Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 October 2016

Morning high (7.27am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 26 October - Cloud, 23C; 27 October - Cloud, sun, 22C; 28 October - Sun, cloud, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 temporarily Variable 2 in the morning.

Expected to be cloudy, and heavy cloud at that, for much of the day. Rain not likely, though.

The Art Of Not Explaining

It was one of those complicated little news stories. It was to do with land planning and environmental objections in Alcudia. To get to the nub of the story, the town hall wants to swap part of some land earmarked for development in one part of the municipality so that there can be development in another part. Notwithstanding the fact that an environmental commission and an environmental sub-committee object to both developments, the town hall seems determined to press ahead.

If this were all that the story entailed, it might just have been understandable. In the end, the story, as in its English version, appeared much like I've explained, but it missed out a fair-sized chunk, one that can seem almost beyond explanation or indeed comprehension, whether in English, Spanish or Catalan.

This is because it has to do with land planning and environmental regulation bureaucracy. I am personally convinced that very few people reading about this in Spanish would have the faintest idea what it was all about. Put it into English, and the comprehension would be even less.

There are things which do need explaining and there are others which are probably best left unexplained. They are too confusing and too technical by half, but such is how administrative procedures are in Mallorca. They almost defy explanation on account of their sheer complexity and in the way that a rule for one thing conflicts with a rule for another, largely dependent on how many administrations are involved, of which there is an abundance.

Just to give an idea, there is PGOU, there is POOT, there is PORN, there is PTM, there is ART, there is ZEC, there is ZEPA. To say nothing (and oh how one would prefer not to have to) of the likes of ZGAT and PIAT. What does any of this stuff mean? Some is, on the face of it, comparatively straightforward. A PGOU in essence is a municipal urban plan, but straightforward it rarely or indeed ever is. Not when there is a POOT (tourist accommodation quotas), a PIAT (vaguely similar), a PTM (the overall land plan for Mallorca) or, God forbid, a PORN (natural resources plan) to take into account. Which is before one even starts on the possible implication of, for example, ZEPA (bird protection zones). And how can one overlook PHIB, the Balearic Islands hydrology plan? That's water to you and me. There may be a simple explanation as to why there is a lack of water at present, but things are not simple when one delves into the hydrology plan and its far-reaching tentacles that cover every single drop of water on the island, thus rendering aspects of a PGOU, for instance, unworkable.

If all this is difficult enough to explain in layman's terms, don't think that those to which it all applies find it any easier. One often hears of the need for "legal certainty", so that town halls, businesses, whoever can proceed with whatever project they have in mind without ending up in court. Which is what normally happens anyway. It's not surprising if no one can tell his POOT from his PORN.

Mallorca has long since disappeared up a posterior crammed with acronyms. Constipation has thus ensued because there are that many plans for this, that or the other thing that everything grinds to a halt. And once it all does, no one is much the wiser because explaining any of it would take so long that anyone attempting to read an explanation would very early on lose the will to live.

Not everything is mercifully as complex and confusing as land regulations. Take politics, for example. Hang on, what am I saying? Not confusing. Well, some of it probably gets over-confused and over-explained. Is it really necessary, for instance, to have to refer to PSOE as the socialist party? It's not as if PSOE is a recent phenomenon; it's been going since the middle of the nineteenth century.

But it's when one gets down to all the various parties, groupings and combinations that some explanation is perhaps necessary. Can one, for example, just refer to Més and say no more? Perhaps so, and in some ways it's best not to say anything more because the explanation involves trying to get across what it means by nationalism. And this creates its own issue. Més is a nationalist party, which sounds right-wing but isn't where Més is concerned; it's the opposite.

If it were the case that every plan, political party or whatever required explanation, you would never get to the story which is being reported. But perhaps this is how they like it - the various administrations and parties. Transparency is supposedly a mantra these days, but opacity rules. Anyone want to know what a PORN actually entails? You'll be sorry you ever asked.

