sign warning of a radar machine ahead. In contrast, when (like me) you're coming from Redondela you climb a long way at 80 and then suddenly hit a 50 sign - and the radar machine - at the top of the hill, without the benefit of a warning. The machine makes so much money for El Tráfico that it featured in articles in both the Voz de Galicia and the Diario de Pontevedra back in December 2017. In the latter, a driver is quoted as saying that, if coming from Redondela, you suddenly have to break hard but are almost sure to be caught. For non-locals, "It's a set-up", he says. Which sounds about right to me. Having never been fined in more than 30 years' driving  in several countries, I've been caught in several of these traps over the past 18 years. Very irritating but best seen as, effectively, a tax on non-residents by a branch of the Hacienda. At one of these, years ago, the traffic cop actually told me it was a shame I didn't live locally, as everyone knew about the trap.
  • BTW . . . The letter was dated 10 May but arrived on 23 May, giving me 20 days to pay and get a reduced fine. Or 7 days from its arrival.
Camino Reminders
  • You can see all Geoff Jones' many great fotos of our camino here.
  • And you can see all his blog posts here, including that of his last - tough - day, when he walked alone.

Remainers are as bad as Brexiteers: Philip Collins

The polarisation of this debate has isolated moderates who want to honour the 2016 vote without damaging Britain

The toxic exaggeration of Europe is set to claim another prime minister. All power has drained from Mrs May. Her mangled withdrawal agreement is dead. Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, resigned rather than bring it back to parliament. In the European elections the Tories will be punished for failure and Labour for obfuscation. Everyone has wrestled everyone else to a standstill and there is now every prospect of Nigel Farage winning a nationwide election and Boris Johnson becoming prime minister. Well done to everyone concerned for ensuring that nobody wins except the least pleasant people in the place.

When Mrs May and her deal disappear, Brexit will become a fight to the death. All along, there have only been three options: to leave without a deal, to leave with a deal and to remain via a second referendum. The country, though, has been so held to ransom by purists that the only available deal has been torn up. Perhaps the new prime minister will re-open negotiations. Perhaps the European Union will concede points denied to both David Cameron and Theresa May. Perhaps Boris Johnson’s famed politeness and diplomatic prestige is all that’s needed to turn a complex problem into a simple solution. And perhaps not.

In the likely event that the Commons cannot find a deal that commands a majority, Brexit will become a straight contest between one group of extremists who kid themselves that leaving the EU without an agreement is worth the collateral damage, and another group of extremists who put their fingers in their ears so they cannot hear the banal truth that thwarting the 2016 referendum result comes at a severe political cost. Neither group is interested in shifting from the central demand. Leave. Remain. They froze in June 2016 and they have never thawed. They never will. These convictions have come to define them and they are willing to take it to the wire. Only one set of purists can win and they are both utterly certain it’s them.

The principal culprits, by a long way, are the fools who pretended Brexit would be easy. It would be gratifying to hear just one prominent politician or writer who egged us on into this fiasco admit that it has turned out to be vastly more complex than they envisaged. For those of us who took the conservative position that the status quo was preferable to all the fuss and palaver of change, the sheer difficulty of this transaction was an important incentive to vote Remain. You would have thought that at least one of them might have had the self-awareness to admit they got it wrong. Not a bit of it. The Brexit purists are certain of their own righteousness. It’s all Theresa May’s fault for not doing it properly.

The Remain crowd do not bear anything like the same responsibility — it’s not their stupid idea after all — but they have, sadly, developed exactly the same cast of mind. They don’t appear to realise the same face looks no more attractive when they pull it. The second referendum zealots ought to take a look at the Francois and Baker tendency in the Tory party and, like Caliban, see their own face in the glass. To say that a second referendum is the only option they’re prepared to accept is, in point of fact, to reject all viable options. To insist upon it is, as they well know, just a more sophisticated way of scuppering the whole thing. Indeed, that is their objective.

In a hung parliament two groups of irreconcilables, two groups entirely uninterested in conversation, can ensure that nothing gets through. They have perfect destructive power. But what neither of them have is the first idea how to get what they want. It is the height of arrogance to keep demanding, over and over again, that the perfect world be delivered and yet not have the slightest notion of how. This is the only word that matters in this debate now. Yes, hard Brexiteer, I know what you want. Yes, second referendum advocate, I heard you last time. The pair of you are unutterably boring on the subject and all I want to hear from you now, and it’s getting pretty urgent, is how? How are you going to get to utopia?

Let’s consider a few precursors. In Thomas More’s original book Utopia, Raphael Hythloday (which means a speaker of nonsense) finds the perfect society in full working order in the ocean. In When the Sleeper Wakes HG Wells uses the same divide as Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward: we fall asleep and when we wake up everything is just as it should be. Go to sleep in a nightmare and wake up in a dream. I do worry that these examples have rather more practical wisdom than the zealots’ own plans. No matter. They no doubt have a magic wardrobe in their back bedroom. How? How? How are they going to do it? It’s the only question; it’s their question.

The alliance of opposite purists has left the rest of us — those of us unfashionably concerned to carry out the result as best we can and prepared to negotiate — with nowhere to go. I apologise to the pure in heart for the craven reasonableness of this position. I wish, like them, I were one of the best who lack nothing for conviction. They have won, though. I have given up. The shouty people have winnowed down the choice. It is the economic loss of leaving without a deal or the obvious political resentment caused by a second referendum.

In fact, here is the point at which the extremes touch. The death of Mrs May’s deal does violence to the second referendum because its advocates have lost a key element of the question they planned to put to voters. If there ever is a referendum it would have to pitch no deal against Remain. Having expended all that energy to rule out no deal, the purists will bring it back by accident. And no deal really could win; this is the risk you are running in rejecting my appeal to compromise as the quisling’s work.

If the new prime minister takes the purist course and we end up in this pathetic blood-sport of a politics, then I suppose, with regret and a heavy heart, I should be on the Remain side. And all I can say, to the insistent thwarters with whom I shall be forced to make common cause, is this: you had better win.

Neither you nor I have any idea how your grand plan is to come about but you have chosen to increase the stakes. You have approached every possible compromise in entirely bad faith. It’s over to you now and you had better win.


Sierra said...

Can't understand UK expats who've been here 10+ years moaning that they had problems with their postal EU votes (guess which newspaper). Surely voting should be based on where you pay taxes?

Maria said...

So, tell me about Maria del Carmen being one of the most popular girl's names. I have cursed my name for many years, once even counting upwards of 17 the women I knew with my name. When my daughter was born, I swore she'd get neither Maria nor Carmen (and if she had been a boy, neither José nor Manuel).

Eamon said...

María you have a point. Walk into a room full of Spanish women and shout, "María, you're wanted on the telephone!"

Perry said...

What next? Cider fermented from poppies or beer brewed from coca leaves?

Alfred B. Mittington said...


We regress in time on this blog....