Thursday, December 31, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 31 December 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 9.3C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 1 January - Sun, cloud, 19C; 2 January - Cloud, sun, 18C; 3 January - Cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 easing Variable 2 at midday.

Mostly sunny for New Year's Eve and indeed for New Year's Day. May well cloud over this evening, but any risk of rain seems to have lifted.

Evening update (20.30): Pretty good: high of 21.5C.

In Another World: 2016

The Big Trial of the Princess opens in Palma in January. The world's media, having been given accreditation, are, mysteriously, nowhere to be seen. But is it so much of a mystery? Of course not. No one told them there weren't any flights, especially the bloke from BBC Scotland.

In March, King Felipe is forced to call another general election. Two days later, Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, unilaterally declares independence for the region. As there is no Spanish government to oppose him, Mas makes an offer to the Scottish Parliament to form a breakaway European Union of bolshie, independence-minded regions. The offer is attractive, as it will involve a 50% increase in winter flights, if only to the Costa Brava.

Barcelona Football Club, concerned that it will lose its place in La Liga, makes a proposal to the Balearic government whereby the Camp Nou will be airlifted piece by piece and deposited on land in Palma that is vaguely, possibly, once upon a time a wetland area. The club backs its proposal by pointing out that, unlike the existing main football team in Mallorca, Barcelona is capable of attracting millions of Chinese football-telly-addict tourists who would be instrumental in turning Mallorca into a destination with riches beyond its wildest dreams. Armed with an environmental impact assessment report from an internee at the town hall, the regional government politely declines the Barcelona offer.

It's the first of May, the start of the official tourism season: T-Day. But this year is a different T-Day. Tax-day. The tourist tax is introduced, but all the island's hotels go on strike, refusing to collect the tax, closing their doors and booting out any tourists who had been stupid enough not to have realised that tourism doesn't officially start until 1 May. There is chaos as tourists roam the streets, threatening to invade and occupy the tourism ministry. The army has to be called in. Tourism minister Barceló goes on television to appeal for calm. The hotels re-open, but not before total losses for this short-lived protest are put at 50 million euros, the exact amount the government had anticipated taking in as annual revenue from the tax.

July, and catastrophe strikes. The National Statistics Institute in Madrid blows up, an initial explosion of its main computer having resulted from the sheer volume of inconsequential data it is expected to process and churn out to an expectant media and having caused a chain reaction which sees tourist spending statistical data scattered over a one hundred square kilometre area. Statisticians suggest that there was a 0.01% greater chance of this happening compared with the same month the previous year.

31 August. The transformation into Meliá New Town is complete. The final ever drunken British youth tourist is afforded a local police guard of honour as he staggers along Punta Ballena at six in the morning, his shorts suitably lowered and a tattooed backside warmed by the balmy dawn air. With great ceremony, and accompanied by the Calvia band of bagpipers and whistlers, mayor Rodríguez officially announces that Magalluf has been reclaimed and that the occupation by drunken tourism is at an end. The final tourist, Baz is his name, flings an arm around the mayor and tells him he's his best mate, before, within his drunkenness, beginning to wonder if that curry had been such a good idea on top of the twenty pints of lager and dozen Jägerbombs. The mayor, faced with a hefty laundry bill and several hours under a shower, realised how right the changing face and backside of Magalluf had been.

1 September. Palma's Palacio de Congresos is finally open, there having been another eight months delay. Mayor Hila smiles broadly and announces that the opening has been achieved through consensus and dialogue. Everyone cheers. At 4.54am the following day, a meteorite strikes the building and it is reduced to rubble. The mayor immediately calls for a review of the tendering process for the contract to manage the Palacio, questioning its legality on account of a failure to provide for acts of God.

October. Pablo Iglesias of Podemos scoops 134,560,000 on a Euromillions rollover. He swiftly abandons politics, buys a grand finca in Mallorca and announces that he, and not Richard Branson, will be developing the best five-star eco-resort in Europe, before speeding off in his Porsche and almost ploughing into the hundreds queuing for the local soup kitchen while bemoaning having to give up 20% of his winnings in tax.

With Iglesias out of the way, the King calls the fourth general election of the year. The nation is confident that this time a government will be formed. Its confidence is misplaced. In despair, the King phones Artur Mas and invites him to become prime minister of Spain. Mas agrees, Catalonia reverses its UDI and everyone lived happily ever after. If only.

Index for December 2015

Autogiro flying machine of Llucmajor - 13 December 2015
Brand Mallorca - 29 December 2015
Circus in Mallorca - 6 December 2015
Citizen participation - 23 December 2015
Ciudadanos and general election - 2 December 2015, 15 December 2015
Conservation and tourism - 3 December 2015
Constitution reform - 8 December 2015
Environment and sustainability - 4 December 2015
Imaginary 2016 - 31 December 2015
Immaculate Conception - 10 December 2015
Mariano Rajoy and the punch - 20 December 2015
Nueva Planta 1715 anniversary - 1 December 2015
Oddities of 2015 - 28 December 2015
Pablo Iglesias in Palma - 14 December 2015
Palma terraces referendum - 9 December 2015
Partido Popular and general election - 18 December 2015
Pedro Sánchez and government - 27 December 2015
Podemos and general election - 16 December 2015
Podemos on tourism - 5 December 2015
PSOE and general election - 17 December 2015
Sibil-la - 24 December 2015
Spain's general election - 11 December 2015, 22 December 2015
State investment retrieved for the Balearics - 7 December 2015
Tourism re-development - 19 December 2015
Tourism year in Mallorca - 26 December 2015
Tourist tax - 12 December 2015
Town hall financing - 30 December 2015
Winston Churchill in Mallorca - 21 December 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 December 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 10.6C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 31 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 1 January - Cloud, 15C; 2 January - Cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3 backing Southeast 3 by the afternoon.

Mainly clear early morning sky. Sunny and mild once more. Outlook for New Year's Eve night has improved, so little chance of any rain. Into the weekend and there is more risk of showers.

Evening update (20.15): High of 20.1C. Pretty good.

A New Deal For The Town Halls

Ever since there was a change of government in the Balearics, we have been fed a constant diet of complaint by the new administration as to the unjust nature of the islands' financing by Madrid. At times it has appeared as if the regional government doth protest too much, but in spinning this line of financial lack of fair play its protests have unquestionably got home. Keep saying something often enough, and the message will eventually stick, even if one tires at its constant regurgitation.

If the government didn't have solid grounds for its complaint, the message would by now have been chewed over and spat out for being unpalatable in its bitterness of anti-Madrid propaganda. But the government does have solid grounds. There is unfairness, and Madrid in its now acting Partido Popular guise has accepted the message, even if it has been forced to by a regime of the left.

While this has principally been an argument related to Balearic government budgeting, there are the other levels of public administration which are likewise caught up in the vice of financial unfair play. There are plenty who would argue that the next level down in the institutional food chain, the Council of Mallorca, deserves not a cent more and that, on account of past profligacy and duplicated effort, it should in any event be consigned to the bin of local government for all time. With the current regime, there is no questioning its role. It is to be the target of greater not less largesse, powers being devolved to it, such as with tourism promotion.

This devolution of power coincides with one of the mantras of the regional government - that of being closer to the citizen. The system of public administration, decentralised in any event, has long been close, but this closeness has not always been exactly efficient. With the Council of Mallorca, its financial inefficiency stemmed from creating responsibilities to further justify its existence and from establishing entities with the appearance of mirroring or duplicating the government. Its president, Miquel Ensenyat, appears to be conscious of the need to not fall into the same trap. One takes him at his word, but the activities of the Council will be scrutinised for any evidence of past bad habits creeping back.  

It is at the next level - the town halls - where the financial unfair play message is now being given full airing. The town halls, the closest of the close to the citizens, had managed to acquire massive debts (with one or two notable exceptions) through, as an example, an enormous increase in personnel levels from the start of the century. Madrid, as in Mariano Rajoy's PP, took them to task (and not only here in Mallorca). Legislation imposed caps and required financial stability. The rules, for now, remain in place.

The Rajoy reforms have had an impact. Previously heavily in debt, most town halls in Mallorca now run comparatively small debt levels, but the restrictiveness of the legislation, added to the general system of Balearic financing, is leading mayors - many of them far from radical - to now demand a change. If they are to be genuinely close to the citizens, they require the financial wherewithal to meet such a commitment.

The El Pi party, whose function it must now realise, following an election in which it failed to scoop the prize of a seat in Congress, is to focus on its defence of regional interests from within the region, has been garnering support from the island's town halls to make a common front demanding an improved financial deal. One of the town halls supporting this is Alcudia, led by an El Pi mayor, Toni Mir. Innately conservative, as befits a former member of the PP, Mir has nonetheless railed against the current system of financing, both regional and municipal.

Alcudia is far from alone in now carrying a vast budget surplus. In complying with the financial stability demands, it cannot just spend it. Yet there are understandably calls for this to be permitted. It is needed to invest in infrastructure, but is also needed for one very important element of citizen proximity: the poor.

Perhaps more than anything, economic crisis exposed the high levels of social vulnerability that exist in Mallorca and Spain. The benefits system is far from adequate. Yes, it's abused but it is inadequate. Poverty, unemployment, evictions: these were all highlighted by the misery of crisis. And so was the inadequacy of social services, themselves decimated by cuts.

The point is that because of the inadequacy of benefits, institutions - town halls and the Council - have an important role to play, as do the charities such as Caritas. The demands from town halls for improved financing are now as much, if not more, about social assistance as they are for tarmacking side streets. The purse strings should be loosened.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 December 2015

Morning high (6.30am): 10C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 30 December - Sun, 18C; 31 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 1 January - Cloud, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Southwest 3 veering North 3 to 4 by the evening.

