Ah yes, the memorable moments of party political conferences. Neil Kinnock and his "grotesque chaos", Hatton heckling and Heffer on the hoof out of the hall. Peter Lilley's "little list". John Redwood making a total nit of himself at a Welsh Conservative Party thrash. David Steel's "prepare for government". Tory Boy Hague, a boy old before his time. Thatcher, the lady's not for an adaptation of a Christopher Fry play title. Iain Duncan Smith, the "quiet man". "Speak up, Iain!" "Speak up, Duncan!"
Conferences were once designed for bloodletting, as in the good old days of Kinnock versus Militant. They have over the years lost their way. Like football sanitised its now sadly lost legacy of Ron "Chopper" Harris, so the party conference forgot that its main purpose was for two-footed, over-the-top, from-behind dissent.
To the rescue, one had hoped, was going to come Mallorca's own warring party - the Partido Popular. It has performed the astonishing. It won an election and then promptly started engaging in internal bickering and strife, albeit the internal bickering and strife had been put on self-serving hold while there was the diversion of sending the Balearics version of PSOE packing.
If the grand tradition of party conferences descending into their own grotesque chaos was to have been shown to be alive and kicking in Mallorca, then it would have required the PP's Antoni "Chopper" Pastor, one-time Real Mallorca second-team defensive strongman, to do the kicking. But Pastor has gone and let us all down. Not only will he not be putting in for the manager's job, he has voluntarily opted to place himself on the subs' bench. He is not going to stand against the president and he is also leaving the party's leadership (he is a vice-president at present).
This all sounds like honourable stuff by the honourable member for Manacor (its mayor in fact). He doesn't wish to be a problem. Now is not the time for tension. The language issue, and he is a great defender of Catalan, an issue that has brought him into conflict with President Bauzá, is, he says, not a priority.
When set against tackling the Balearics' deficit and economy, the language issue most definitely isn't a priority. But if it isn't, why has Pastor spent much of the past few weeks helping to elevate it to the status he has and making it an issue of discontent within the PP?
Everything had been gearing itself up for an occasion, the party's regional congress in June, when we could have wished for a thoroughly entertaining barney of ideological difference. But no, the Honourable Pastor, the shepherd of Manacor, will instead merely be watching his flock by night and by day.
It could of course be that Pastor realised that he might be on a hiding to nothing. It could also be that he appreciates that making a rumpus now, in the midst of crisis, could have lost him popularity. There is still time for him, however. Time and support for what he represents are on his side, and he probably knows this.
If he had spent some time analysing the findings of the annual survey of identity in the Balearics by the research organisation Gadeso, he would have noticed that 50% of the population, which probably includes him, is in agreement with maintaining the current model of autonomous government, one threatened both by Bauzá's coolness towards regionalism and by calls to repatriate responsibilities for certain policies to Madrid. He would also have noticed that, on language, a majority is against the Bauzá government's removal of Catalan as a requisite for employment in the public sector and against the so-called free selection of teaching language (i.e. parents have the right to opt either for Catalan or Castellano).
He would have realised that what this survey shows is that the Partido Popular in its Balearics guise has its own idiosyncrasy, one determined by the language and regionalism issues. Pastor is more in step with these sentiments than is Bauzá. And so are some other leading figures from the PP who have joined the Pastor-initiated Moviment per la Llengua.
Pastor may have deprived us of some grotesque chaos come congress time, but he may well be banking on the fact that if Bauzá is given enough rope he will hang himself on issues that may be less important in the immediate term but are as important in the longer term to the people of the Balearics. The next regional elections are three years away, but there is still time for Pastor.
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