Friday, December 15, 2017

Biel Barceló: Unforgivable Misjudgment

There are worse offences, if you can call going on a freebie to the Dominican Republic an offence. It isn't of course. Anyone is free to go, but the problem can arise when this freedom comes free of charge. You or I would probably bite the hand off of someone generous enough to provide flights and accommodation gratis, but neither you nor I is the vice-president and tourism minister of the Balearics. The largesse of Globalia - Air Europa and Be Live Hotels - would thus be denied us. Shame that. A couple of days in the Caribbean in December might do nicely, being whisked away from any Cyclone Ana which just happens to pummel Mallorca. Happily (one trusts), the hurricane season will have passed in the Caribbean, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic can be enjoyed at its balmy best - #Punta Cana Better In Winter.

Not that being the vice-president and the minister for tourism had anything to do with either the invitation or the free package holiday. Biel Barceló, sporting Biel, had gone in a private capacity, one of a number of contributors to a sports programme being ... being, well what? It was all a pleasant little jolly, even if there was no requirement to take part in the programme to be made in Punta Cana. And there wasn't.

Why did he do it? Seriously, why did he accept the programme's invitation and the generosity of the CEO of Mallorca's Globalia, Javier Hidalgo? Actually, it's most unlikely that Javi knew anything about it. Or anyone in the higher echelons of Globalia come to that, if the trip had all been arranged by the programme. Why would they have known? Rather like President Armengol didn't know Biel was going, there was no particular reason for them to have known. It was a private trip, after all; not an official vice-presidential one.

Biel has explained, indeed emphasised, that there was no direct or indirect relationship with any company. If by this he had meant Globalia, then one is inclined to accept that this was the case; in part, anyway. One understands what he was saying. He hadn't gone because one of Mallorca and Spain's leading travel and tourism companies had directly arranged for him to go, and that he had said, thanks very much and there's no potential conflict of interest. But there was a relationship, whether he agreed with the assertion or not. Globalia paid. Or the programme paid. There was, therefore, a direct relationship with the company behind the programme, even if it was one with which he has been associated for a decade.

There are times when politicians (and others) simply don't get it or are blind to the pitfalls of decisions. The trip to Punta Cana was one such time. Biel had suggested that there was a misjudgment. There was no suggest about it. Swanning off to the Caribbean when there was an important debate to be had in parliament was bad enough. To have missed that debate on account of a freebie was frankly unforgivable. It was a serious misjudgment, and when politicians are guilty of misjudgments they are therefore guilty of an offence of ruined credibility.

Podemos and others were waving the corruption banner. I don't buy that for one moment. Naive, stupid, ill-considered, but hardly corrupt. No, make that absolutely not corrupt. Forget any suggestion of corruption. But there are the ethical codes of Més and the government to consider. These may or may not have been transgressed, but there is a factor as important if not more so. What the citizens made of it all. For some, it will have been evidence of all politicians, despite their fine words (including those of Biel), being in it for themselves. For others, astonishment. There may have been no wrongdoing, but for goodness sake it didn't look good.

Maybe, who can tell, Biel had thought that no one would ever know he'd gone. More fool he, if he did. This is the era of Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Wayne Rooney and far too many others to mention. People do find out, and it was on Instagram. He really was naive, and having been naive and made a serious misjudgment, his capacity for other judgment was placed under the microscope. And unfortunately for Biel there had been previous.

He may have had nothing to do with the Més contracts, but he had really only survived that affair because Podemos backed off. They weren't about to now. But there were other questionable decisions, such as the appointments of both Pilar Carbonell and Pere Muñoz, both now no more.

I have no axe to grind with Barceló. I disagree with the tourist tax but I agree with other tourism policies. A generally reasonable and agreeable fellow, but this wasn't enough. He had to resign.

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