Valladolid is a famous old city in the Castile and León region. As is the case with many a Mallorcan town, the origins of its name are disputed. One perfectly reasonable theory is countered by less reasonable ones. Did it come from the Arabic "Balad al-Walid" (almost certainly) or did it come from Valle de Olivos or from Valle del Sol? Whatever the origins of its name, it is a city which is at the heart of the Castilian narrative of Spain. It was in Valladolid that Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon married in 1469, thus forming the union of the Catholic Kings and of the nascent Spanish state and paving the way for the years of the "rivers of gold" and of imperial expansion, one of the most famous of those early imperialists having been Columbus, who died in Valladolid in 1506.
You can make a case for pretty much any city in Spain carrying some symbolism in one way or another, but if you were looking for a city with greater Castilian symbolism, then you would be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Valladolid. Over the weekend, the Partido Popular held its national conference in the city. Symbolic? Maybe, maybe not.
At the end of the conference various apparatchiks and acolytes of the party gathered on stage to send Mariano off with a rousing round of applause. You will know the type of scene I mean even without seeing any visual evidence. Sycophantic smiles and laughs and all-round shows of for he's a jolly good fellow, even if he isn't. Mariano needed as much support as could be mustered by the spin-doctoring PP whips, having lurched into the conference like a drunk sliding off a bar stool, muttering, in vain, to whoever was in earshot that he was his best mate. Just one best mate, who in truth never has been, who discovered that he had better things to do, like dying his hair, than hack along to Valladolid was former premier José María Aznar. Tony's little friend - tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism - reckons that Mariano has gone soft on terrorism by backtracking on an insistence that ETA hangs up its balaclavas once and for all, an implied criticism that is as bad as if Aznar were to rename Mariano after that old PSOE softie on terrorism Zapatero.
Among the brown nosers - sorry, supporters showing unconditional love and loyalty - was Balearic regional president about Spain José Ramón Bauzá, who has recently been spending considerably more time in Madrid and Castile corridors of former empire than he has been in the Catalanist strongholds of his native island. The president eschewed the opportunity to have abuse hurled at him during Sa Pobla's annual celebration of an hermitic Egyptian ancient by seeking safe haven in Menorca. Otherwise, a relaxed, sitting-on-stools educational love-in with national education minister, José Ignacio For What He's Wert, capped a series of appearances which have included José Ramón, the interview, on La Sexta, José Ramón, man of tourism technology, goggle-eyed next to the Asturiases as Letizia tried on a Google Glass at Madrid's Fitur fair, and José Ramón, champion of the private sector in tourism (to the exclusion of any other sector), in discussion with giants of the tourism industry at the pre-Fitur excellence talking-shop.
Of course the Big Thing where J.R. is concerned in PP circles is his invention of a whole new system of education. This was why he and J.I. were cosying up next to each other on their stools in Valladolid. Were they going to sing a duet - "And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid ..."? No, but they were living in perfect harmony, side by side on an anti-pianissimo (accepted abbreviation for pianissimo being "pp"), belting out a tune in English. When all else has failed - and it has - and when the Balearics have the highest school dropout and failure rates in Spain, why is there such opposition to trilingual teaching, enquired the president who, having stumbled across such a mode of teaching, appears to have convinced himself that it is the panacea for turning around years of sub-standard levels of education.
The continuing José Ramón roadshow in Valladolid could not, though, upstage the star attraction. Yes, he'd picked himself up from the floor of the bar and went out fighting: Super Mariano in Supermarionation. Mariano is go! He let fly, kerpow, against Rubalcaba, the leader of the opposition. "Shut up!" he said with a vicious verbal zapping. And then he promised, kerching, that taxes would come down in 2015. Wow, who would have thought that this might happen, what with there being an election at the end of next year?
And with that, Mariano might have hoped to have put a Valladolid lid on further tensions in the party. Might have hoped. But has he?