Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Failure To Connect

It is staggering in a way that an opinion poll sixteen months before an election takes place can have created as much reaction as it has. It is less staggering when one appreciates that the similarities of the poll with one several months before. If the polls don't lie, then there is a clear pattern, and Balearic political parties know what it is. They are all potential winners and all potential losers. Everything is up for grabs.

The reactions from the left have been predictable enough. They have focused on the weakness of the Partido Popular and their need to break bread with Ciudadanos. It is, however, a sign of one's own weakness that one should divert the attention to the weaknesses of others. At least David Abril of Més was prepared to admit that the potential loss of three seats is a concern, even if he appeared to believe that there will be a different outcome in May 2019. He may not really be as bothered as he once was; he's said that he will be leaving politics after the next party congress.

Two others who had their say were Jaume Font of El Pi and Laura Camargo of Podemos. They represented a very clear difference, not just because of their politics but also because of how they come across. Camargo, and she is not alone in Podemos ranks, can appear aloof, as if she is talking down while at the same time hectoring. Podemos are littered with her sort, those who approach their task with an academic disassociation. In other words, people don't warm to them. (I'll make an exception with Pablo Iglesias. He can be charming, funny and likable.)

For a party which is supposedly meant to be the saviour of the common man and woman, Podemos can convey precisely the opposite impression. Camargo, when she was not describing a potential PP and C's alliance as a "disgrace", referred to restoring confidence of society in a "progressive majority" and to "reaching agreements on the roadmap for transformation and opening consultations in the citizens' assemblies". The words were understandable, but what was she really saying? That's part of the problem with Podemos. They speak Podemos-speak, and those doing the speaking can give the impression of being ever so slightly objectionable and supercilious. Alberto Jarabo is another.

Is a failure to connect with people as much a reason why Podemos have gone backwards (three fewer seats, according to the poll) as anything to do with the party's policies and occasional brinkmanship? Possibly. In Mallorca (and it should of course be the same anywhere) there is a need for politicians to connect with different constituencies. With Podemos, one can feel that they appeal to an elite rather than to the ordinary man or woman in the street, especially if this man or woman happens to be out in the sticks of the "part forana".

Here is where one can observe the great contrast between a Camargo and a Jaume Font. He is a veteran Mallorcan politician, a one-time mayor of Sa Pobla. It doesn't get any more solidly Mallorcan than a native of Sa Pobla. It isn't altogether surprising that Font should have a better approval rating than anyone else, including President Armengol who, for all her faults with talking in consensus and dialogue riddles, is not unlikable. Font is a man for the occasional quip. He is only really matched in this regard by Miquel Ensenyat, the Més president of the Council of Mallorca (another likable person). But he is also capable of making very cutting observations. He has done so with the holiday rentals zoning. Decisions for this should not be made from Palma.

This remark was not a throwaway. One could understand exactly where Font was coming from. As a former minister (when he was with the PP under Matas), he has been part of the Palma elite, but he remains the product of the part forana, an advocate for the ordinary Mallorcan. He knows how to connect, and he can do so in a manner that is genuine when compared with, say, a Podemos artificiality. Moreover, he needs no lessons from the left about the Catalan thing. He's a member of the Obra Cultural Balear.

The apparent impasse that the poll indicates is crying out for a leader who can really make a connection. The PP don't have one in Biel Company; Armengol is Armengol; Podemos have Mae de la Concha lurking in the background, about whom no one knows anything; Xavier Pericay of the C's is stuffy and professorial; Font can do it, but El Pi won't; Més seem to have no idea where they're going - how much they'd love Ensenyat to say yes, but he wants to stay at the Council of Mallorca. The connection cupboard is hardly full.

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