Thursday, September 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 September 2016

Morning high (7.05am): 17.2C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 1 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 2 October - Cloud, sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 2 to 3.

Sun all the way for today, suggests the forecast, so hopefully no rogue storm like yesterday. May be damp tomorrow.

Is Airbnb The Real Scourge?

Increasingly, one wonders who or what is the principal target of those who express their ire over so-called saturation. For some, the most extreme wing, it is all tourism. For others, it is the hoteliers. Or holiday rentals. Or cruise ships.

The latter is an irrelevant category. Irrelevant anywhere in Mallorca that isn't Palma. Forget the cruise passengers. They make for useful propaganda, but they are not central to the debate.

What about hoteliers, then? Well, if one believes that a barely increased number of hotel places this century represents saturation, then hoteliers are at fault. They aren't of course. They haven't been adding to the "crisis" except by knocking out higher occupancy levels. Even these are marginal in adding to human pressure. When one can talk of high summer 90 or 91 per cent one year, then 94 or 95 another, there is clearly an increase, but it doesn't amount to overcrowding. Forget the hoteliers as well.

Which leaves us with holiday rentals. President Armengol suggested recently that it is too simplistic to charge them with being the cause. Simplistic perhaps. But probably accurate.

Some of those who have been railing recently about limits or reduction border on being cranks with no coherent programme for economic alternatives, save for one inspired by impractical anti-capitalist quasi-anarchy. Others are anything but cranks. They are extremely sensible. And amidst their sense, they identify a real issue - that of housing.

This has been a theme that the saturation argument has raised before this summer, but it is one that needs to be far more seriously and urgently addressed. Holiday rentals are depriving people of long-term accommodation, and where they can find it, it is becoming less affordable. One can only see this situation becoming more critical.

The left are in a quandary over holiday lets. An argument is that making a return on a property is a right that should not be denied, if this return is a means of providing an adequate income. A further ingredient is that there are elements of the left who take great issue with the hoteliers, especially the larger ones. They are all for hoteliers' noses being put out of joint; private accommodation is one way of achieving this.

In terms of the market in general, the left, instinctively prone to market intervention and interference, are finding this interference to be not as easy as it might once have been. Institutional and legal bases, be they in Mallorca, Spain or many other places, make interference complicated. But what interference might there be? Denying someone the right to rent out a property runs counter to leftist thinking. At the same time, however, it can deny a worker the right to long-term accommodation, while by its very existence it contributes to additional tourism mass. It's not simplistic.

There are of course degrees of rental. The single property owner is quite different to the one with multiple properties, but where is the line drawn? Can it be drawn? The distinction seems to be coming less and less relevant as the left take on the seemingly unstoppable momentum behind tourist accommodation rental. In Barcelona, the mayor Ada Colau, who shot to prominence as an activist who founded the movement against evictions, has proposed caps on prices for long-term rentals (citing Paris and Berlin as examples of where this is done). She has also been closing down apartments used for tourists and issuing warnings to Airbnb and others: they can expect fines of upwards of 600,000 euros if they don't stop promoting illegal accommodation.

But owners, and not just those with several properties, have fired back by insisting on their rights to rent out. In so doing, they are expressing the rights of a totally free market, something with which Colau and others towards the far left have great difficulty. These owners point to a form of liberation offered by Airbnb and others - the democratisation of property, the very essence of the so-called collaborative economy of which Airbnb is at the forefront, and the very essence also of what some on the left advocate. The contradictions are profound.

It would be stretching things to say that Airbnb and the philosophy of the collaborative, shared economy is the root cause of saturation, overcrowding and distortions in the housing market. There has, after all, always been this rental market, but it is valid to say that Airbnb has expanded the market vastly, so much so that it is now becoming disproportionate. Its advance is such that the number of Airbnb travellers to Spain between June and August rose by more than 70% - Mallorca and Barcelona were among the favoured destinations.

This collaborative economy advocates property democratisation. It favours the individual's rights. But at what cost to other sectors of society? Is Airbnb the real scourge? If you're a free marketer, you'd prefer not to think so. However ... .

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 September 2016

Morning high (7.10am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 29 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 1 October - Cloud, sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 3 to 5. Swells to one metre.

