Some weeks ago during a so-called debate about holiday lets, I asked the lady from the tourism ministry, who had drawn the short straw and been obliged to attend, what planet she, Carlos Delgado and Jaime Martínez were on (Carlos was still then on Planet Tourism). Any qualms I might have had about asking such an impertinent question have certainly been dispelled thanks to my now being able to suggest that I am in good company with Uncle Alfie Rubalcaba. Last week, PSOE's leader substituted the location and the prime minister Mariano Rajoy for the lady from the ministry in asking Mariano what country he was in. Not that I necessarily want to be in the same company as Uncle Alfie, but on the basis of a margin of error of choice between him and Mariano, I would probably plump for him. It depends on the size of the margin of error of course. Two per cent and it could mean a draw, and a draw was the final score that the pollsters announced at the end of the State of the Nation debate in Congress.
Rubalcaba's question suggested that, where Mariano was concerned, the nation whose state was being debated was a different one to everyone else's. The leader of the opposition's query as to Mariano's whereabouts was prompted by the prime minister presenting a positive bordering on glowing assessment of the economy and of the achievements of his government. For some of those in attendance, this assessment smacked of triumphalism. It was "deeply embarrassing", noted the spokesperson for the Grupo Izquierda Plural (which translates as a bunch of lefties).
Up to a point it was, but while Congress was debating, the European Commission was busy revising its growth forecasts for the Spanish economy: one per cent for this year, which is twice what Brussels had previously forecast, and 1.7% for 2015. But, before we all start rejoicing and getting carried away by Mariano's triumphalism, unemployment will, says Brussels, have fallen only to 24.6% by the end of 2015 and credit will remain tight. The European Commission also suggested that the contribution from exports will decline, and it has been exports that have been largely responsible for the economy moving out of recession.
To moderate Mariano's positive outlook further, the Bank of Spain had its say about wage devaluation. This has been a key factor in aiding exports. Indeed, it has been one of the limited number of mechanisms available to turn the economy around. Without the luxury of being able to devalue the currency, internal devaluation (lower wages/salaries) is the alternative to help boost competitiveness. The bank argued that the level of this devaluation was double the official figure, the reason being that, because there has been such a huge loss of lower-paid jobs, the calculation is weighted by higher-paid ones which still exist.
Anyway, coming back to the great debate in Congress, both sides - the Partido Popular and PSOE - claimed victory, but the pollsters reckoned that Rubalcaba had nicked it by two per cent before offering the margin-of-error caveat and declaring a draw. The closeness of the outcome was, though, a major boost for Rubalcaba. At last year's debate he was royally stuffed by Mariano, according to the polls which gave the prime minister a 27-point victory. With PSOE heading for primaries to select its prime ministerial candidate for the next election, Rubalcaba's position has suddenly became stronger.
Index for February 2014
Balearics quality of life - 20 February 2014
Balnearios - 10 February 2014
Bradley Wiggins - 5 February 2014
Bullfighting and IVA - 15 February 2014
Cycling tourism - 14 February 2014
Expatriates and television - 13 February 2014
February in Mallorca - 7 February 2014
Filming and tourism - 17 February 2014
Goyas - 11 February 2014
January tourism - 25 February 2014
Jazz in Mallorca - 8 February 2014
La Movida - 26 February 2014
Manacor and traditional trades - 19 February 2014
Miquel Pujol and ensaimada - 22 February 2014
Oil exploration in Balearics and Canaries - 2 February 2014, 16 February 2014
Paco de Lucía death - 27 February 2014
Partido Popular national conference - 4 February 2014
Persona non grata and oil - 24 February 2014
Pollensa history - 1 February 2014
Pollensa public safety - 21 February 2014
Princess Cristina in court - 9 February 2014
Residents and tourism image - 18 February 2014
Ses Casetes des Capellans' cottages - 23 February 2014
Son Servera plague - 6 February 2014
State of the nation debate - 28 February 2014
Teams - 12 February 2014
The Prussians indie band - 3 February 2014