Monday, October 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2016

Morning high (7.20am): 19.6C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 25 October - Cloud, 28C; 26 October - Cloud, 23C; 27 October - Sun, cloud, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4.

Another decent and warm day to come. Tomorrow and Wednesday looking rather murky.

Evening update (20.00): Shaped up well. High of 30.9C.

J.R. Is No Longer Dead

So, it was all a dream. Pammy's woken up, Bobby's appeared from the shower, and J.R. is heading off to join the barons of the PP by becoming tourism minister. The intriguing within the PP is the very stuff of "Dallas" minus the oil that J.R. so determinedly sought to deny the Balearics when his nemesis Cliff Barnes (aka José Manuel Soria) was in charge of both energy and tourism.

José Ramón Bauzá, for it is he, has his eye on a cabinet post and on leading the Balearics and Spain to ever greater touristic glory. There are just a few problems with his ambition. One is that Super Mariano has yet to be reconfirmed as president (sometimes referred to as prime minister). By this time next week, however, he may have been, as the socialist-lite element has got its way in sanctioning his investiture. The second problem is that there isn't a specific post for a tourism minister. Yet. But the bookies are placing odds on Mazza turning over one hundred years of history on its head and creating just such a post. Amidst this speculation, therefore, re-enter J.R., who mostly everyone (in the Balearics) had assumed and had hoped was politically interred.

However, away from Palma, J.R. has been conducting a one-man PR campaign, turning up on chat shows. Why would he be doing that? To prove to everyone that he was never dead in the first place. A seat in the Senate has provided sufficient warmth to prevent political rigor mortis from setting in. J.R. is back, and he wants tourism.

But then one gets to the third problem. Much as though J.R. may have been on a charm offensive, he remains thoroughly detested. The PP in the Balearics (many of them) are aghast at the prospect of him rising like a Phoenix of tourism from the ashes of the purge that exiled him to Madrid. And if his own party would not give his tourism ambitions houseroom, then you can be certain that Francina and chums will be even more determined to ensure that he never darkens their agreements for government change.

Could you imagine it? Bauzá at tourism. First thing he'd do would be to seek a change to the statutes of autonomy to ensure that tourist taxes would be banned. He couldn't actually do this, but then J.R. was never one for allowing procedure of a legalistic type to get in his way. Anyone remember the decree for trilingual teaching? A court said one thing (the government hadn't followed procedure), J.R. and his cabinet said we'll see about that and ushered in an emergency decree.

Eco-nationalist Mésite Balearic tourism minister Biel Barceló has declared that J.R. as national tourism minister would be disastrous for the Balearics. "As president (of the Balearics) he did not defend the interests of the islands." Which of course he didn't, as in, for example, not asking Mazza for the state investments which should have flowed in a Balearic direction. And why not? Well, J.R. was the original golden boy of Mazza's austerity. He did all he could to keep pally with Mariano until Soria got in the way and wanted to start digging for oil in the bay of Palma.

J.R. went gunning for Soria and for his job, relations with national HQ deteriorated, got even worse when a different golden boy - Mateo Isern - was being eased out by the intrigues of Bauzá and José María Rodríguez, and finally got so bad that Madrid was only too happy for the PP in the Balearics to stick the boot in. Thus the PP nationally was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Hence one comes to the fourth problem. Bauzá for tourism minister? No chance.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2016

Morning high (7.27am): 16.1C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 October - Sun, 25C; 25 October - Cloud, sun, 28C; 26 October - Cloud, 22C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 occasionally Southwest.

Looks cloudy before sun-up, but should be a decent day with a good amount of warm sun.

Evening update (19.00): The cloud was fog. Lifted quickly enough. Very fine day, quite breezy. High of 28.3C.

The Pepper That Almost Died Out

The story goes that in 1403 Martin I, at that time the count of Barcelona and king of Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, Sardinia and Corsica but not of Sicily, sent a request to the head of the household of the Sicilian king. The request was for a number of meat products as well as cheeses. These meat products were charcuterie - sausages, if you like - and on the list were "sobressades".

