Sunday, March 19, 2017

Balti's Little Red Book

It may well have been the first time that each parliamentarian reached for his or her Little (Reddish) Book. Obligatory reading it quite possibly is, but who ever complies with such obligation? They will from now on, rather in the way that Dylan Hartley promised to make the rules of rugby his bedside companion following the Italian (First Half) Job.

The whole episode stirred memories of the students' union past. Back in the day, Mao's Little Red Book was mandatory for all of a Maoist persuasion and even some who were not. The book would ostentatiously be laid on a junior common room bar table, while its owner ferreted for some scarce loose change with which to pay for a pint of Maoist Mitchell's bitter.

There was another book, one reserved only for the wise elders of the students' union. This was the constitution book. It itemised rules that had to be obeyed or conveniently ignored. Into the latter category fell "ultra vires" payments, an arcane matter that was nevertheless hauled out at every meeting. Could the Iranian 91 (or numerous alternatives) receive union funds or not? Very few students, bar the elders, gave a toss whether they could or couldn't.

Far greater observance was paid to the holding of meetings. Rules were there to be adhered to in order that Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyists, Maoists and other-ists were given their due time to apply and spout ideological thinking to the price of meat and two veg in the university refectories. The point having been, you see, that those of solidly left-wing convictions did things by the book (when it suited them).

Thus it was with Balti the other day. Rules contained in parliament's Little (Reddish) Book, which no one other than Balti had obviously read, permit the speaker to eject the citizens and the media if a matter affecting parliament's "decorum" is to be debated. The decorum in this instance had to do with the PP's Álvaro Gijón. Fellow Podemosites - Jarabo and The Boot Girl - had set up the chance to give Gijón a good booting. It wasn't to be in public, decreed Balti. The book says no.

Parties were unanimous in criticising Balti's observance of the letter of the rules. Those to the right were less willing to forgive. Balti had acted with "authoritarianism". He was "incompetent". Such reaction was entirely to have been expected. The opposition hadn't wanted Balti to succeed Xe-Lo Huertas. His qualification for the position was being drawn into question, as it had been prior to his election. What can a metalbasher, or whatever he was in a former life, know about parliamentary protocol? And one, moreover, who looks as if he still inhabits student unions circa the mid-1970s. Well, a great deal more than those whose qualifications for parliamentary life normally involve their having been lawyers, geographers or pharmacists, especially the latter. Or so it appeared.

Further criticism suggested that rather than parliament being open to the citizens in a participative, Podemos manner, it was being closed. We were thus to presume that Podemos say one thing and do the precise opposite. Which was nonsense. Balti was merely maintaining a tradition of hard-leftist application of rules, though he says he wouldn't do it in quite the same way the next time.

Frankly, it was a fuss about very little. And perhaps Balti had done the legal process and the odd parliamentarian a favour. A public airing of thoughts about Gijón might be less than wise, given that he has been implicated in various corruption allegations. He has also hinted that he is not above seeing in court anyone who voices allegations. Balti did right. Or was it left? Or was it neither?

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