Some cloud observable and expected to be around during the day as well but otherwise, sunny intervals. Looking to the night of New Year's Eve, possible build-up of cloud and an outside risk of a spot of rain.

Evening update (21.15): Not bad, high of 20.5C.

In Search Of Brand Mallorca

Mallorca has some pretty serious brands. To Marriott and Hilton are being added Hyatt and Virgin. What do these have in common? Apart from all being in the hotel business (which will be the case with Virgin), they are all foreign. Moreover, they are global brands. Their recognition takes them around the world.

The strength of a brand doesn't happen by accident. It isn't solely an achievement of clever marketers. There has to be considerable substance for a brand to be imbued with the consumer confidence and trust that stem from this recognition. And this substance is created by doing things well and innovatively: even the comparatively small things. Take Marriott, for example. With its acquisition of Starwood, it is poised to become the world's largest hotel concern. A giant of the travel and tourism industry, I can recall how - many years ago now - Marriott was pioneering the use of what would nowadays be referred to as to the exploitation of Big Data. Its innovation in data capture was such that it created personalised attention. The collection of client preferences was stored and then shaped into what would be presented to the client on his or her next stay.

Such detail, such service is what goes towards the establishment of the attributes that mark a great brand out from others. Too often, or so it can appear, it is the visuals of the brand that are believed to suffice. They do not; it is what lies behind the hotel facades, logos and advertising messages that matter.

Virgin is a very different case. It is a peculiar organisation in that it appears to be a vast conglomerate chewing away at more or less every available sector going. And yet its style has always been essentially decentralised. It is more like a franchise system, unified under a brand name that carries with it values that inspire confidence, rather than one massive and faceless entity. 

To no small extent, the Virgin brand is an abstraction from the attributes assigned to its founder, but it would not have succeeded in the way that it has if these were all that it relied upon, and a clue to that success might be found in one word that Richard Branson has uttered in respect of ambitions for the Son Bunyola hotel: "best".

It might seem simplistic, but an aspiration for being the "best" is what impels businesses to seek and to attain brand superiority. The whole structure is designed with being the best or the best possible. And with this being-the-best come the ultimate aims of branding - customer loyalty and trust as well as profit, recognition and/or market leadership.

For all the success of Mallorca's home-grown, global hotel companies, none of them possess the same brand powers as a Marriott, a Hyatt, a Hilton or a Virgin. Up to a point, this is a question of scale. Meliá, as an example, may be big but it is dwarfed by others. But it, as with other Mallorcan hotel companies, were slow to appreciate the benefits of strong branding. This isn't just me saying so, they've all pretty much admitted as such.

As they play catch-up, and none better than Meliá, what might this mean for Mallorca? Superior brands of ever greater recognition, they should, they will have a rub-off effect on the island. But to what degree might these major hotel chains create a type of de facto brand for Mallorca? One that is cast in their collective image, this collective being a combination of the home-grown, leading hotel chains and the foreign ones, to which other names and brands - from the Middle and Far East - will follow.

Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá has spoken of the need for Mallorca and the Balearics to become an "elite" destination. This is one in which the global, "best" brands will succeed, but is it this process of re-branding that inspires so much resentment among some politicians and, so it would seem, the public at large? When Alberto Jarabo of Podemos opined that the hoteliers act against the best interests of Mallorca, a staggering 80%-plus agreed with him (according to one survey).

The politics of current tourism harbour philosophies opposed to fundamentals of strong branding. For Podemos, "sun and beach" is obsolete, when it is Mallorca's primary brand attribute. The tourist tax does nothing for loyalty developed over decades. Neither of these envisages a strategic vision of Mallorca as "best", only Mallorca as defined by specific political interests. The hoteliers, meanwhile, disconnected from this political process, follow their branding initiatives which ultimately make the island secondary: it is the brand and the loyalty to it which matters and not the destination.

Who will step up and argue for brand Mallorca? Perhaps no one, because while such tensions exist, there can never be a unified brand. Someone should talk to Branson.

Monday, December 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 December 2015

Morning high (6.45am): 11.7C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 29 December - Cloud, sun, 19C; 30 December - Sun, cloud, 15C; 31 December - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southeast 2 to 3 increasing 4 during the morning.

The moon shining brightly once more, but highlighting some cloud in the dark sky. Likely to be mainly cloudy today.

Evening update (22.00): It was mostly cloudy. Mild. High of 18.7C.

Oddities Of 2015

Some examples of the varied and sometimes unusual past and present in Mallorca that appeared in my Enjoying Majorca column in the Bulletin.

The alternative fiesta of Sant Canut that competes with Palma's Sant Sebastià in January. "Being a saint, sort of, Sant Canut comes in the form of an image to be carried by the faithful. Dressed in a white, druidic gown with very long black hair, he holds an oversized joint; a very oversized joint."

The Portol (Marratxi) sardine tradition for the end of Carnival. "The Portol sardine, as is the case with some sardines elsewhere, doesn't actually get buried. The Mallorcans enjoy nothing more than setting fire to something, and little excuse is needed for a festivity to feature a roaring bonfire. The comedy sardine is toast, its final moments being marked by the sound of a trumpet reveille."

The "picadors". Not the lancing horsemen of the bullfight, but ... "The picador was the sleazy, smarmy, greasy Latin lover, the tourist gigolo of legend. He wasn't a myth. He genuinely did exist. And there were few places where he existed in greater number than in Mallorca (of the 1960s)."

Mallorca's bulldog spirit: its bulldog. "This canine, which came from guard dogs that were on King Jaume I's ships, is considered to be the only dog that is native to Mallorca. Its name is the Ca de Bou: bulldog. It has another name, and that is the Dogo Mallorquín."

The Duke of Swing. "A waiter in the San Pedro (Puig de Sant Pere) area of Palma. His name was Pedro (or Pere) Bonet." He was born in 1917 and at the start of the 1930s he began to be exposed to the music and entertainment of Fred Astaire, Django Reinhardt and the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. "Bonet de San Pedro was to eventually join this unofficial royalty: he became the 'Duke of Swing'."

The weirdness of Hairy John. "Sant Joan Pelós, Saint John the Hairy. He has been around for centuries and on the feast day of Saint John (the Baptist), he prances around in Felanitx once more, wearing his strange mask and then handing out carnations to the spectators. His whole demeanour, his whole idiot-dancing style, plus the flowers make him a dead ringer for a flower power hippy of the late 1960s."

Moscari's bachelor boys and girls. The day of Santa Anna (26 July) is also the day of the "Fadrí" in Moscari: bachelor boys and bachelor girls, aka "fadrins" and "fadrines". No one seems to know why this day is as it is, but whatever the origins, at ten in the morning the "Fadrí Major" appears: the chief bachelor boy. He carries a reed adorned with ribbons and flowers and is joined by "fadrins" and "fadrines" in traditional dress. 

The Embala't of Sencelles. "There is little about it which makes much sense. What have mobylette motor cycles got to do with anything? Who knows, but there they are from some time after midday, hurtling around the streets while their riders are fired at with water pistols. The streets and roads get semi-flooded and will later on have more water deposited on them when the bales of packed hay arrive in town. And these come thanks to two teams - a male and female one. The two bales are then wheeled into the town's centre and unwrapped. This is when the battle kicks off. What does it entail? Nothing, other than chucking hay and smothering someone in it."

The Esporles sweet fair. "A giant sweet shop and a magician's bakery. Sugar, cream, chocolate, custards, this is a wonderland conjured up by some candy wizard. This is Esporles on the first Sunday in October: Mallorca's tribute to all our yesterdays of the pick 'n' mix and the corner shop with its penny-costing flying saucers and pink shrimps."

Jimi Hendrix in 1968. "The story of the Sgt. Pepper's gig has it that Hendrix cracked the walls with the volume that came out of his Marshall and Sound City speakers. Those attending were mostly British tourists. Hendrix was all but unknown in Mallorca, save for the likes of various locally based musicians, among whom were a couple of members of Los Bravos. After the performance - legend has it - Hendrix was involved in a night of decadence with four Swedish young ladies."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 December 2015

Morning high (7.00am): 9.3C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 28 December - Cloud, 18C; 29 December - Cloud, 15C; 30 December - Sun, cloud, 14C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 backing Southeast 3 during the afternoon.

Clear sky in the darkness before dawn, the moon bright above the mount of Sant Martí. A good enough day in prospect. The outlook now suggests slightly lower temperatures later in the week.

Evening update (19.30): Very pleasant. High of 19.4C.

The Forgotten Kingmaker

You could have written the script. Indeed, many had. The opinion polls had been right except in one respect. The citizens decided that the Citizens' Party, Ciudadanos, was less a panacea for political new-ageism than Podemos. The citizens had thus concluded that collectively they could, as in backing the Podemistic optimism of We Can, as opposed to the Ciudadanos' message of We Might Possibly Be Able To Were It Not For The Fact That We Give The Impression Of Being The PP In Disguise.

No sooner had the first results started coming in, and analysts were rushing to examine various permutations which should have been obvious before the citizens even stepped into the polling stations. The media love of seeking a kingmaker had conveniently ignored the fact that the Warwick of the Spanish war of the election roses was was not going to be the Prickly Rose of Pablo Iglesias and Podemos or the Trailing Rose of Albert Rivera and the C's but rather the Redleaf Rose of Pedro Sánchez and PSOE.

The boy Pedro was being advised left, right and centre by the left, by the right and by the centre. Which way should he go? Which way will he go? Whichever direction he takes, it would appear not to include Mariano Rajoy as a fellow traveller. Making it clear that Mazza would not receive investiture support, the interpretation was that Pedro wouldn't be touching the PP with a pact barge pole, while a different one might be that he would be prepared to, if Mariano is packed off to Galicia, never to darken governmental doors again.