This royal order forms part of a longstanding debate as to the origin of the Mallorcan "sobrassada" and the derivation of the word. The linguistic story is inevitably a long one; there is nothing that scholars of Mallorca's culture enjoy more than debating etymology. To cut this story short, scholars maintain that the word originally came from Occitan, the close relative of Catalan, and thus found its way to Sicily.

As to the actual product, this seems to have been firmly rooted in southern Italy. It is conceivable that there was such a product from Roman times; indeed, it's highly likely and was therefore part of the diet of Mallorca's Roman era. But at the time that Martin I was on the lookout for foods for the banqueting table, he placed the order not with his Mallorcan domain but with the one place he wasn't actually king of.

Martin's request appears to be one of the first times, if not the first time, that sobrassada is to be found in documents of the Aragonese crown. There were to be other mentions. In the following century, and so reinforcing the Italian connections, there was talk of the sobrasadas of Naples. In 1550, a year otherwise famed for the attack by Dragut and the Moorish pirates, "sobressada" was documented in Pollensa; the spelling has always tended to vary to a degree.

It is around this time, i.e. the mid-sixteenth century, that Mallorca was starting to come into its own where the making of the sausage was concerned. But it wasn't to be until the eighteenth century that it was spiced up and adopted a reddish hue. Paprika had really arrived.

In Campos over the past three days, they've been holding their "Matancer" market. The name refers to the slaughter of (usually) pigs. The season for this doesn't officially get under way until 11 November, the feast of Saint Martin (not to be confused with Martin I). But ahead of it, the good citizens of Campos and elsewhere have been able to acquire what they might require in the processing of products from the slaughter. And sobrassada is at the top of the list of products.

Meanwhile, in Felanitx they have their annual "pebre bord" fair, the pebre bord being the distinctive variety of paprika grown in Mallorca. It is a fair which complements the Campos market by promoting one of the key ingredients of sobrassada in a Mallorcan style.

Felanitx is one of the towns and villages of Mallorca to be particularly associated with the pepper, but gone are the days when mostly all houses would hang out their strings of peppers in order to let them dry in the sun and so not lose their preservative power. Also known as "tap de cortí", it isn't by any means only used in making sobrassada, but its preservative qualities are a reason (apart from being nice and spicy) for it being an ingredient; sobrassada can be good for months.

There was a time when the pepper was cultivated widely on the island. By the end of the nineteenth century, the cultivation reached a peak but it was to eventually dwindle mainly because of increasing imports. It was, therefore, in danger of dying out completely.

Its revival is relatively recent; in fact, very recent. A group of producers launched a campaign for its recovery in 2009. The regional government then petitioned the national agriculture and food ministry in 2011 for it to be included in the national registry of commercial varieties. This was finally agreed to two years ago, and so tap de cortí is now a protected name, but producers want to go a step further and get a European designation of origin mark for Pebre Bord Mallorquí.

Cultivation is unlikely to be on the scale it was by the end of the nineteenth century. There are nowadays only some thirteen hectares (around 32 acres) devoted to it on the island. Low this may be, but with increasing promotion of traditional food products from Mallorca, such as sobrassada, the production is assured and may well increase. A pepper that was once threatened with extinction is now flourishing.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2016

Morning high (7.17am): 16.2C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 23 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 25 October - Cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southeast 3 to 5, swells of one metre.

Storm early on. Fair amount of rain. May be more to come, but should brighten up. Tomorrow looking good.

Evening update (19.15): High of 24.9C. There was more rain but only light and a good deal of sun.

Reflecting On The Season

The season is drawing to a close. It is time to reflect. The great and good of the tourism industry (plus politicians - up to you if you describe them as great or good) gathered for some reflection earlier this week. Some of them will reconvene next week and reflect further. That conference will consider the benefits and risks from the increase in demand, an aspect of which is the "sensation" of saturation, the "feeling" of being overcrowded. It was the same earlier this week. The reflections concerned three words starting with an "s" - sustainability, security and saturation. They sum the summer up. These words are constantly uttered by Mallorca's politicians. When it has come to security, it has been more a case of others' lack of security. Elevated demand for Mallorca because of insecurity equals saturation equals questions of sustainability.