Lightning in the distance to the east before sunrise. A good chance of some rain this morning, improving later.

Evening update (20.00): Some rain did come - if only to parts and not until the afternoon. Accompanied by a few loud bangs of thunder, it came down but not in any great amount. All cleared up quickly. Sunny otherwise and a high of 26.9C.

When Tourism Generations Collide

It's a photo from 4 July, 1978. A certificate and gold medal are being handed over. The recipient is King Juan Carlos I. The award-giver is the Fomento del Turismo (the Mallorca Tourist Board). Two years later the king received another medal, a commemorative one to mark 75 years of the Fomento. Last year, a similar award was made to the king's son. Felipe VI, for his love of Mallorca, was to receive a medal in honour of the 110 years of the Fomento.

Two generations of royalty divided by more than a generation in time and in tourism culture, for which also read political culture. Curiously, though, when the Fomento's board gathered to consider its awards last year, a participant was the tourism minister, Biel Barceló, not someone automatically bracketed in the royalist camp. But the awards were not the government's, they were those of the Mallorca Tourist Board, an institution long marginalised yet sustained almost symbolically - a vital part of the island's heritage.

Sustainability and heritage. Both were to the fore as the tourism ministry delivered its own tourism awards on Monday. Symbolism was inadvertent in the choice of Es Baluard as the location. It was from this edifice of culture that the so-called anti-tourist guided tour (an oddity in itself) had started two days before. This was a "route" which Barceló, also perhaps inadvertently, had helped to foster. Tourism politicians need to take greater care when mentioning the word "saturation".

The generational shift in tourism and political cultures has been immense. Juan Carlos received his medals at a time when Mallorca and Spain were grappling with the meaning of democracy. It was a time also when Mallorca was starting to truly debate its model of tourism. The years of uncontrolled construction demanded such a debate. The medals, one can suggest, were representative of "old" tourism, symbolised by the Fomento. Organisationally and politically, it was to become sidelined by the political institutionalism of tourism - regional government and the first tourism ministry from 1983.

The "new" tourism has undergone its twists and turns, and the most recent was on the way to Es Baluard for the Night of Tourism, a gala event crafted from the rocks of heritage and from the philosophy of sustainability. Here is a word, sustainability, so often uttered that it is ceasing to have meaning. Or rather, it can mean whatever is required. New tourism deals in concepts of open meaning. "Quality" is another. Whenever did anyone - business, government or whatever - make a case for lack of quality or indeed promote it? Come to Mallorca, where quality is absent. The concept is redundant.

As I remarked over a month ago when considering these tourism awards ("And The Sustainable Tourism Winner Will Be?"), the night of tourism could easily be called the Biel night of tourism. The minister referred to the many challenges, to the government's determination for there to be responsibility, to the pride in Balearic land and people. "This is what makes us say with pride that we are Mallorcans, Menorcans, Ibizans and Formenterans. We have been and are a land of welcome, inclusive and able to attract people from across the globe to admire natural and patrimonial aspects that we are making unique and infrastructures that are turning us into pioneers."

The awards were the tourist tax in physical form. There is and has been misunderstanding about the purposes to which its revenue will be allocated. Enshrined in law - that for the sustainable tourism tax - are these purposes. Hence why, for example, there was an award for the Council of Formentera for an initiative designed to recover the countryside, the island's agricultural heritage. Why also there were awards for technological innovation - to Robinson Club Cala Serena for its alchemy in converting seawater, to solutions related to climate change, to the business application of social Big Data.

These awards underpin the tourist tax thinking, the latest "new" tourism. The purposes for the tax revenue can be derided, but they are evidence, if one likes, of whole-island touristic thinking and of the desire of a left-wing government to spread the wealth generated by tourism more widely.

Had there been a night of tourism under the previous government, the recipients, one imagines, would have been different. The "new" tourism of the PP was the founder of beach clubs, of resort transformation. The usual suspects would have been paraded by the PP. It is most unlikely that the hotel chamber maids collective would have been honoured.