Having seen Pedro assault Mazza with such verbal gusto during their head-to-head TV debate, it was now alarming to find them posing for the media with statesman-like expressions and a handshake. All's fair in love, war and election campaigning, but for Pedro to even give the possibility of taking the hand of the fair Mariano in a tryst of grand coalition some element of houseroom in the stately rooms of the Moncloa Palace appeared to be stretching political opportunism too far. But Pedro would have known, even before agreeing to an appointment with the damsel prime minister in distress, that shacking up with him would incur the interminable wrath of both the Prickly Rose and the Trailing Rose. "Casta," they would shout. The citizens' voices raised against the two-party dominance would have been ignored. The PP and PSOE would walk together hand-in-hand, thumbing noses at the new age of political pluralism.

Pedro thus finds himself between a rock and an even bigger rock, both of which are poised perilously and about to fall on him from a great height. At the back, or more likely at the front of his mind, he'll be thinking about the next election (and not a re-run of last Sunday). For PSOE, having taken a further electoral tumble, it is imperative to regain the lost ground since 2011. Go with the PP, and it risks citizen revulsion, even if it might be the most pragmatic way, and decimation in four years time. Go with Podemos, and it risks being ground into submission. He should ask sweet and friendly Francina what it's like to do business with Podemos. "Don't even go there," she should say, but publicly wouldn't, because as we know - as she and other PSOE-ists in the Balearics say so - the regional government is working well because of the new age of dialogue and consensus, supported by the agreements for governability.

Who'd be Pedro Sánchez?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 December 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 11.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 27 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 28 December - Cloud, sun, 16C; 29 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3.

Cloudy. Should be better later on. General outlook up to New Year's Eve - no real change. Mild, light breezes and sunny periods.

Evening update (19.30): Mostly sunny and a high of 20.2C.

Mallorca Tourism: Winners and losers of the year

Winner: Ryanair. At the start of the year, it had climbed into the world's top fifteen tourist/travel companies, based on market capitalisation, and so joined a list featuring what will now be the world's largest hotel concern - Marriott, assuming its takeover of Starwood is approved - as well as Hilton and Disney. At the end of the year, it made an offer to increase passenger numbers into Palma in exchange for lower airport tariffs in the off-season. As part of the European Low Fares Airline Association, it was lobbying for lower tariffs in general and by December was part of the call made to Brussels to act "immediately" in taking measures to reduce taxes.

Loser: Air Berlin. It had been in trouble for several years, and finally the decision to close the Palma hub could be put off no longer. Earlier in the year there were concerns being raised that it could go bust, so drastic action had to be taken. Fears that this will lead to losses for Mallorca are exaggerated, as Air Berlin's connections to the mainland weren't actually that significant, while other airlines are already sniffing the opportunities.

Winner: Palma. In March, it was named by "The Sunday Times" as the best place in the world in which to live, an accolade that didn't exactly go unnoticed here. Soon after, Iberostar's CEO for Europe and the Mediterranean said that the company was "betting 100%" on the city, while the CEO of Hesperia said that Palma had an "unbeatable future".

The efforts of Palma 365, about which scepticism had been expressed, were now starting to pay off, as was investment in boutique hotels. Interest was being aroused not only among potential visitors but also tour operators. Palma was in fashion. It can remain in fashion, so long as certain politicians keep their noses out.

Loser: All resorts in Mallorca except Magalluf. Politicians and the media have only two interests: Magalluf and Palma (Playa de Palma). The rest may as well not exist.

Winner: Biel Barceló. In government for the first time, the "eco-nationalist" of the Més party certainly made his presence felt. PSOE, partners in the government, had seemed less enthusiastic about the tourist tax, but Barceló and Més, aided by Podemos, were determined that it should be implemented. He kept giving out contradictory indications as to when it would be applied and what it would be used for, but it seems as if it will be in place by the start of the season (i.e. 1 May). As to purpose, all we know is that it has one, whatever this is.

Loser: Inma de Benito. She is a winner in one sense in that she became the president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, but she was always destined to be a loser in the tourist tax stakes. Whatever the hoteliers might have to say or might want, the government will get its way.

Tour operators
Winner: Jet2. It had been making inroads into the conventional tourism market in any event, courtesy of a strong commitment to customer service, and now it sought to attack seasonality by bringing forward flights from some UK airports to February and March. There were criticisms as to prices and to Edinburgh being the last on this list (time-wise), but it was betting on Mallorca and so deserved acclaim for doing so.

Loser: All Russian tour operators. The collapse of Russian tourism continued, but it may recover next year because of bans on operations to Egypt and Turkey. However, the exchange rate remains an issue.

Winner: The British. Back they came in their droves, euros dripping from their pockets in great abundance as a strong pound made the British the touristic darlings of Mallorca once more.

Loser: The Russians, followed by the Germans who, for some inexplicable reason, came in fewer numbers in August than before.

Friday, December 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 December 2015

Morning high (8.15am): 11.1C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 26 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 27 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 28 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 backing East by the evening.

Grey morning, so Christmas Day's set to be cloudy, meaning that social media will not be full of photos of sunny beaches posted in order to make friends and family in more gloomy parts of the globe jealous. Sunny tomorrow though.

Evening update (19.30): Not a great deal of sun. Mild, though, and a high of 18.9C.

Merry Christmas

No post today, as yesterday - theoretically - was a day off. Not that it was. Totally. As in there were a whole load of things to prepare for tomorrow's Bulletin, as there will be today. So, guess who's actually working over Christmas? Ah well, someone has to.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 December 2015

Morning high (8.00am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 25 December - Cloud, 19C; 26 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 27 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southeast 2 to 3, occasionally 3 to 4 during the morning.

Light cloud first thing. Sunny periods later, with cloud building up and staying into Christmas Day.

Evening update (19.30): Not especially sunny but pleasant enough. High of 18.7C.

When Fish Scream: The Sibil·la

Matins, those of you with only passing knowledge of French might appreciate, would appear to be derived from the French for morning. This would, of course, be too simple an explanation. Linguistics of western Europe demand a Latin connection, and so - naturally enough - there is one. Matins comes from "matutinum": of the morning, as opposed to actually being morning.

Once upon a time, in religious circles, Matins was - as you would expect - of the morning. But this was morning as in at night. Up would rise monks at some ungodly hour in order to conduct their observance. They would go back to bed and then get up again. It was a hard life for a monk, if you wanted a good night's sleep, that is.

Fortunately, for the faithful of contemporary times, the Matins liturgy is somewhat more flexible. And confusing. Of the morning has become of the evening and up to around or just past midnight. There is still some element of the morning that remains, but when Matins can start - as it does - at six the previous evening, then that old Latin meaning can be said to have been pretty much abandoned.

In this week of election, Matins services are a bit like the rush to be the first place to declare the result of the election. Not, it has to be said, that the Spanish go in for the rituals of a British election in quite the same way. Results just suddenly appear. There is no parading of the candidate from the Monster Raving Loony Party behind the losing incumbent in whatever constituency it might be.

On Christmas Eve, somewhere has to claim the honour of being the first to do the Matins thing, and it is even earlier than six. You can make a case for six being the evening, but half five is not. It's the afternoon, and by my reckoning the honour falls to the Sant Miquel church in Felanitx. Today, it will not just be the first to declare its Matins, it will also be the first to do the Sibil·la.

Churches across the island engage in this tradition, one that was given greater meaning by Unesco which, in 2010, declared the chant to be a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the only "thing" to have been deemed this in Mallorca or indeed the Balearics. Accordingly, town halls which issue their festive period programme of events (and not all of them do) invariably now tag on a reference to the Unesco award. The Sibil·la is no longer just some song from ancient times, it has the Unesco seal of approval as well, and the town halls and other public authorities make sure everyone knows that it has.

If you are unfamiliar with the Sibil·la and might expect to pitch up at the local parish church and hear something jolly and Christmassy, such as seeing three ships come sailing in, then you would be disappointed. The Sibil·la is distinctly unjolly. To give you a flavour:

"On the day of judgement, he will be spared who has done service.
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, man and true eternal God, from Heaven will come to judge and to everyone what is fair will give.
Great fire from the heaven will come down; seas, fountains and rivers, all will burn. Fish will scream loud and in horror. Losing their natural delights.
Before the Judgement the Antichrist will come and will give suffering to everyone,
and will make himself be served like God, and who does not obey he will make die."

Given that this is, therefore, a vision of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgement, why do they do it? Well, it all of course has to do with the Council of Trent, as these things do. In the mid-sixteenth century, the church powers that be came to the conclusion that the Sibil·la was "offensive to our Lord". They might have added that there were more jolly things to chant at Christmas, but didn't. They did, nevertheless, decide to ban it from churches.

In Mallorca, however, they weren't having any of this, and so twelve years after the decree had been issued, the Sibil·la re-emerged. The question as to why it was Mallorca which rebelled and which was to, therefore, become the keepers of the tradition to such an extent that it was to eventually be given the Unesco award has never been adequately answered. Perhaps it was a case of being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean and thinking no one would notice.

Though restored in Mallorca, it was to still be over a hundred years before the Sibil·la reappeared in Palma's cathedral and not till 1976 before it was formally reintroduced to the liturgy.

If you're having fish this evening, just be careful in case it starts to scream loud and in horror. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 December 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 11.3C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 24 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 25 December - Sun, 16C; 26 December - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3.

Grey old start to the day. Should shift. Christmas Eve due to cloud over later on and Christmas Day sunny. Temperatures, say the met office, are a bit above normal for the time of year.

Evening update (22.30): Didn't become as sunny as had been hoped. Ok though. High of 18.1C.

