Saturday, March 08, 2014

Political Infirmity

How have you been this week? Been feeling ok? Or have you had a touch of flu perhaps? Been confined to bed? Been unable to travel to Berlin? If your travel plans were indeed disrupted owing to illness, then you don't need to feel too guilty. You are in good company. Well, you are in company. Good or bad, that's for you to decide, the company being that of national minister for energy, industry and tourism, José Manuel Soria, and Balearics president, José Ramon Bauzá. The two Joes both came down with a bad dose of political infirmity.

Mallorca Joe, i.e. the president, had, even before seeking a refund from or rearrangement with Air Berlin (something that's probably not too difficult), put in a sick note and absented himself from the presidential seat in the Balearics Parliament. The empty chair was poignantly photographed next to a serious-looking vice-president, who probably wasn't serious on account of fearing for the presidential well-being but because he was pressing the parliamentary case for him and his fellow cabinet members enjoying a 25% increase in their salaries. Antonio Gómez, the vice-president, was mayor of Escorca in a former life, a task which entailed administering a municipality comprising one man, his dog and several hundred mountain goats. Had he not been reborn as the governmental VP, he might still be mayor of Escorca and be struggling to draw any form of salary in future, thanks to his friends in Madrid having changed the rules regarding salaries for mayors of municipalities with barely any inhabitants (other than the goats).

On a better earner therefore than he would have been on back in the mountains, the VP took issue with legal opinion on the small matter of the 25% salary rise. This legal opinion had been offered by the Balearics High Court, which had revoked the rise, but the VP was having none of it. The cabinet's own legal opinion begged to differ with m'luds at the High Court. Moreover, the rise was fair because the total salary bill for cabinet members had in fact gone down because there were fewer members than previously. Which is an interesting piece of logic and one that the VP might care to run past workforces which remain following major job losses and which have not experienced a rise; more likely, they have experienced a fall in wages and greater demands on their working hours and responsibilities.

As he was already on a sickie, Bauzá's change of travel plans might have been anticipated, but the ranks of the press massed at Berlin's ITB travel fair were none too impressed by both his absence and that of Canaries Joe, minister Soria. There are various sub-plots where the two Joes are concerned, one being that they don't see eye to eye other than for Bauzá to eye Soria up with a suggestive I'm-after-your-job look (or so it has been alleged). But the bigger sub-plot is the one to do with the oil exploration business, Soria having reported the content of a private conversation in which Bauzá admitted to knowing that there was nothing that Madrid could do to prevent exploration going ahead. The two Joes aren't the best of mates just at the moment, and they weren't about to kiss and make up in Berlin. Had they, then they would have passed on even more political infirmity bugs.

A press conference at which oil was going to feature large was, therefore, cancelled, leaving the hacks decidedly hacked off. A general view coming out of Berlin was that it was better to keep mum about the oil and not spoil the good news about even more thousands of Germans descending on Balearics beaches this summer. But, though Soria was away, nursing his ministerial malady, his second-in-command at tourism, the Mallorcan Isabel Borrego, hadn't succumbed to the virus that was decimating the political class. She was in Berlin and she spoke to tour operators and yes the O-word did crop up together with the G-word. Much to everyone's astonishment, she said that all this prospecting that might take place off the Balearics wasn't for oil after all. Only for gas. So, there we are. No worries about any oil being washed up on the beaches, because the secretary-of-state for tourism has said so.

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