It was a night to celebrate sustainability, to represent the "new" tourism. A world away from awards to royalty. Yet, who else received a Fomento award last year? Among them was Liberto Rigo, a veteran tour guide from the "Excursionist Group", a creation by the Fomento a hundred years ago, and one dedicated to patrimony, heritage, culture and nature. Old meets new.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 September 2016

Morning high (7.10am): 19C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 28 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 29 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 3 increasing 4.

Looking fairly cloudy as sun up approaches, but forecast to be sunny later on, with just an outside chance of a spot of rain this morning.

Evening update (20.15): All good really after some morning cloud. High of 27.4C.

Galicia Lessons: The End For Sánchez?

Regional elections in Spain, because they are not all held at the same time, can be viewed as a test of a public opinion about the national government. In Spain at present, however, there is only a national government by default, one that is nine months on from when it should either have been confirmed as re-elected or ousted. Are, in these circumstances, the elections in the Basque Country and Galicia relevant? Do they say anything about the national government?

They most certainly do. More importantly, they say a great deal about the pretenders, one of whom is PSOE; the PSOE that Pedro Sánchez leads. This is not the PSOE of the whole country, however, and the results loosen his grip - already tenuous - ever more. The knives of Andalusia, in the hands of Susana Díaz, are being sharpened on the stone. How long can Sánchez carry on?

Consider the numbers. In Galicia the regional version of PSOE suffered its worst ever result. It ended up with fourteen seats in the regional parliament with slightly less than 18% of the vote in a four-way fight. En Marea, effectively Podemos by another name, also gained fourteen seats but with a higher share of the vote - just over 19%. Both were eclipsed by the Partido Popular. Alberto Núñez Feijóo will continue to govern with an absolute majority.

In the Basque Country, the socialists suffered major losses - seven seats gone, leaving them with nine. The PNV, habitual leaders in the region, have insufficient seats for an overall majority, but could hook up with the PP (or PSOE) and establish a parliamentary majority.

While Feijóo's win in Galicia will be taken as enhancing Mariano Rajoy's moral right to remain as national prime minister, it needs reminding that Galicia is very firm PP territory - and Feijóo territory. The loss of one PP seat in the Basque Country places a rather different spin on things. Perhaps the strongest message to come from the elections, where the PP is concerned, is that Feijóo has strengthened his case for replacing Rajoy.

Rather than a test of public opinion for Rajoy, the elections were a poll on the ambitions of Sánchez and PSOE to attempt to form an "alternative" government of the left. These are surely dashed, if indeed they have ever truly been realistic. Díaz had made it clear that they weren't, given the fact that PSOE have only 85 seats in the national Congress.

A surprise with Sánchez is the fact that he's still in charge. Reflect on the charge sheet. A failed attempt, an awfully failed attempt at investiture, followed by a second election at which PSOE lost more seats in Congress. Yet he still believes he can form a government, seemingly egged on by the likes of Balearic president Francina Armengol into adopting a model of government akin to that in the Balearics - one that quite plainly isn't functioning. Armengol is deluded and so is Sánchez. With the batterings in the Basque Country and Galicia, his time must surely be up.

If this proves to be the case, the PSOE "barons", marshalled by Díaz, will manoeuvre a situation whereby there is a pact with Rajoy and the PP (or possibly with Feijóo and the PP; this may be the price Rajoy has to pay). For Francina Armengol, who must have been observing the results coming in with increasing horror and alarm, such a national manouevre would be terminal. Podemos wouldn't stand for it, while Més seem ever increasingly alienated from Armengol.

If PSOE were the big losers in these two elections, what about Cuidadanos? This party is more and more like an annoying terrier, snapping at the heels of others. It is shooed away but keeps coming back, yapping and yapping but never getting its way. Its leader, Albert Rivera, had been looking at the prospect of a post-election alliance with the PP in Galicia. They failed to gain a single seat. A share of the vote that was little more than three per cent ensured that they would fail, just as they also did in the Basque Country.

What may now dawn on the C's, whose support has been eroding, is that their aspirations to be a national party run up against nationalist interests in specific regions. Even the conservative nationalist instincts in Galicia and the Basque Country appear disinclined to embrace a party which started as a regional Catalonian organisation (with avowed anti-nationalist sentiments) and has attempted to become a national force. Regional parties aren't supposed to behave like this. The C's have got above their station. They are liked less and less. Their time may well have come and gone, leaving Podemos, with its internal divisions, as the genuine "alternative".