The Illusion Of Participation

It's hard to know if the past few days have been good or not so good for the citizens and their participation. What used to just be referred to as "turnout" must now be styled in this way. Taking part is so much more active than turning out. And, as is so often said, it's not the winning that matters but the taking part. Ask the town hall in Palma.

The citizens, those strewn across the whole of Spain, roused themselves sufficiently to put some five per cent on the election participation percentage. Was this a reflection of the new participative age? No, but it may well have reflected the fact that there were some other lots to vote for and that the citizens were being given the opportunity to vote no to the old lots. New parties should be formed for all elections might be the message.

There was, though, an altogether more important exercise in participation. The citizens of Palma were deciding the fate of the terraces on the Born. For seven long days the voting lasted, following several long weeks of arguments given ample coverage in the media. And what happened? Under five per cent of the citizens cared enough to vote. Was this a triumph for direct democratic involvement?

Alfonso Robledo, the chap who's head of Mallorca's restaurants' association, was probably wetting himself laughing at the same time as he was congratulating the town hall for having organised the citizens' consultation. Around 3.2% of the citizenry was in favour of Born terraces, but this 3.2% was about four-fifths of those who had been bothered to take a second (less than that probably) to register their online preference in the terraces' favour. The Born was not to be Born free of terraces. All hail citizen democracy!

Alfonso intimated that the turnout, sorry participation, had been high, when of course he knew full well that it hadn't been anything of the sort. He was saying this, one fancies, to rub salt into town hall wounds, while at the same time careful to lavish it with praise. It had been, he suggested, difficult to get the man in the street to vote on a specific issue like the terraces. In other words, what he really meant was that the participation had been minimal - which it was - and that there was no surprise that it had been. Man in the street, man on the Clapham omnibus, man on the Palma bus lines that permit dogs (here has to be another subject for citizen democratic voting): they were all wondering why they were being asked the question. Was it not within the wit of elected politicians and business representatives to sort this out themselves? Sensibly, maturely, pragmatically.

If, as I have suggested previously, the terrace issue was all a ruse for the town hall to engage in a pilot scheme for online citizen decision-making, then it certainly didn't choose wisely. There again, perhaps it was aware that the citizens would let it off the hook. Having dug a frankly ludicrously large pit over a comparatively inconsequential issue, it didn't want to be buried by having to decide for itself, when all sense and public sentiment appeared to be weighed against it.

Maybe it had in fact been a different ruse. Act tough and display preservationist credentials, and then get the citizens to show they aren't nearly as fussed. Don't blame us, the citizens have spoken, all under five per cent of them. Nevertheless, noting the looks of three town hall sorts hauled before the media to announce the "landslide victory" in favour of the terraces, the town hall was far from pleased. Glum, glummer, glummest.

Instinctively drawn to such public involvement as I am, it has to be conceded (and frankly should be by politicians) that the vast majority is not. Perhaps it needs time and education to convert the masses to involving themselves. Or perhaps it requires genuinely significant questions to be posed. Cut taxes by 10%. Yes or no? (And make the outcome legally binding.) The polling website would go into meltdown.

Even for the arch advocates of citizen participation - our good friends in Podemos - there is a gap between philosophy and reality, or so I understand. Its consultations and its citizens' councils amount to comparatively little, so much so that in the heady and insane days of my student politics, the participants wouldn't have constituted a quorum. 

Participation requires, to use an overused word, stakeholders. The world of business struggled with worker indifference towards participation until it started to hand out shares and created profit-sharing schemes. Workers had said you're the managers, your job's to manage; we're workers, our job's to go on strike. But the closeness of a business cannot, despite the rhetoric, be replicated in the vastness of the political machinery. You're the politicians, you sort it out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 December 2015

Morning high (8.15am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 23 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 24 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 25 December - Cloud, sun, 15C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Clear morning, sunny outlook all day. Quite warm with light southerlies.

Evening update (23.30): High of 21.2C. For 22 December, pretty decent.

Getting A Headache: Covering the election

It was almost wistful. But not that much. Passing the school where in May I had cast my vote in the municipal election, I pined, only momentarily, to be allowed to re-enter. As one of the great disenfranchised diaspora I could not. National elections are for nationals. I'm still minded to believe that this is actually how it should be, but one misses the thrills, such as they are, of the Spanish voting system and the confusion for those attending the "tables" when presented with a foreigner who has two Christian names and one surname. Several moments of amusement ensue.

The attendees of these tables are not volunteers. Long before the current days of citizens participating left, right and centre (though mainly left), they decided to make it like jury service. If you're unlucky enough to have your name picked out, then you have to go and do your citizen's duty. I'm unsure if this means if I, or many of those of you reading this, might one day suffer the same fate. Given that the vote is denied, it seems a tad preposterous to demand table attendance. A mate of mine in Barcelona has had to. I must ask him if this was for the general or other elections. Either way, he can only vote for Ada Colau (or not) and not for Artur Mas, so he was doing his duty for something which he can only partially participate in. There must surely be a message here somewhere for the participative new age, or are foreigners classed as citizens or not?

It would make life an awful lot simpler if everywhere in Spain was like Villarroya in La Rioja. There, they don't have to drag everything out for eleven hours before getting down to the results. As there are only six voters out of nine inhabitants of this municipality (one of whom must be the Partido Popular mayor), the polling station was opened and closed within a minute. How many citizens had been called on to attend the tables, one wonders. Presumably, the voters and the table attendants were one and the same.

This was one of the little anecdotes that made a long day vaguely bearable, another one having been the three voters who turned up early doors in Ibiza only to find that there were no table attendants, so they made themselves into attendants, which was very decent of them. True citizen spirit. And participative, to boot.

Spanish election day starts with a bang as the media troops around getting snaps of principal candidates and other political prominenti smiling and casting their votes. Or in the case of Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau not casting her vote, as she had forgotten her ID. Might the police have a word with her? Is it not obligatory to carry this at all times? There were also the traditional photos of nuns voting. Does the church issue its recommendations? Mariano it might be expected to be, but when there's a chap whose name translates as Churches, he must have been good for a few votes among the religious community.

The greatest media scrum was for Mr. Churches, Pablo Iglesias. He was positively beaming, having tweeted earlier that he hoped citizens had risen with a smile and were off to perform their duty for change. There was to be proof that they had, the Podemos Twitter account replete with the happy, smiling faces of those both old and young. The new age was here, and it was all over Twitter. Pablo had gone to the polling station with his chum Íñigo Errejón, a Podemos co-founder, who doesn't look old enough to vote. By about six years. He is actually 32, so fifteen years older than the boy in Badajoz who had turned up wanting to vote and was politely told that he would have to wait nine days until he was 18.

Once this early election euphoria died down, the day dragged on, lightened only by announcements as to turnout. Eventually, this was to be up. Which was reassuring for the advocates of citizen participation. When the end finally came, exit polls were saying what was to be confirmed. It was Podemos who had been the real winners in the head-to-head between the new boys and girls. The opinion polls had got that part wrong.

All that remained was for the leaders' rallying speeches, arranged in pecking order so that they didn't clash. Mariano had to wait till last, as befits the possibly outgoing premier. Not that Mariano's going anywhere. He plans on forming the next government, despite being deprived of a third of his Congress colleagues.

Having been chained to a computer for the whole day and some of the night, it all ended with a massive headache and neck ache. For Spain, the headache now begins. Not one of a hangover. One of who on earth can now govern.

Monday, December 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 December 2015

Morning high (8.30am): 12.9C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 22 December - Cloud, 19C; 23 December - Cloud, sun, 16C; 24 December - Sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 swinging North and Northeast by the afternoon.

Cloudy morning. Remaining mainly cloudy but with only a small risk of any rain. Due to be cloudy tomorrow as well, then brightening up on Wednesday. Breezes still very light.

Evening update (22.00): Sun came out, not too bad at times, a high of 21.4C.

On The Trail Of Winston Churchill

In the 13 December 1935 edition of "La Vanguardia", the newspaper included a small item at the foot of its page devoted to news from "the regions". In the Balearics section it reported that the ex-Conservative minister, Winston Churchill, had arrived with his wife on board the "Ciudad de Palma", which had crossed from Barcelona to the Mallorcan capital. He was met by the (English) Vice-Consul and then headed for Formentor, where he was planning on spending some time.

Churchill would not have found Mallorca at its warmest. Above mention of his arrival, the paper said that the whole of the northern mountain area was covered in snow and that the temperature was a mere four degrees. There was another reason for a certain frostiness, not one mentioned on that page of the paper: the cold fears and anxieties of conflict.

It was the Hotel Formentor where Winston and Clementine stayed. This hotel, grand then as it still is, had not enjoyed the greatest of fortunes since its completion. Or at least the person behind it had not. Adan Diehl, the Argentinian poet, had by then left Mallorca along with his wife. It had been mostly her fortune which had been sunk into Diehl's hotel. They returned to Argentina all but penniless, grateful to the locals of Pollensa who had helped pay for their voyage: they, in turn, grateful to Diehl for having created this splendid hotel.

But why was Churchill in Mallorca eighty years ago this month? Another newspaper, "ABC", reported that he was planning on writing and painting. It also reported that he showed an interest in Spain's political situation, asking if it was true that the country was threatened by a "wave of leftism" (an even greater wave than there already was). While he asked about this, he declined to answer questions about international events.

In November that year, the Conservatives had won the general election. Churchill, who had been hoping for the post as First Lord of the Admiralty, was not given it, Baldwin preferring to "keep him fresh to be prime minister" in the event of war. He took himself off, therefore, for a Mediterranean break. His main intention, including getting some sun, was to work on the third volume of "Marlborough: His Life and Times". If he had intended spending longer in Mallorca, this wasn't to prove to be the case. By Christmas Eve, "ABC" was carrying a photo of him and Clementine back in Barcelona. He then went to Morocco, and she returned to England.

