Sunday, March 20, 2011

Naked Ambition: Carlos Delgado

You can't blame a man for harbouring ambitions. But there is understated ambition and there is naked ambition. In the case of Carlos Delgado, he has stripped himself bare and exposed himself as unashamedly as a naturist strutting along the water's edge at Es Trenc beach.

Delgado, the retiring mayor of Calvia, is not normally the retiring sort. He will vacate the mayoral throne this spring and, following a period of ominous silence, is making his intentions loud and clear. And by doing so, he brings to a head and into full public, voyeuristic glare the divisions within the Partido Popular.

Delgado has announced that in a PP administration he wants to be either tourism or education minister. Either, for differing reasons, would be the nuclear option. He knows it, and so does everyone else. Tourism is the most important ministerial appointment, while education is the most politically loaded.

Why does Delgado appear to be so confident that he might land either of these positions? That he is widely perceived to be the real power in the party behind José Bauzá may have something to do with it. His relative silence and absence over the past few months seemed to start when the suggestion of his power began to be given an airing.

Even such reticence, though, can reinforce an image of behind-the-scenes scheming; silence can be golden when it is tactical treasure. The reason for my dubbing him Grytpype-Thynne is only partly because Delgado means thin; another is because, like Peter Sellers' Goons character, he is seen as something of the villain of the piece.

But it is for this reason that Delgado is arguably the most interesting politician in Mallorca. He conveys an impression of being the genuine political-animal article. His ability to appear divisive says much for his lack of equivocation. You know what you're going to get with Delgado, or at least you think you do. The trouble is that many would rather not get it, including many in his own party.

Delgado was trounced in the run-off against Bauzá for the party leadership. It was a snub of the anyone-but-Delgado variety. Yet, despite the pair's rivalry, it soon emerged that Bauzá was moving closer to Delgado and to his philosophies. It was this shift to the right that started the ruptures which continue in the Partido Popular in the Balearics.

Delgado has never hidden the fact that he believes in the primacy of the Castilian language. When Bauzá said much the same, here was just one example, latched onto and claimed by his opponents, of Delgado's influence. It is this streak of anti-Catalanism that would turn his appointment as education minister into more than just a political hot potato; it would be a three-course meal with brandy and cigars to follow and indigestible for almost every other political party in Mallorca as well as those to the left within the PP.

The Catalan question is the local PP's Europe question. It is one that carries less weight with the electorate than the obsession with it suggests, but the prominence given to it, and wrapped up in the further question of regionalism, is of a conservatism which, rather than seeking to conserve social, political and cultural subsidiarity (of Catalanism), openly rejects it in favour of the sovereignty of the Spanish state and Castilian.

Tourism is a different matter entirely. It is far less political and far more an issue of industrial and economic strategy. In February last year, prior to the election for the PP leadership, Delgado made his opinions plain enough. He favoured the prioritisation of tourism legislation over that for land. He advocated changes to allow for the establishment of condohotels. He called for the creation of theme parks and sports centres aimed at reducing the impact of seasonality. His party has said that it will press for changes to IVA, so as to reduce its burden on the tourism industry. All of this, you would think, would make him the darling of the tourism industry and of the hoteliers. You would be wrong. The hoteliers have made it clear that they don't want him.

For such opposition to be stated is extraordinary. The hoteliers, when faced, as they have been over the past four years, with regular, new tourism ministers, have always uttered the same diplomatic mantra - that so-and-so will be good for the industry, even if they haven't meant it. They haven't waited this time. Theirs is a pre-emptive strike to seek to deny Delgado one of his ambitions. But why?

As Delgado has said much that should be music to the hoteliers' ears, their rejection of him seems surprising. But perhaps it isn't. Perhaps they don't much care for naked ambition. Perhaps they don't much care for him; he is far from being universally popular. Perhaps they fear that he might ruffle some feathers. Whatever the reason, Bauzá surely cannot ignore the industry's objections. If he acknowledges them, then that leaves education.

Bauzá has himself become divisive in a way that does not bode well for what should be within his grasp, the presidency of the Balearics. If he bows to Delgado's ambition for education, the divisions are likely to widen. But then who actually makes the decisions and who actually wields the power?

Any comments to please.

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