Díaz, Feijóo and others will make damn sure it never is.

* This article was written before Sánchez announced that there are to be "primaries" for electing the secretary general, i.e. that he is putting his position to the test.

Monday, September 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 September 2016

Morning high (7.15am): 17.8C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 27 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 28 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 29 September - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 3.

Some cloud observable as sun starts to rise. A mix of cloud and sun expected for the day. The week to come - pretty much the same with maybe the occasional shower. Staying warm as October approaches.

Evening update (20.00): Not too bad. Plenty of sun but some grim-looking cloud late on. High of 26.8C.

Humanising Tourism: Cala Millor

If you go hunting on the steam internet, you can unearth old copies of local publications: local, as in a municipality's or even parts of municipalities. One of the pearls (pun intended) to be found is a copy of Manacor's "Perlas y Cuevas" (pearls and caves) dated 17 September, 1983. The cover of this edition is interesting for different reasons. One, almost incidentally, is that there is a photo of the first president of the Balearics, Gabriel Cañellas: he'd become president on 10 June that year.

Cañellas was thus a symbol of the new democracy, albeit that it had taken over seven years from the time of Franco's death for autonomous government to arrive in the Balearics. Of further interest is the name which appears under the title: the magazine's director, i.e. editor, Rafael Ferrer Massanet. And why is he of interest? Well, for one thing he had set the magazine up in the early 1960s. Another was that he was a considerable writer, journalist and historian. Among his interests was the study of the Civil War, in which - where Mallorca was concerned - Manacor had played a significant role. It was Manacor's coast - Porto Cristo - where Captain Alberto Bayo's Republicans made one of their landings in August eighty years ago; the mission was of course to prove to be a total disaster. The other landing was at Punta Amer in neighbouring Sant Llorenç.

He was also a lyricist and penned the words to "hits" by one of the leading Mallorcan pop groups of the 1960s - Los 5 del Este, whose fame was initially acquired in Cala Millor. With such titles as "Sí, sí, sí", their collected works were typical of the time: light, undemanding pop that would never give the censors cause for concern.

The picture one has of Ferrer Massanet is of a highly cultured man - he also established the first private art gallery in Manacor - yet one who was not turned off by the arrival of tourism. Writers of his vintage weren't necessarily kind to the onset of mass tourism, though most of this criticism was delayed until after Franco had died. "Perlas y Cuevas" was never solely about tourism of course (it is, incidentally, still going), but tourism played a significant role in its coverage. Ferrer Massanet appeared to embrace it, warts and all. In 1969, for instance, the magazine carried a glowing interview with Jaume de Juan Pons, who was responsible for the Playa Moreia hotel in S'Illot. The story of that hotel, apocryphal possibly, was that in 1963 he turned up in a Seat 600, took a shovel out of the car and started digging. The hotel opened the following year.

And so one comes to that September 1983 edition. Ferrer Massanet was still the editor, his name, as it had always been, under the title. But what else do we see on that cover? There is a photo - black and white. A coastline. Buildings, some several stories high. It's Cala Millor. Yet, why is Cala Millor featuring in a Manacor publication? The headline tells the story - "Bahia Cala Millor" (Cala Millor bay). The resort has its own odd story, but it doesn't extend to being in three municipalities: only the two - Sant Llorenç and Son Servera. What we in fact see is more than Cala Millor, because here is the conurbation that emerged on the east coast, one that crosses the border of Sant Llorenç into the Manacor part (the larger part) of S'Illot.

That particular issue was marking the fact that the tourist fiestas were taking place; the fourth time that they had been staged. One assumes that it was Ferrer Massanet who wrote on the cover about travellers whose lives might be full of traumas being able to forget their problems. Why? Because Cala Millor would allow them to. In addition, under the heading "Bahia Cala Millor" it reads ... "and the humanisation of international tourism".

That one word, humanisation, can now perhaps seem strange. In the context of current debates regarding "massification" and "saturation", here was a tribute to the humanising qualities of mass tourism. The photo was evidence of that tourism, the conurbation of the bay of Cala Millor.