But Churchill would have been all too aware of the political situation when he had arrived, and though he might not have been in the cabinet, he remained immensely influential and important. His status was such that the Vice-Consul who had greeted him in Palma had ensured that ample quantities of food and drink were laid on when Churchill visited him. The Vice-Consul was to become someone in whom Churchill placed a great deal of trust: his spy chief in Spain, Alan Hillgarth.

Not long before Churchill had arrived in Mallorca, a British resident of the island was asked by the authorities about a road. This resident was Robert Graves, and the road in question was the main road from Cala Deya. Graves was already aware, in November of that year, of a German who had been accused of spying in Soller, the evidence for which was that he owned a radio. As for the road, rumours were abounding that it was to be used by a landing force. Nothing came of the need for Graves to have to speak to the authorities, but the fact was that in Mallorca in late 1935 there was a great deal of anxiety, one that Hillgarth shared for two reasons: possible war with Italy and what was indeed a "wave of leftism", to which Robert Graves was to refer in a letter, noting the alarm that the "Daily Mail" had spread with a report of "Red Riots".

Given Mallorca's geographical situation and the tensions, pre-Civil War, with Italy, it was understandable that there would have been anxieties and all sorts of rumours. And this again raises the question as to why Churchill was in Mallorca in late 1935. Was it solely for a writing and painting holiday? Maybe it was, but that period spent on the island was to prove to be highly significant. Hillgarth it was who was to eventually be involved with the plan to bribe Franco to keep out of the Second World War, and crucial to that plan was the banker (and Franco's banker) Joan March, described in September 1935 by the "Chicago Tribune" as the "boss of the Balearics". March was one of Hillgarth's key informants.

In the Hotel Formentor, the grand hotel overlooking the bay of Pollensa, did Churchill meet Joan March in December 1935?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 December 2015

Morning high (8.00am): 9.7C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 21 December - Cloud, 19C; 22 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 23 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 backing Southeast.

Touches of mist around but not the fog of the past two mornings. Another fine, sunny and warm day ahead. Tomorrow is expected to be cloudy, but looking towards Christmas Day, the outlook is for sun and continuing mild conditions.

Evening update (19.30): High of 19.6C. Clouded over somewhat in the afternoon.

Mazza's Prezza Moment

Well, it wasn't exactly a John Prescott moment. Prezza had, after all, been the one who delivered the left hook, having been the ungrateful recipient of an egg. It was Mazza who was on the end of the left hook, one delivered with rather greater force than Prezza had planted on Eggy's chin, and it went not on his chin but on the side of his face.

The idiot who did this, a seventeen-year-old youth by the name of Andrés, is apparently related to the PM. Son of a cousin of his wife. Or something like that. Quite what this means - in relative terms - I have no interest in trying to figure out. But maybe the youth was having a go for not having received Christmas presents in the past. Whatever his motives, he was said to have been pleased with himself. A judge has sent the spotty Herbert to a youth detention centre. No Christmas for him then. Stupid, more stupid, most stupid.

The great question that was raised by the left hook was what had happened to the prime ministerial spectacles. Rajoy continued his walkabout in glassless disorientation. "Where am I going?" "Who are you?" It was to be a day later before the prime ministerial Twitter advisors delivered a message that the PM had been planning on sending a letter to the Three Kings and ask them for some new specs. But this was not going to be necessary. The spectacles had been found. Hurrah!

Reunited with the eye furniture, Mazza was able to inform a radio interviewer that he would not be wearing glasses the next time someone decides to land one on him. With this, everyone was mightily relieved, while the Twitterati at Rajoy HQ had landed something of a coup in managing to turn the whole thing into a joke. The spotty Herbert in question had also managed something previously almost unimaginable: making people feel sorry for Rajoy. If there's one thing you don't do, it is punch a defenceless man who, whatever you might think of him, looks as though he's the last person in Spain who would either retaliate or initiate a punch-up. His poll rating almost certainly increased.

While Mariano had studiously avoided using the C-word when confronted by the boy Sánchez of PSOE during their televised head-to-head insultathon, it was given more than ample airing here in Mallorca. The six leaders of parties hoping to get themselves a nice number in Madrid today were televisually paraded midweek, their debate - such as it was - notable for Here Come Da Judge (Podemos) using distinctly unjudgelike and intemperate language. "Rotten to the core," he bellowed on three occasions in Matty Isern's general direction. It was the PP that was rotten, he was reminding the viewers, most of whom have been able to figure that out for themselves.

Reassuringly, however, and amidst the jibes of "demagoguery" directed at Da Judge by the bloke from the C's whose name no one remembers or "structural corruption", which was levelled by The Verger (Més) at any party other than his own, there was The Font, whose vast, great and wise knowledge has previously made him and his party - The Pine (El Pi) - appear to rise above the puerile name-calling. The Font informed everyone that it costs 15.45 euros to send ten kilos of sobrassada to Madrid and nine euros for the same amount of sausagey stuff to go to Barcelona. His point being? Don't send your sobrassada to Madrid. Which will come as a bit of a blow to him if he wins a seat in Congress. Which he probably won't.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 December 2015

Morning high (8.00am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 18C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 20 December - Sun, 19C; 21 December - Cloud, 16C; 22 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3, for a while Northeast in the afternoon.

Foggy again. See how long it lingers today, but will be sunny once it lifts.

Evening update (20.45): The fog lifted more quickly than on Friday, and there was some warm sun. High of 21.1C.

Between Fact And Fiction: Tourism re-development

And so the president of the Balearics was given a tour of the new Magalluf. Bright, shiny Magalluf. A resort for the new age built against the background of a political new age. There was a notable absentee from this guided tour. The minister for employment was there as well. The tourism minister was not.

President Armengol, somewhat bizarrely, called upon the private sector to bring more investment to the Magalluf fiesta. Who is that has been making the investment until now? She may have had the so-called complementary offer (non-hotel sector) in mind, but the plea to the private sector implied a greater role that has been played by the public sector than is strictly the case. Nevertheless, to hear her talk of private investment was heartening. Where was Barceló?

The political new age is, in a sense, not new at all: not where tourism is concerned. It is a sector that has over the years been moved from pillar to post because of political changes and political whims. The current new age is newer because of the additional maverick factor on top of Més, and that is Podemos. Left up to PSOE alone, and one fancies there wouldn't be too much alteration to the path laid out by the Bauzá PP regime. Modification, yes, arguments, surely, but investments would be allowed to proceed without overly much interference.

The guided tour came against a further background: that of criticisms that Calvia is dragging its heels over giving projects the final green light. One such, so it has been suggested, is Meliá's re-development of the Jamaica, the final part in the Meliá jigsaw. During the tour it was said that the Jamaica will reopen in April or May 2017, which is how Meliá have planned it. This was a statement of intent. In earshot were Calvia's mayor and tourism councillor. In a very public display, the message to the town hall was don't go messing with our project.

Alfonso Rodríguez, Calvia's mayor, is caught between the stools of progress and the politics of his administration. If heels are to be dragged, they aren't necessarily his. He is a PSOE man after all. But it is this complex political arrangement - in Calvia and also at the regional government - which creates the chasm between tourism re-development fact and tourism re-development fiction. The constant drivel of tourism newspeak that we are fed - sustainable this, sustainable that - is what breeds this chasm. While Armengol might call for more investment, there are those who seemingly would prefer to minimise it and to place barriers in its way.

Take the tourism ministry. Barceló's ministry. Away from Magalluf, there are and have been some thirty projects for renewal which were approved by the Bauzá government in 2014. Some have gone ahead. Others are still waiting in the queue. Roughly a half of them. They are all ones that need the ministry's approval. But the ministry doesn't have the staff. It is also now the bailiwick of Més.

Meliá didn't suddenly pluck the Calvia Beach Resort project out of thin air shortly after Bauzá won the 2011 election. It would have been anticipating a PP victory, as it would have been aware of what was to emerge in Carlos Delgado's 2012 law. It went ahead and started work, all the green lights signalling a fast-track re-development of unprecedented scale. Once the less salubrious side of Magalluf was exposed to the world and embarrassed Manu Onieva, the regional government and Meliá, there was a political (as well as commercial) necessity to ensure nothing got in its way. Despite the allegations of heel-dragging at Calvia, Meliá's very public display this week will have surely put paid to this. Rodríguez can't possibly allow it for his own sake and for PSOE's.

But this fast-tracking of Magalluf, this continuous rejoicing in and self-congratulation  of transformation sucks big time when you look at the rest of Mallorca's resorts. There are positives, however, and these have to do with town halls which aren't beholden to the handbrake ideologies of the likes of Podemos (or indeed Més). Alcudia is one, for example. This is a town which might be penalised because of the tourism ministry's inability to process certain projects, but others are its own domain. Thankfully.

The apparent bureaucratic hold-ups at the ministry make one wonder what on earth will happen with the tourist tax revenues, assuming that they aren't all ploughed in to environmental conservation and do indeed - some of them - find their way to resorts and to their infrastructure overhauls. Left to the ministry to process them, the re-development fact is that it will probably take a further change in government to make them something more than fiction.

Friday, December 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 December 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 8.3C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 19 December - Sun, 18C; 20 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 21 December - Cloud, sun, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3, temporarily Southeast in the afternoon.

Thick fog earlier, now lifting. Sunny day ahead and a sunny weekend with light southerlies keeping things settled and mild.

Evening update (23.15): High of 20.8C once the sun came out, the fog having kept on returning over the morning.