Among the more significant contributions were those related to numbers of tourists and to road users. On the latter, it was said that heavy traffic and jams in Palma - frequently held up as evidence of saturation - have less to do with tourists in hire cars than with the sheer number of island residents who enter the city. This conclusion has been given support by Council of Mallorca statistics for traffic growth: the numbers of vehicles on key stretches of road are back to what they were pre-crisis. Saturation on the roads is as much a consequence of economic well-being on the island, if not more so than tourists and the economic well-being they bring.

The other contribution of note had to do with tourist arrivals. José Antonio Alvarez, who is the director of Son Sant Joan airport, observed that while passenger traffic has risen by ten per cent, the distribution of this increase was weighted in favour of the non-peak summer months. Growth was less in August - only five per cent - while May almost saw the three million mark broken and October won't be that far short. Three million has typically been confined only to July and August, yet June and September surpassed it.

In a way, this showed that the government's wish for more of a spread of tourists has been satisfied this summer, though of course what the government really wishes is that this spread is more even across the whole of the year. It may be a long time in the wishing.

The killer contribution, however, was to do with welfare, the benefit derived by society as a whole from tourism activity, with population and the environment factored in. This welfare has reduced markedly this century. In other words there is greater inequality, with riches being derived at the expense of general societal welfare and also the well-being of the environment because of the strain placed on it by increased numbers.

This is a theme that tourism minister Biel Barceló has explored in the past by referring to the degree to which per capita income in the Balearics has dropped from being at the top of the Spanish list in the 1990s to seventh. There are different manifestations of this decline, and the Exceltur alliance for touristic excellence drew attention to one this week. The increased numbers of tourists who have been "borrowed" this summer do not translate in direct proportion (or anything like it) to increased financial returns. It's common sense and it's something that's been known for years.

While this summer's boom has given a further boost to economic growth (and clearly there is evidence of it, such as with the number of cars), there is great unevenness in terms of the beneficiaries of this growth. The high level of short-term contracts, often poorly paid, is proof of this. In a wider societal sense, the constantly depressing information about Balearic educational performance confirms this welfare imbalance. There are too many young people being seduced into abandoning education for short-term, insecure and not well-paid employment in the summer. One might ask why they do it, but then the young see no further than a summer's enjoyment. They put their futures in doubt and so they and society lose in the longer-term.

As the politicians have been gearing themselves up for negotiations over next year's budget, a theme has been the necessity for a change to the economic model. Podemos talk about this in strident terms, a consequence of their dislike of anything that is vaguely big business. Biel Barceló isn't so strident. Indeed, Barceló is a generally sane bloke, who sees the necessity for re-forming the current model (and its consequent loss of welfare) into one that enhances welfare. Here is where you achieve genuine sustainability in terms of employment and the benefits to be derived from tourism. It is perhaps the most important issue bar none of the debates about tourism. Saturation, quite frankly, is an interim irrelevance.

Friday, October 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2016

Morning high (7.20am): 13.2C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 22 October - Rain, 23C; 23 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 occasionally 5 easing 2 to 3 in the afternoon. Swells of one metre.

Damp morning. May be some more rain. Otherwise, some sun due out. Tomorrow looking rotten. Better on Sunday.

Evening update (21.15): High of 20.7C. Sun did appear for a time.

Sweeping Under The Carpet? Bullying

An eight-year-old girl has become the focus of a case which now threatens to go to court, with the Balearic education ministry one of the accused. The lawyer who is apparently preparing this case is Marcos García Montes, a name that most of you will be unfamiliar with but who, in addition to a startling moustache, has a reputation for representing celebrities. Again, the names of those with whom he has been involved during a long and illustrious career are likely to mean very little, but they include the late José María Ruiz Mateos, he of Rumasa and Nueva Rumasa fame (or is it infamy?), and 'Rafi' Escobedo, who he defended in the trial for the 1980 murder of María Lourdes de Urquijo y Morenés, the Marquesa of Urquijo, and her husband. Escobedo was eventually sentenced to 53 years in prison. He hanged himself in 1988.