One might say, well it was 33 years ago. It was indeed, but by 1983 there was a full-scale debate going on about the future of tourism and of the legacy created by coastal developments. The photo of Cañellas was, with hindsight, not so incidental. The first regional government set about attempting to legislate for what were being perceived as errors of the past. Where Ferrer Massanet was concerned, or so it appeared, those errors were not as great as were being argued. "Sí, sí, sí", Cala Millor, the human face of Mallorcan tourism.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 September 2016

Morning high (7.30am): 17.1C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 26 September - Rain, sun, 24C; 27 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 28 September - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3.

Clear sky early on but unlikely to be clear later. Warnings still in place for rain and storm.

Evening update (19.15): Well, so much for the yellow alerts. Spot of rain in some parts, but a spot was all that it was. Nice and sunny otherwise. High of 27.4C.

The Balearic Not-Government Is Revolting

The government and not-government (aka Podemos and increasingly also Més) indulged in their parliamentary navel-gazing and picked out some unpleasant fluff that has accumulated since June last year. The governmental state of the Balearics, we discovered, was far from the consensual love-in that sweet and friendly Francina has been insisting that it is ever since the fateful day that agreements were signed for the "government of change". So absent is consensus that the Earth Mother, PSOE's health minister Patricia Gómez, can dream up 119 million euros (why 119 and not 120?) for dealing with the decaying pile that is Son Dureta with nary a word in the shell-likes of Més (or Podemos). The Mésites were furious. Not because they're against handing over such a vast sum but because no one had spoken to them. Stamp their feet? Oh yes.

And it got worse. What was the government, in this instance PSOE, doing dropping money-laundering charges against that good old boy, Jaume Matas? Strictly speaking, it wasn't the government of PSOE but the Balearic Attorney's Office. Sweet FA Armengol insisted she hadn't been aware of the attorney's decision, which took some believing, given that the office falls within the ministry of the presidency. The Mésites stamped their feet even harder. The decision was of great political significance, they huffed, and had not been reached through consensus. The navel fluff started to look ever more revolting.

Revolt was indeed in the air. And who better to express it than the Podemos Boot Girl, Laura Camargo (Twitter account @Laurarevolta; description "feminist anti-capitalist"). The Matas decision was "very serious", she declared, and insisted that the attorney put in an appearance in parliament in order to explain himself. Also very serious were the thousands, nay millions of tourists roaming across the fragile landscapes of Majorca and the Balearics. Put the tourist tax up, demanded Her Bootness. And the ranks of not-government were joined by the Mésites in the form of the government's vice-president and tourism minister Biel Barceló. BB responded to Laura's tourist tax demand by announcing that "the price of the ecotax is the tool with which to regulate tourist flows".

So, after all his equivocation and having once said that the tax wouldn't make any difference to tourist numbers, BB finally admitted that it might. If it's high enough. It shouldn't be forgotten that Wild Man Més, David Abril, had some months ago suggested that the tax should have been higher from the outset. What can be expected therefore? Ten euros a night from next year? Twenty? That should sort out the saturation and the collapse of the Palma road network every time there's a spot of rain.

Amidst all the revolt, Francina was able to take herself off and sweetly cut the ribbon at the FAN shopping centre, an event which we were led to believe was to be graced with the presence of Podemos president (speaker) of parliament Xe-Lo Huertas. If she was indeed there, she avoided the cameras. Or perhaps she'd sneaked in to snaffle up some early bargains in Primark. The Podemos take on FAN appeared to be revealed by one of its parliamentary deputies, Salvador Aguilera. He tweeted a question (which was re-tweeted by the anti-capitalist Boot Girl). How much will the campaign for promoting FAN have cost, he asked, adding that the Mallorcan press had "succumbed" to the FAN "phenomenon". 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 September 2016

Morning high (6.34am): 19C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 25 September - Sun rain, 25C; 26 September - Rain, sun, 24C; 27 September - Sun, rain, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 3, mainly East.

Let's see how we get on today. There are amber alerts in place for rain and storm, but the rain of this week - yesterday and Tuesday - has all but missed the northern area. Might be wet going for the Ironman contestants, and not just the swimming leg.