The Four-Way Fight: Partido Popular

The saying "be careful what you wish for" applies well to Mariano Rajoy. Twice over. Be careful of what you might wish for as an alternative. Be careful of what you might wish for in having to put up with him for another four years. When PSOE's Pedro Sánchez branded him "miserable" on Monday night's televised debate, he could have been referring to Mariano the image as opposed to Mariano the incapable of tackling corruption.

There's another saying: "better the devil you know". There may be devilishness lurking within the PP that is still to be rooted out of its darker corners and exposed to the lights of the media as it troops into the anti-corruption judges' chambers. There may be devilishness in the viciousness of austerity, in the spitefulness of gagging freedom of expression, in the zeal of advancing the force of religion against the devil of greater social liberalism and secularism. There may be devilishness in all this. But who might the other devil be? Is it one in disguise or is it one already held up before the electorate with two horns on a populist head?

Let's be clear. When Rajoy won in 2011 he inherited a total mess. Because the PP wasn't a Podemos or Syriza, there was never going to be any challenging of the commands from outside. Economic and financial recovery were on others' terms. The government accepted this and in the process managed to avoid complete humiliation. Bit by bit, the economy was put back together again, as was the banking system. In that Monday night debate, Rajoy reminded Sánchez that Spain had been Europe's sick man in 2011. In fact, it was just one in intensive care, but the drip to the vein over four years has produced a recovery in rather ruder health than others. All things being relative.

One of the arguments of opponents is that recovery has yet to be felt within the real economy. Up to a point this is the case. Yet, indicators have started to suggest that it is being felt. As an example, business and consumer confidence does appear to have increased. The government can also point to improved employment statistics, but opponents rightly draw attention to the seasonal effect on jobs. This is no more the case than in the Balearics. The fact is, however, that seasonality is inherent to the Spanish economy; not all of it, but to a good part of it.

Any government in Spain faces the same problem. This is a country with great differences and imbalance economically. In the southern regions of Andalusia and Extremadura (Murcia as well), there has never been what might be described as true industrialisation. Andalusia, trapped in the seasonality of tourism and of agriculture, has massive unemployment. The magnificence of Seville, Malaga and Granada cannot obscure its weaknesses, which were made far greater when construction collapsed during crisis.

This regional variation, though, goes to the heart of one of Rajoy's biggest failures. Catalonia. The government had every right to seek to prevent secession, but the independence drive was given an enormous boost by Rajoy's total rejection of improved financial terms for Catalonia; indeed, it was what made Artur Mas take the independence plunge. Rajoy is stubborn and he is also unsympathetic. By demeanour he is and also by instinct. A more sympathetic prime minister might have sought to plead with Mas (and to the country as a whole) to join in a project for national regeneration with the promise of a thorough review of not just Catalonia's relationship with the state but all the regions. Pedro Sánchez has made a pledge to move towards federalism, but whatever the arrangement is or might become, Rajoy chose not to make such an appeal to an equally obstinate opponent in Mas or to present himself to the public as a figurehead for renewal. The regional issue will continue to dog whatever government is in power, but it is one that badly needs addressing. Whether the PP is the party to do this is another matter. And whether Rajoy is still around will be another.

It is clear that the PP is going to suffer a calamitous loss of support on Sunday, but it doesn't have to be terminal. But as with terms set out by Europe for recovery, the PP may have to bow to the terms of others, with the C's the most obvious ones to make them. If a pact with the C's is not possible, if the other parties can't find a way of forging a coalition, then the PP may try to govern in minority. But there would be a massive if, along with what would be a very significant minority. Would Congress approve the investiture of Rajoy?

One way or another, he may be left with no choice but to fall on his sword.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 December 2015

Morning high (8.15am): 9.7C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 18 December - Sun, 20C; 19 December - Sun, 16C; 20 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 1 to 2.

And it goes on. Very benign conditions. Chilly mornings and warm days with light breezes.

Evening update (22.00): High of 22C.

The Four-Way Fight: PSOE

Life in the land of PSOE can move at a slow pace. Perhaps this suits a party that is the second oldest socialist workers party in Europe, one that was founded in 1879 by Pablo Iglesias. Now there's a coincidence.

PSOE was originally a product of Marxism. Early on in its existence it avowed policies of anti-clericalism (against the church, therefore), coming into alliances with Republicans and even with a dictator. Though PSOE was to be proscribed by Franco, it was useful to Primo de Rivera, a collaboration earning it the wrath of a more militant left-wing.

By the time of the Second Republic of 1931 to 1936, PSOE had become the largest political party in Spain, but the upheavals of that period were followed by its banning. It didn't totally cease to be, as it existed in exile and later in a clandestine fashion inside Spain. Then, in 1977, it was invited, under its leader Felipe González, voted in at a meeting in France in 1974, to take part in the first post-Franco democratic election. Five years later González won. PSOE would govern for fourteen years, a period of enormous social change, which was to end through a combination of economic crisis, strikes and allegations of corruption.

In the democratic era, defined as having started in 1977, PSOE has ruled for 21 of the 38 years. It might be said, therefore, to be the natural party of government in Spain, though such a conclusion doesn't take into account the fact that the Partido Popular (in government for a total of twelve years) has only truly existed since 1989: PSOE can claim only two more years of government than the PP since then.

These two parties have dominated the scene for the past generation, but both now are exposed to the demands for a new politics made by their Ciudadanos and Podemos challengers. For PSOE, these challenges have been as great if not greater than for the PP. This creation of the nineteenth century, stripped of its one-time and ancient quasi-revolutionary roots and of the enormous vitality that González once injected into the party and into Spain, lumbered through the years of Zapatero. Yes, it effected some decent social legislation but it never dared to take its old anti-clericalism to the conclusions some might have wanted, while economically it was living off the complacency of a boom with all too shaky foundations.

When the world first started to learn the terms subprime and toxic debt, Zapatero's reaction was to say there was no crisis in Spain. He failed to consider the structural weakness, ineptitude and corruption of parts of the Spanish financial system as well as inherent lack of competitiveness in the economy and chose a policy of spend. Too late, too slow, he tried to go into reverse. He didn't stand for re-election.

His successor, Alfredo Rubalcaba, presided over PSOE's humiliation in 2011. It lost 59 seats in Congress, having held 169. Despite this, Rubalcaba stayed on. A man of some honour, he was nevertheless exposed as symptomatic of the PSOE malaise. It was old, it had lost its way, it had little or nothing to offer. At last year's European elections, there was further humiliation. Finally, Rubalcaba stood aside.

Enter, therefore, Pedro Sánchez, a 42-year-old with comparatively little experience. With some acquired at the town hall in Madrid and with two years as a Congress deputy, it was to be a book that he had written on Spain's new economic diplomacy that was to launch him as a potential replacement for Rubalcaba. In July last year he became the party's secretary-general.

His comparative youth was in contrast to Rubalcaba, It was in contrast to Mariano Rajoy as well, but by the time Sánchez was elected, there were more youthful kids on the block and both were taking pops in equal measure against the PP and PSOE. Sánchez was leader of one of the "casta", a party every bit as mired in a history of sleaze as the PP.

While the electorate more readily associates corruption with the PP and so considers this a reason to give it a kicking on Sunday, it associates PSOE with crisis. Confronted as well by the arrival of Podemos and the C's, this economic legacy has dragged PSOE down further. It may end up losing thirty or more seats in Congress to add to the 59 in 2011.

Afforded the right as the leader of the (at present) main opposition, Sánchez went head to head with Rajoy on Monday night. The prime minister had cut everything but corruption and was not a decent man. The general view was that Sánchez lost the debate. On Sunday there is a great deal more to lose. Sánchez has failed to galvanise PSOE as many would have hoped. Slow, too slow. It needs a Pablo Iglesias. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 December 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 10.8C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 17 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 18 December - Sun, cloud, 16C; 19 December - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 2 to 3 veering North by the afternoon.

Breezes, such as they are, shifting northerly, so may not be as warm as yesterday. Plenty of sun, though.

Evening update (21.30): More than decent. High of 22.3C.

The Four-Way Fight: Podemos

If you look closely at Pablo Iglesias and were the facial hair to be removed, you will appreciate just how youthful he appears. He may have reached the grand age of 37 but he gives the impression of an older adolescent, earnestly clutching a set of 1970s Krautrock albums and preparing to enter college to study graphic design. But these looks are deceiving. Firstly, he isn't as earnestly without humour as a right-on project of the left suggests that he should be and secondly, his non-political career has found him rise to the rank of interim professor in political science.

There is, though, a sense of the student rebellion (circa the 1960s and 1970s) about him. A member of the Spanish Communist youth wing at the age of fourteen, Iglesias is an idealist for whom any revolutionary tendencies have been modified in the pursuit of more pragmatic political evolution and social change. And it has found expression in Podemos - We Can.

It is worth being reminded that two years ago Podemos didn't exist. It was in early 2014 that the social movement bearing the name was first presented, with Iglesias a co-founder. From nothing then and via stunning gains at the European elections last year and Spain's regional elections in the spring of this year, there is now the prospect - according to the polls - of Podemos securing up to sixty seats out of the 350 in Congress. If Ciudadanos, as noted yesterday, was the first example of a social movement achieving parliamentary representation (in Catalonia), the Podemos example has been vastly more dramatic: the C's, in their original form, are almost nine years older than Podemos.

But Podemos had to have come from somewhere, and in the case of Iglesias this was television as well as academia. A reason he is now such an adept performer with the media is that he has experience of the camera and of production. He began to make a name for himself as a political analyst and presenter and shortly before the announcement was made of the launch of the Podemos social movement, he received an award from the Carlos III university in Madrid for his journalism.

