The British Conservative Party operates an affinity programme for its members. Included in this programme are discounts on purchases from the Early Learning Centre, Mothercare and Blackwells book stores as well as on holidays through Cottages4you. An incentive scheme such as this isn't uncommon, and nor is it uncommon in Mallorca, except among political parties.
In February, the Partido Popular in the Balearics launched a discount card for its members. Called the "Targeta Blava" (the blue card), some 300 businesses across the islands were signed up to the scheme initially. In the space of only two months, these 300 businesses have risen to 700. It is a scheme which seems to have been successful, and so there are those who are not happy with it. And who do you think they are?
This week, the Més leftist grouping raised a motion for Palma's councillors to consider. It didn't want Palma City Council to sign any contracts with businesses which are part of the scheme. It has already brought the same motion before the Balearic parliament and the Council of Mallorca. The Palma proposal, supported by PSOE, was defeated; the PP has a clear majority.
Més and PSOE object to the discount card on the grounds that it is a form of indirect donation, that it may well be illegal and that it discredits politics. The PP rejects any claim that it is illegal, and its number two in Palma, Álvaro Gijón, reckoned that the idea for the card proved that the PP was simply smarter than other parties who don't have one.
Sadly for the opposition parties, Gijón is almost certainly right. The PP often is smarter when it comes to party organisation. It has more than 22,000 members in the Balearics; PSOE has just over 2,500 paid-up card carriers (but not discount card carriers). The PP is a well-oiled machine (as well oiled as things can be in the typically shambolic Balearics political scene) by comparison with other parties. This organisation was just one reason why it secured the crushing electoral victory that it did in 2011.
Undeterred by the smarter-than-the-average-political-party-bear jibe, the left continued to argue against the card, believing that businesses may have been, how can one put it, persuaded that it was in their interests to join the scheme. The 100%-plus increase in only two months is a pretty substantial increase, it must be said. They have all joined voluntarily, responded Gijón, who was having nothing of any allegations of coercion.
Anyway, for anyone eligible of becoming a member of the PP, it might be worth giving membership some serious consideration. If there are all these businesses knocking around offering discounts, it could be worth it, and it wouldn't actually mean voting for the PP. It would be advisable to register a vote, just to make sure, but they'd never know if the vote was for Més or PSOE instead. Would they?