García Montes is understood to have offered his legal services to the family of the eight-year-old girl who ended up in hospital following a playground incident at the Anselm Turmeda primary school in Son Roca, Palma over two weeks ago. His law firm has said that it will be taking action against the education ministry, the management of the school and the children who were responsible for the girl having been admitted to hospital.

His intervention is a twist in what has become a distinctly odd case and one about which there are questions which need asking. The education ministry has conducted its investigations into what happened in the playground and has concluded that it was essentially little more than a scrap over a ball. The children, aged eight to twelve, who were involved in the "assault" have been given suspensions from school of between three and five days, the ministry saying that their behaviour undermined the "coexistence" at the school.

The education inspectors' report also says that the girl's injuries were minor. So much so that she was able to continue lessons. Only later was she taken to hospital. The family say that, among other things, she was urinating blood. There seemingly was some damage to a kidney that needed attending to.

García Montes's law firm disputes the inspectors' conclusions that the incident was just a fight. It believes the girl had been subjected to bullying, which the family have insisted from the outset, and that rather than a fight or a scrap, as the education minister has suggested, it was a beating.

After the incident first came to light, there were calls for the director of the school to be dismissed. Reasons for this call included the fact that there had not been teachers in the playground at the time. They had apparently needed to attend to a Down Syndrome child. An online petition was set up, which at time of writing has more than 44,000 signatures. This calls on the education minister, Martí March, to dismiss the school director.

March is not the only leading politician to have dismissed the idea that there was no bullying and something potentially more serious going on. So has the national minister of the interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz. He has said that it was a specific case of aggression rather than the consequence of bullying. Bartomeu Barceló, who is the chief prosecutor in the Balearics, has concluded much the same and indeed questioned the extent of injuries that the girl suffered.

The family is basically having none of all this. They say that they are being taken for fools, that the prosecutor is shielding the minister who, in turn, is shielding the school's director. March took six days to say anything about the affair. This may have been wise in that he wanted to know the facts, but his statements since have left the family infuriated. Enter, therefore, García Montes.

The things that have been said by the minister and others, such as the unions, point to a school that is operating in a difficult neighbourhood and to a need to reduce any tensions. There is a high immigrant community. In this context, one of the girl's sisters has said something revealing. She has posed a question. Had her sister hit those who hit her sister, would it have been viewed as a case of racism?

The school, the ministry, no one has made any statements about nationality. They are absolutely right not to. Unfortunately, and although the established media have veered away from this, one cannot prevent what is said on blogs and on social media. It is this factor, therefore, which is making some wonder whether the whole case is being swept under the carpet. But this shouldn't be a primary factor. There are others, such as why the school didn't apparently contact the girl's mother straightaway.

And so now a lawyer is involved. Meanwhile, a small kid has become the centre of an unedifying controversy.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2016

Morning high (6.57am): 16.5C
Forecast high: 20C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 21 October - Cloud, 20C; 22 October - Cloud, 24C; 23 October - Sun, cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 increasing Northeast 4 to 5 around midday. Swells of one metre.

Cloudy and rainy is the forecast.

Evening update (19.45): Rained a fair bit early on, then remained cloudy with only the occasional sense of sun. High of 18.9C; haven't seen that sort of temperature for a fair while.

A Tourism Minister At Long Last?

Spain ranks second and third in the world in terms of two key indicators of tourism performance. The country generates the second highest amount of revenue from tourism (the USA is top) and it receives the third greatest number of international tourists (behind France and the USA). The total contribution of tourism to the economy is around 11% of GDP, and the benefits that growth in tourism bring are reflected in additional employment in various sectors. CaixaBank research suggests that a one per cent rise in tourism GDP leads to 2,200 new jobs in the commercial sector, 10,400 further jobs in the hotel and catering industry, 800 more in agriculture and 680 in construction.