As for Podemos itself, it was a project that was, in a sense, the consequence of the collision of different social movements, a notable one being that of Ada Colau, now the mayor of Barcelona, who had been campaigning against evictions since 2009. The "indignados" movement, otherwise known as 15-M (to mark the date 15 May, 2011 when protest burst out in Madrid and then elsewhere), was another major factor. Unemployment, corruption, austerity: these were all to add weight to what had been a gathering momentum towards a coherent political force. Aided by a co-founder with media skills, Podemos arrived on the scene, kicking and screaming and threatening to tear down the very structure of Spain's political institutions, the Partido Popular and PSOE - the despised "casta" - in particular.

The original Podemos "manifesto" (from January 2014) was entitled "converting the indignation into political change". There was more than just a touch of the left-wing about it, but to the beliefs of the anti-capitalist left and Trotskyists (among others) have since been added those which aren't quite so strident. There are red lines for Podemos, such as on debt restructuring, but the vastness of the election programme - 394 separate manifesto items - allied to the essential participatory nature of its existence and, possibly, a requirement to form a pact following the election, might well lead to a watering-down.

One says might, but although Podemos have taken on some of the trappings of the establishment by bringing into their midst a Balearic High Court judge and a former chief of defence staff, there is little sign of there being a willingness to "sell out". Podemos support for government, as evidenced in the Balearics, is on Podemos terms, not on others. But for Iglesias and Podemos to be truly pragmatic - in the sense of a political force - they may find that there have to be some trade-offs. The greatest risk for them is that, if they don't find their way into government via a pact with strings, they may fade away.

This said, there were plenty of observers who thought they would have already faded. True, the level of support may have peaked, but it is the very nature of this support which has allowed Podemos to reach and retain a position of electoral strength. This support is eclectic and it can draw on voters who might not consider themselves left-wing but are wanting a reason to get even with the PP in particular because of corruption and/or, for the middle classes, the vicissitudes of austerity. And for others, there is the very fact that Iglesias doesn't look like your everyday politician. Herein lies much of the appeal: different, very different.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 December 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 7.9C
Forecast high: 21C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 16 December - Sun, cloud, 19C; 17 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 18 December - Sun, cloud, 16C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3.

Forecast to be positively balmy today with temperatures into the 20s, aided by some light southerlies.

Evening update (22.30): Nice. High of 21.2C.

The Four-Way Fight: Ciudadanos

In 2011, over the four days prior to the day of reflection (when campaigning and party political comment and opinion are supposed to cease), there wouldn't have been a case to have filled those four days with profiles of political parties. There were (and are) all sorts of parties knocking around, some of them regional, some of them more broadly based, but in 2011 there were only two which mattered - the Partido Popular and PSOE. The intervening four years have changed this. The number of parties which matter has doubled. The fight is not an even four-way fight - not where the estimations of seats in Congress are concerned - but it is a fight nevertheless, and it is one that is destined to change Spain's political scene, not just because two new parties could feature in the next government but also because these two parties represent a different type of politics. They are Ciudadanos (C's) and Podemos.

The first thing to say about the C's is that they aren't so new. As with other aspects of their existence, such as what they actually stand for, branding them as new is too easy. Initially moulded in 2005, they came from a movement called Ciudadanos de Catalunya - citizens of Catalonia - formed through disenchantment with established politics in that region. Within a year this platform had become a political party, adopting the name Ciudadanos-Partido de la Ciudadanía (C's for short). The party's first participation in an election was for the Catalonia regional election in November 2006. By then, its first president, who hadn't been one of the founders of the platform, was a 26-year-old Catalonian swimming champion and student of law who had briefly had a dalliance with the PP's Nuevas Generaciones. His name? Albert Rivera. 

That first election was to prove to be the making of the C's and of Rivera. Never before had a social movement or platform been able to convert itself into a political party and actually gain representation. It might not have seemed so at the time, but from the modest but nonetheless surprising gaining of three seats in the Catalonian parliament, Spain's new political age was being born.

The important point to be made about the C's is that they weren't in 2006 and nor are they now a radical party. Often lumped together with Podemos, they are done so through a misunderstanding that stems from apparent newness. Where similarity exists with Podemos is on issues such as inclusiveness (a more participative approach to the political process) and being adamant in a rejection of corruption and of the political status quo of the hitherto two-party system of the PP and PSOE.

Unlike Podemos, which was to grow out of an altogether wider and more vocal social movement and secure sudden and stunning electoral success, the progress of the C's has been more like a business which, once strong in its home market (Catalonia), expands into newer markets. The great achievement has been in not stumbling in a desire to grow.

Though they might not like to admit it, the C's have been aided by Podemos and by the intense focus placed on a new political age that Podemos have done so much to create. They have caught a wave, but it has to be acknowledged that, in their less vocal way, they (and the now forgotten Partido X) did the groundwork for Podemos to emerge so spectacularly.

As they aren't a radical party, where does the appeal lie? Partly, and this cannot be ignored, they have some attractive and youthful figureheads in the likes of Rivera and the now leader of the opposition in the Catalonian parliament, Inés Arrimadas. But good looks only get a party so far. The appeal comes from the assault on the corrupt two-party system and from policies of greater social justice and equality and probably also comes from the fact that, of the two parties taking on the PP-PSOE cosiness, they aren't as scary as Podemos.

Such an analysis reveals why the C's are described as both left and right-wing. Observers who draw these conclusions are again misunderstanding the party. It is a hybrid which can, on the one hand, hold firm views against Catalonian independence (a stance associated mainly with the right and one for which Rivera once received death threats) but which, on the other, can promote progressive taxation in a manner akin to the left.

For those who seek to condemn them as being almost a PP in disguise, there is evidence from a strong pro-business bias as well as a commitment to language teaching that has distinct echoes of the PP's trilingual teaching system in the Balearics. 

A clearer assessment of the C's might be, however, that they are wholly of a modern age, minus any baggage, with a mostly intelligent programme. Success on Sunday should come as no surprise.

Monday, December 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 December 2015

Morning high (7.30am): 7.6C
Forecast high: 19C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 15 December - Sun, cloud, 20C; 16 December - Sun, cloud, 17C; 17 December - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3.

Bits of cloud observable as day breaks. Chilly, but warming up well later on. Still remaining very calm with light mainly southerly breezes.

Evening update (22.00): Not as much sun as might have been hoped. Ok in the morning, but then got cloudy. High of 18.7C.

There's A Starman Waiting In The Sky

It isn't known if Pablo Iglesias's mother was conceived immaculately, but on the immaculate day (last Tuesday) the Second Coming was heralded in the manger of the Palma Arena. There were no swaddling clothes for Pablo; rather the typical, non-descript colour shirt which seems to be the only one he possesses. Into the arena trooped the five thousand. And lo, for it was good and he didst come among them. The uncorrupt (through birth) of the Son of the All Righteous dispensed fish and loaves bearing no stain. The apostles applauded, and so did the five thousand. The Bishop of Mallorca was in hiding and not just because a naughty vicar-type story was leaking out. The walls of the Moncloa Jericho will come tumbling down.

One felt almost sorry for the Balearic Podemista apostles - Dave Spart, The Boot Girl, Xe-Lo and Here Come Da Judge. In this consensual, participatory and egalitarian new age of the citizens, there are citizens who are first among equals and none more so than Paul Churches, the higher authority condemning a malevolent collective Citizen Cain to the fires of the hell of the corrupt. Cain, so they say, was of Satanic origin. He most certainly was not from immaculate roots. 

The apostolic citizens in the ranks of the Podemista political caste could only look on with the shared ecstasies of the five thousand. There may, in theory, be no "I" in We Can, but minus Pablo it is questionable if we (or they) would be able or would indeed have been enabled. Podemos is spelt with a big "P", and it stands for Pablo.

The previous day was when Pablo met Albert met Pedro but didn't meet Mariano, who was either washing his hair or had managed to get a note from his mum (no immaculate connotations are known of her either). Instead, they sent the Dancing Queen, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria Etc., fresh from her recent gyrations to "Uptown Funk You Up" on "El Hormiguero" (the anthill), but which had been eclipsed by the guitar-playing, singing Pablo. It might not have been Paul Weller (unlikely that it would have been given the hair), but here nevertheless was the Modfather of the Political New Wave. Stardust was spread both through the TV debate and in the Palma Arena, and what is more, Ziggy plays guitar.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 December 2015

Morning high (8.00am): 9.8C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 14 December - Cloud, sun, 19C; 15 December - Sun, cloud, 18C; 16 December - Sun, cloud, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Mainly grey this morning. Sun may be limited during the day. Otherwise mild. A mostly sunny week forecast.

Evening update (20.15): Some sun, some cloud. A high of 19.2C.

The Weird Flying Machine Of Llucmajor

Antoni Verger is the candidate for Congress with the Més party. The other day he spoke about his party's proposals for air transport. He did so at the Son Bonet aerodrome, what had been, before Son Sant Joan was expanded and opened in the early 1960s, the destination for tourist flights coming into Mallorca. Nowadays, the aerodrome serves as a base for, among others, Sloane Helicopters. For the visitor to Mallorca, Sloane provides a range of charter trips and combined activities, soaring above the Tramuntana and offering the visitor aerial views of stunning coastline and mountains.

But the modern-day technology of helicopters is a world away from days of yore when men in their flying machines came up with strange inventions and, having taken them to the air, more often than not saw them plunge back to earth all too rapidly. One of these men was a Mallorcan. His name was Pere Sastre. Born in Llucmajor in 1895, Pere de Son Gall, as he was to become known, was for a time - as noted by the town's historian - one of its best-known residents. There was, apparently, an air of mystery and eccentricity that surrounded Pere and his unusual hobbies and inventions, principal among which was the one which was to make him most famous. At the age of just 26, Pere invented something known as the comet-giro-plane. Part helicopter, part plane, the intention was for it to take off vertically and be used mainly as a rescue craft either by hovering in the air or landing on sea, courtesy of it also being part seaplane.