Evening update (19.00): Well, wasn't too bad in the morning, but later ... Wide variance as to how heavy it came down. Sa Pobla, 6.4 litres per square metre. Puerto Pollensa, 39.6 litres. High of 25.3C. Down to 16.8C mid-afternoon. More on its way by the looks of it.

Second Time Of The Year Again: Ironman

It's that time of the year again. Oh, hang on, it's that second time of the year again. The difference is that this time the time is longer. The race is longer. The time for closures is longer.

Ironman. There is no escape from it. For the days leading up to it, the event encircles you. You're trapped (partially) if you want to get into the port. It means a detour. The participants are on the roads and streets and sometimes in the water. They're riding, they're running, they're risking the jellyfish. All because of training. Getting in shape for the mammoth day.

In newsagents, shops, bars, there is the sound of the local tongue mangling the word Ironman. It is not just you, dear English-speaker, who utters the word darkly. Or at times sarcastically. In Eroski, a couple of likely ironmen receive some advice in the local tongue that they don't understand. They laugh, not knowing why. They shouldn't be.

In a newsagents, this is the one that Boulevard runs down in Playa de Muro, there is talk. What is to become of us come Saturday? How will we manage? Ironman, a plague on both thy two races.

Then come the day, and you are trapped. Imprisoned. Incarcerated. For hours upon hours. Ironman tightens its iron grip and refuses to let go. And an eery silence hangs over Alcudia. It is one of non-traffic. The European Car Free Day has just shifted two days. There are no vehicles, save for the occasional siren of a police car punctuating blissful silence.

Given the above, you might conclude that I'm in the anti-camp. In fact, I am not. I appreciate the benefits. The kudos for Alcudia in promoting sports tourism. The financial returns. There's no need for the "studies" that crop up each year to itemise how many millions of euros are generated. Figure it out for yourselves. Take 3,000 participants. More indeed. Double them to take account of partners. Allocate, for example, five days of stay. Multiply by a nightly rate. Then add on the organisers. More family. More friends. It's a back of a fag packet simple calculation, and astonishingly - as witnessed after the May Ironman - the ironmen can strip the shelves of the tobacconists as gladly as any British tourist who otherwise spends no money. But in the case of ironmen, they spend more. The elite may not, but the fun ironmen (if there can truly be such an individual) can throw the beers back with the best of them, demolish a full English or other such delicacy as happily as other tourists. They spend money.

But many are those who curse the day a few years ago when Thomas Cook and the Ironman organisers first descended on Alcudia. They are still cursing, and they want some answers.

Until recently, Ironman, in one of its Facebook guises, has meant the outpouring of f-words and the like. Now, Alcudia town hall has poked its head above the parapet of abuse and engaged. Slightly. A lengthy demand was posted to Ajuntament d'Alcudia - Bon govern. Firstly, it hoped that there would be a response, as there hadn't previously been one. Then it asked, among other things, what the town hall charges to stage Ironman. How does the closure of roads for a private event, came a further question, correspond to the right of freedom of movement under the Spanish Constitution. What about those who are unable to access medical attention?

This was couched in somewhat ironic terms through reference to "bon govern" (good government) and to transparency. Back came a simple reply. Any citizen is, as ever, invited to go to the town hall to discuss the matter. Which was neutral enough not to engage in a Facebook spat. Others supported the lengthy demand and points made, and the overall point was that perhaps the town hall could benefit from being more open. Its response, akin to the automated responses on Trip Advisor by hotels who clearly don't give a damn, was not adequate.

Each year, each twice a year, we go through the same procedure. There is no easy solution other than not staging the event (which would be a mistake, in my opinion). But the town hall could do with attempting to bring those who are discontented more on side. It should explain better. It should apologise for inconvenience rather more sincerely. It should take account of those businesses who lose money rather than just hail those who make money. It should acknowledge the bother caused to other tourists. It should do all these things.

Ultimately, of course, there is the argument that it is only one day - or rather two days a year. Which would be my point entirely. But then I am not everyone. There are too many grumpy people. The town hall needs to respond to them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 September 2016

Morning high (7.13am): 19.4C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 24 September - Rain, sun, 25C; 25 September - Rain, sun, 25C; 26 September - Rain, sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 to 3.