Exceltur, the alliance for touristic excellence, suggests that tourism growth in 2016 will be by one per cent above the general figure for national economic growth of 3.4%. Tourism typically does outperform the economy as a whole. This is one reason why it has been so important in bringing about economic recovery, while it shouldn't be overlooked that without tourism's contribution during the years of crisis Spain would have been in a far greater mess than it was.

It is a sector of strategic importance. While tourism as an industry is very robust, it can be shaken - as one has seen in other destinations. Neighbouring France, the world leader in terms of tourist arrivals, has seen those arrivals slump markedly because of terrorist incidents.

Having a minister responsible for tourism wouldn't prevent terrorist attacks, but if God forbid there were any, then having a minister in place, with a position around the cabinet table, might help in bolstering confidence in this strategic industry. Threats as much as opportunities should mean that Spain has a tourism minister.

One of the odd aspects of the extremely odd situation that has surrounded the national government for several months is that if ministers have to leave their post (even in an acting capacity) for whatever reason, they are not replaced. This happened with José Manuel Soria. After he resigned in April because his name had appeared in the Panama Papers, his entire portfolio was handed over to Luis de Guindos. He, in an acting function, is currently responsible for economic affairs and competitiveness (which he previously had been) and for industry, energy and tourism, the three oddly assembled elements in the Soria portfolio. De Guindos may be very capable (although the FT once suggested that he wasn't), but not even he can do justice to five briefs at the same time. He'll be thankful that tourism has been chugging along so nicely and not been needing any intervention.

While one mentions potential threats, there are also the opportunities and the current strengths of Spain's tourism. Too often, it has seemed, tourism has been taken for granted. This has been the case nationally and regionally. Complacency in the Balearics over decades has meant that economic diversification has never seriously been addressed and nor has the harmful impact of tourism seasonality. Nationally, there isn't the same level of dependence, but this doesn't diminish strategic importance. And at a time of strength, now is the time to reinforce this strength and to build an even more competitive industry, one recognised by a third performance indicator as being the most competitive tourism industry in the world.

Spain has never had a minister dedicated solely to tourism. As a government portfolio, tourism first appeared in 1905. It was part of the development ministry, which is where it stayed until the 1950s when tourism combined with "information". Since then, it has been moved around or even removed. The demand for a dedicated minister has existed since about as long as Spain's tourism boom started, and now there is a very strong rumour circulating that such a minister is about to be created.

If Mariano Rajoy is finally approved once more as prime minister, the signs are that he will increase the number of ministers, and one of these will be a tourism minister. For the first time, therefore, someone with responsibility for tourism and tourism alone will have a seat at cabinet. The industry is preparing to throw the confetti and uncork the champagne.

With the rumours getting stronger - the Spanish travel press are spreading them, as are mainstream newspapers - so the speculation starts. Who might be this tourism minister? It's a bit like guessing who'll be the new England football manager. Pundits are offering their thoughts, and one name which is towards the top of the list is that of Mallorcan Simón Pedro Barceló, co-president of the Barceló hotel group, an independent director on the board of airports authority Aena, and someone with very close links to the PP.

So, not only might there well be a tourism minister, he might also be Mallorcan. As a hotelier, that would doubtless put a few political noses out of joint here. But whoever it might be, a minister is long overdue.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2016

Morning high (7.01am): 15.1C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 20 October - Rain, 20C; 21 October - Cloud, sun, 20C; 22 October - Rain, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4 veering East-Southeast 2 to 3 around midday.

Due to start out well but cloud up in the afternoon with the chance of some rain later on. Tomorrow looks as if it may be a bit of a washout.

Evening update (20.15): Wasn't bad for much of the day, high of 25.2C, but threatening cloud later and some light rain. Tomorrow not looking too hot.