The main problem that Pere encountered in getting this peculiar Heath Robinson affair off the ground (so to speak) was money. A lack of it. He would play the pools and the lottery in the hope of getting this money. He was to also stage an exhibition to show off his crazy invention. With the help of a local blacksmith and carpenter, he built a hangar in which the heli-plane was stored. For three pesetas, the locals - and indeed anyone else - could come and admire his great work.

Other sources of funding that he sought were from the provincial authorities on the island and from banks, but still the resources were only limited. His first actual prototype was to be a failure, despite his having got hold of a Harley-Davidson engine and some parts from the Guardia Civil. Another potential line of finance that he looked for was from the national government, and it was this involvement that was to create what, till this day, remains the greatest controversy surrounding Pere's invention.

The minister he approached was one Juan de la Cierva y Peñafiel. He held a variety of posts in government, one of which was for the "Fomento". This development ministry still exists, its old title having endured and being used to cover the likes of air transport in Spain. Pere submitted his design, asked for some money and received short shrift. The minister had decreed that Pere's flying machine lacked "public interest".

Why the controversy arose was the fact that the minister's son, Juan de la Cierva y Cordorníu, was himself an inventor. He was also an engineer, who was to become noted for road, canal and port design. But most importantly, as far as this story is concerned, he was also an aeronautic designer. Five years after Pere's proposal had been rejected by Juan de la Cierva the father, a similar machine - an "autogiro" prototype - appeared. Its designer was Juan de la Cierva the son.

There are those who, almost ninety years later, will still insist that Juan the son nicked Pere's ideas. The main flaw in this argument is that Juan the son was already working on helicopter-plane hybrids before Pere sent his plan to the ministry. It is true, though, that five years after the plan was received, Juan the son was establishing the Cierva Autogiro Company in the United Kingdom.

There is little or indeed no evidence that Pere's plans were copied. In all likelihood, Juan the son was totally unaware of them. But the fact that he was the son of the minister who turned down the project has allowed the controversy to persist for all the years that it has. There is also the fact that Pere, because he was in truth a farmer with no actual qualification for his invention, was rejected through an elitist royal order of 1897 under which proposals by those lacking the relevant qualifications were basically ignored.

Pere's invention was, if truth be known, a total failure. It did actually take to the skies, but didn't get very far. Just one of the drawbacks was that the materials were too heavy. Eventually, he came to be ridiculed in his local community. His obsession with his invention, soon eclipsed in any event as aviation design moved on apace, left him in debt. He died in 1965, by which time few people remembered him. But they do remember him now, his story having been revived, and the controversy also. Was his design stolen? The answer is almost certainly no.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 December 2015

Morning high (8.15am): 7.7C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 13 December - Cloud, 18C; 14 December - Cloud, sun, 17C; 15 December - Sun, cloud, 18C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 2, occasionally Southeast 3.

Rather cloudy to start with, sun's due out later. More of a chance of a shower tomorrow. General outlook still remaining good.

Evening update (22.45): Turned out to be a middling sort of a day. High of 18.1C.

Yet More On Tourist Taxes

The regional government has asked the citizens how they would prefer the sustainable tourism tax to be spent. An online poll revealed an 80% preference for environmental protection and conservation, a result which comes as no surprise. Depending on which options the citizens are presented with, then the citizens - more often than not - will reply with an answer that might have been hoped for: among certain elements of the government at any rate.

Were the government to follow this preference, then the tax would become an eco-tax, but as we have been informed, by the finance minister, it is not an eco-tax: that was something they did thirteen years ago. This tax is different. And the government still isn't clear as to how it intends spending it.

One person who has made his views clear is the prime minister. Mariano Rajoy is not in favour of eco-taxes or other taxes directed at tourists. As pointed out previously, such a view avoids the fact that he and his government increased taxes - indirect ones - aimed at tourists: the tourist rate of IVA (VAT). This was, in a sense, a national tourist tax, but of course no one ever referred to it as such.

It isn't totally beyond the bounds of possibility that a new national government might pursue a national tax, though this would almost certainly require Podemos being at the centre of the next government's policy-making, which it may not be. Such a move would be interesting in that it could well end up being challenged in law because of regions' statutory rights over tourism policy. Hypothetical though this might be, tourist taxes are being talked up (or down) in different parts of the country. The Canaries had dismissed a tax, but the idea still keeps cropping up. The city of Seville is said to be looking at one. The Valencia region may yet introduce one.

In other tax developments, the Més lead candidate for Congress, Antoni Verger, has been speaking again about his party's wishes for air travel, a component of which would be local management of airports through which, he believes, it would be possible to reduce the airports' taxes on airlines, i.e. the charges for landing rights and handling. Rather more significant, though, is the powerful lobby of Europe's five largest airline concerns. Air France-KLM, IAG, the Lufthansa Group, Ryanair and easyJet are calling on the European Commission to act "immediately" in taking concrete measures to reduce airport taxes. They argue that, while these charges have increased by an average of two-thirds in the past ten years, the supply side (i.e. the airlines) has been lowering its charges, in other words its ticket prices.

The airlines' lobby complains about "airport monopolies on a grand scale", which is something that can be applied to Aena, and these leading airlines believe that a mandated lowering of taxes would create employment and contribute to general economic growth. One hesitates to suggest that the lobby's intervention will lead to significant cuts, as there is the Spanish example to bear in mind: the National Competition Commission has forced a reduction in taxes for next year, but it is certainly not great. But the fact that the matter has been placed on the Brussels agenda might result in something more substantial, which could only be of benefit locally in Mallorca, where Palma has the third highest (all year) charges in the country.

Friday, December 11, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 December 2015

Morning high (7.45am): 9.1C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 1
Three-day forecast: 12 December - Sun, 17C; 13 December - Cloud, sun, 16C; 14 December - Cloud, sun, 17C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3 veering South.

Nippy. Nice and clear. Sunny day coming. Weekend outlook - mostly sunny and mild with a slight risk of a spot of rain on Sunday.

The Chaos Of Colour: Spain's election

In just over a week's time Spain will hold a general election unlike any other in its comparatively short democratic history. If there are those who still cling to the belief that Ciudadanos and Podemos are impostors, these are beliefs of denial: two-party politics in Spain is dead, long live quadripartite politics.

Life will be breathed into this four-party system for at least as long as the life of the next legislature (until the end of 2019). Whether it survives beyond this will depend upon what happens between now and then. The deniers may, in the long term, prove to be right. If they are for the PP and PSOE, they will hope that they are.

Unless the opinion polls are wildly wrong, a prediction can be made before the electorate heads to the booths on Sunday week. Spain's political scene will be altered. It will also be highly uncertain. The country's general elections would normally expect to demand the footnotes of mainly indifference outside the nation's borders, but not this one. It will be watched like a hawk, with the eyes of Brussels, among others, firmly trained on it.

Judging by the comparative turnouts in Palma this week, the Podemos bubble appears anything but burst. Pablo Iglesias fed the five thousand at Palma Arena, while a surreal gathering - a tenth this size - wrapped themselves up against a keen breeze on the Parc de la Mar and listened to Rajoy. The prime minister observed that this was a working day and a gathering during the day. He must surely have made this remark because of events some hours previously. Iglesias had chosen a holiday and the evening: the resulting difference was political PR heaven for Podemos.

Not that these two rallies hold a key to Sunday week. Podemos has not become the mighty force it once looked as if it might; according to the polls, at any rate. The rise of Ciudadanos may explain this. Or perhaps there was always going to be a plateau that Iglesias would not be able to surmount. But in a different sense they did hold a key. Iglesias, populism aside, can be mightily impressive. He is also different.

The four-party televised debate earlier in the week had been a curious prelude to the two Palma rallies; curious because of the absence of Rajoy. This had been known a couple of weeks in advance, the official reason being the number of requests from media outlets and schedule. It was difficult to avoid believing there were other reasons.

One survey of the performances of Iglesias, Sánchez (PSOE), Rivera (Ciudadanos) and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Rajoy's substitute, made Iglesias the winner. Had Rajoy appeared, he might have been a greater winner. The debate itself, minus Rajoy, was a winner. There was freshness in the relative youth of the participants and the presence of a woman. There were degrees of charisma as well.

An argument for Rajoy taking part was that his seniority would afford him gravitas in the eyes of the viewer when set next to the younger upstarts - Iglesias, Rivera and Sánchez - but in recalling the debate he had with Alfredo Rubalcaba prior to the 2011 election, any such gravitas might have been lost amidst the greyness. That debate in 2011 was excruciating. Conducted by two grey men, it might now be looked back upon as the moment when the two-party system condemned itself to the political waste bin. If that was Spain's politics, with two tedious and not especially sympathetic characters representing it, change could not have come soon enough.

The new politics expounded by Iglesias and Rivera is not simply an alteration to political party dynamics, not just an assault on the sleaze and the inherent corruption of the two-party state, it is also much closer to the "citizens" through personality. Spain could abide the aloof drabness of Aznar and Zapatero during the boom times. It could also accept, for a time, the unappealing Rajoy, if this was what it genuinely had to endure. Now, battered by austerity and the greyness inflicted on society, it looks for colour, ironically capable of looking forward to this because of the at least partially successful policies of the PP. As the charismatic González supplied a vitality to the youthful democracy in 1982, so the stage awaits a similar character to advance the rebirth of a country that has been kicked but not totally humiliated, unlike Greece.

But González was able to emerge as the flagwaver of the two-party system that resulted from the chaotic transition with its alliances of convenience. A new chaos of alliance now beckons because of its dismantling. Charisma might abound, but it will be enjoyed only by minorities of supporters and rejected by the combined majorities of others. Political colour is being supplied, but who's to be the artist?