I’m more confused than ever by the Spanish legal system. Readers may recall the case of a man who last year dragged his 14 year-old son down the Pamplona streets, not far ahead of the running bulls. Well, now he’s been found not guilty of endangering his progeny on the grounds - it’s reported – that the boy was not actually harmed. Surely there’s a mistake somewhere. Perhaps in the reporting.
I had held off commenting on this but as it’s now a major media issue, I’ll record that on Tuesday Spain had its worst ever ‘gender violence’ day, when four women were murdered by their partners. So now ‘machismo criminal’ is a major election issue, even though the main protagonists had effectively ignored it until Wednesday. And they’re still making no references at all to ‘machismo normal’. But I guess this would be a guaranteed vote-loser. The reason why I hadn’t mentioned this violence before was that I’m not sure the problem here really is worse than elsewhere, though it certainly is increasing. Secondly my impression was the government was taking steps to reduce it. However, women’s organisations in Spain have taken the opportunity of the [unwanted] limelight to claim many courts here are declining to implement the measures introduced last year. If they are, let’s hope this now stops.
El País tells us the Spanish think they’re far more polite behind the wheel than they actually are. The paper says 25% rate themselves courteous, whereas only 8% really are. God knows how they get the data. Personally I find both of them less than credible. But in different directions.
But I must take this opportunity to refer to not just one but two examples of politeness down in Pontevedra yesterday. The first was when a driver raised his hand in apology when he didn’t stop at the zebra crossing. In fact, he had a decent excuse as his sightline was blocked by a van illegally parked on the roundabout. A not uncommon occurrence. The second episode was when a woman turned to enter a bank within a couple of centimetres of my face. Realising what she’d done, she apologised as profusely as only Spaniards can. But, truth to tell, I had actually walked into her at this point and so she’d perforce become aware of my existence on her radar. This, as I often say, is the secret with the Spanish, who are lovely people but who have little by way of antennae. The real problems – and irritation – come with those who are clearly oblivious of one’s existence. Whether behind a wheel or on the pavement/sidewalk.
Back in the UK, an ex Labour Minister writes - When the Government opened up our labour market to Eastern Europe in 2004 an avalanche of workers came to this country and were successful in finding work. Currently 85 per cent of new jobs are filled by newcomers. This figure is so devastating that the government has been forced to rethink its position on welfare reform. There’s been a similar avalanche into Spain, with a similar take-up of ‘menial’ jobs. So one wonder whether anyone here is thinking through the social and welfare implications. Needless to say, as in the UK for 30 plus years, anyone who even hints at problems is usually characterised as a right-wing extremist. Let’s hope Spain takes less time to arrive at sensible debate than it took in Britain. But it would, of course, be naïve to expect this in the run-up to a general election.
The article from which the above quote is taken identified one core UK problem which, with a bit of luck, may never arrive in Spain . . . The growing problem is of very young single parents who have never worked and who are likely to have children by different fathers. Overwhelmingly these young single mothers come from school girls who fail, and are dismally failed, by their school.
Finally - What a wonderful thing it must be to be shareholder of Telefonica without having to suffer the travails of being a customer – “Telefónica has announced a 43% increase in profits for 2007”. Echoes of British Telecom 15 or 20 years ago. And the US Bell company around 50 years ago, at a guess.