Cloudy forecast with the risk of heavy rain at some point. Possibility of a storm lasting into tomorrow.

Evening update (19.15): Cloudy more or less all day - sun came out for a time late afternoon - and some light rain in parts accompanied by thunder and lightning. Elsewhere, down in Binissalem, for instance, it threw it down. High of 28.7C.

Francina At The Crossroads

Francina Armengol has called for an "urgent" agreement between her party, PSOE, and Podemos in order that there is a change of national government. She said this - and it wasn't the first time by any means - during the course of this week's parliamentary debate, something which the Partido Popular's Marga Prohens described as a confidence debate for Armengol's presidency and government.

Armengol was bound to have made this call. It could well be that she is thoroughly committed to the principle of a PSOE-Podemos alliance at national level. Equally, it could be that she could say nothing else. Her government depends on the relationship that PSOE has with Podemos. It's as simple as that.

For Armengol to have her wish granted, Pedro Sánchez would need to fend off the assaults from significant voices within PSOE. Andalusia's Susana Díaz, seen by many as the real power in PSOE and a likely future leader of the party, has warned Sánchez that PSOE doesn't have the parliamentary clout to be able to form a government. With only 85 seats in Congress, she has noted, the party cannot govern.

In any moral terms it is questionable for a party with slightly less than 25% parliamentary representation to be allowed to govern, but Sánchez still seems as though he might try. Again. Armengol, for her sake, has to hope that he succeeds. She heads a government with an even lower percentage representation, one enabled solely by the partner that is not in government (Podemos with 17% representation).

The pretence that exists with this government was further exposed during the debate. If applause is a mark of support, then it was in short supply, either from Podemos or Més as Armengol defended the "government of change". Ultimately, whatever Armengol says or does, this government is bound inextricably to the fortunes of PSOE nationally. It might be recalled, for example, that Més had at one point appeared to have been prepared to pull out from an agreement following the 2015 regional election. A stumbling-block was the financing of the Balearics. With Sánchez as prime minister, this would all be sorted. It may have seemed in June last year as if a PSOE national government (with whichever other parties in tow) was a goer. In truth, it never was, and PSOE just finds its support (at the ballot box) more on the wane.

Armengol is caught between the rock of national fortunes and the hard place of local difficulties. She couldn't have envisaged tourism becoming the battleground it has. The tourist tax, and the skirmishes over its distribution and purposes, was never destined to leave casualties. Saturation and its fellow tourist traveller, limits, may well do.

Podemos and Més have both affiliated themselves with the "without limits there is no future" manifesto. Podemos's Laura Camargo pointed this out to Armengol. The president instead insists that limits are not a solution. The three parties are poles apart on the issue. They know it, and any observer of the government can recognise it. Rather than the tourist tax being a defining policy of this government, the headless arguments over tourism numbers are defining it. If any senior figures from either Podemos or Més put in an appearance on the anti-tourist route planned for tomorrow in Palma, the game could be as good as up.

The divisions in the government are such that Camargo attacked Armengol for devoting herself to mere amendments of "disastrous policies" pursued by the PP when it was in power. Direction, Camargo asserted, has not been defined. The fact is that the only direction which counts is one determined by Podemos. The relationship with PSOE and PSOE's dependence on Podemos in the Balearics should make Sánchez stop dead in his tracks. It would be no different if there were ever a PSOE-Podemos national alliance. Like Armengol, Sánchez would be a Podemos play thing, ever exposed to its exigencies.

It isn't as if, however, Podemos and Més don't have their own concerns. For Podemos they are also a factor of national developments. The battle royal between Pablo Iglesias and Iñigo Errejón is one which boils down to Errejón's view - and a correct one - that the electorate needs to be able to trust Podemos more. It could otherwise be that Podemos have peaked and that there is only way for the party to go. At local level, there is the business with one of its main figures, Daniel Bachiller,  and the funding that his laboratory has been receiving; funding which has seemingly produced no results. Camargo believes there is a "campaign". Others will believe it only appropriate that Bachiller is brought to account.

Més, meanwhile, are contending with the consequences of the June general election alliance with Podemos which spectacularly failed to deliver. Armengol has her problems, but her "partners" have them as well. Each is fighting its own battles, and government is thus diminished.