Andalusia's Gambit: Investiture Or Not

Andalusia. A region apart but a region very much a part. Where would Spain have been without Andalusia? Arguments can rage about the origins of flamenco - and they do - but it is Andalusia which takes the honour. The vibrancy of the dance and music helped to make Spain. In the eyes of the world, it was Andalusia which captured the essence of the new tourism. The Costa del Sol, curiously enough, wasn't a focus for the first wave, but Andalusia had exported its vivaciousness, its difference, and it changed Spain forever.

Andalusia may be on the point of changing Spain again. Or is it that it will put it back together? The most that Andalusia might do is reshape Spain's politics. That mould has already been undergoing manipulation, being twisted and distorted by new hands ready to render the old hands redundant. There is further manufacture afoot or in hand. This is breaking the mould of PSOE. Or is it that the mould returns to its original factory settings, not those of times long ago but of times more recent.  These were contented times before the new hands started making light work of the outmoded shape PSOE had contorted itself into in peculiar antagonistic alliance with the Partido Popular.

This coming Sunday may well prove to be a defining moment. PSOE's federal committee will meet. It has a choice. It can agree to facilitate the investiture of Mariano Rajoy as prime minister or it can say no to Rajoy. Which way will it go? Andalusia will be all important in the decision.

Andalusia is apart because it is the only region in Spain to have been socialist since democratic regional governments were established. Here is one aspect of its difference, a seemingly curious one, for this is a region of great culture and great cities, apparently overwhelmed by richness to match the richness of that culture. Yet it is comparatively poor. Where would Andalusia be without Spain? It does well from the regional financing system. Very well.

It has a legacy. This is the region where liberalism was born, where the Cadiz Constitution envisaged a new Spain, a more egalitarian Spain, where the fight against Bonaparte was fostered, and where there was the consequent fight against the treacherous Ferdinand VII, who destroyed that movement and condemned Spain to decades of self-destruction. The omens may not sound good.

The new liberalism is one cloaked with conservatism. Andalusia, the nation's power base for PSOE, will decide. The broker of the power is its president, Susana Díaz. Her number two, Juan Cornejo, might just have uttered a statement that will pass into common use as an aphorism. "To govern is as important as leading an opposition." It can be taken to have a double meaning, but the intent is clear. The task of governing will fall to Mariano Rajoy. The opposition, the PSOE opposition, will be empowered by this. It can facilitate investiture, but it holds the power to influence policy. It hopes. Unless it falls apart, shattered by a region apart.

Díaz and Andalusia are determined that their vision and version of PSOE continues. It is the conservative version, the cosily close to the PP version, one in the name of the nation that it (Andalusia) did so much to bring to the world's attention. The nation is important to Andalusia. Apart but a part, it needs the unity of the nation, not least the greater riches in relative terms that exist elsewhere: Catalonia, the Balearics, for instance.

PSOE in Catalonia, via its first secretary Miquel Iceta, has said that a third election would be preferable to Rajoy. He doesn't, though, see that facilitating Rajoy's investiture will rupture the party and force it apart. The Balearics' Francina Armengol, trapped by the government of her making, thinks otherwise: possibly, or even probably. Tensions could erupt into revolution on Sunday.

Andalusia and its compatriots elsewhere, such as the "managing" leader Javier Fernández of Asturias, have a cunning plan. They will allow the investiture, but it will be support-lite. Eleven deputies in Congress will be put up as the sacrificial lambs. Rajoy would therefore stagger over the finishing-line, ten months after the race started. Who could have ever thought that they might hatch such a plan? Far be it from me, but it was me. I suggested several weeks ago that Pedro Sánchez could have done just that.

But whichever way Sánchez had chosen - and it now seems as if he backed the loser - it was wrong. Or right. He was caught in the vice of his party's enfeeblement. Andalusia, if it indeed plays its eleven-hand gambit, will trust that this will be reversed by the empowerment of highly scrutinising opposition. It will trust and it will hope, but might the consequence be that there is more which is apart? PSOE itself, and never forget Catalonia.