TILTING AT WINDMILLS BLOG

As of Wednesday October 1 this blog has a new home. You can still view the archives for August and September here.

To go to the new blogsite click below:

http://tiltingatwindmillsblog.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 28, 2008

GOING APE OVER THE MACAQUES

Over the years I have written a lot of column inches on Gibraltar’s macaques. The last two pieces were in April were I stated: “Culling is a hot topic at the moment as the people of Canada have found out to their apparent surprise with the high profile coverage given to the licensed slaughter of the seals on that country’s ice fields.

Now could Gibraltar be the next in the international spotlight after the government’s decision to cull a number of the Rock’s macaque population. Gibraltar’s minister for the environment, Ernest Britto, has announced a culling of around 25 apes in the Catalan and Sandy Bay area. This action has been decided upon following repeated complaints from residents.

The famous macaques have been roaming wild in theses area rummaging through rubbish bins and creating a public nuisance. Britto stated that once the cull was completed the overall ape population would be around 200.”

Well in to that debate charged a lot of people. Linda Wolfe of the Department of Anthropology at East Carolina University in the USA said she was disheartened to learn that Gibraltar is planning to kill 30 of the Barbary macaques. She appealed to the government for the decision to be reviewed.

The UK’s International Primate Protection League revealed that it has been investigating the plight of the macaques to ascertain whether the cull would go ahead. The organization said it was considering calling on UK citizens to boycott visiting Gibraltar until the government pledged to stop using culling as a method of population control and instead invested in alternative methods. GONSH (that is responsible for caring for the macaques), the GSPCA and ESG environmental group all voiced their opposition to the cull.

Then all went quite apart I guess from various apes being shot or the cry of anguish from those family members left behind.

That is to last week when the matter was again raised in Gibraltar’s Parliament. The minister of the environment, Ernest Britto, had refused to give information on the cull as he deemed it not to be in the “national interest”.

This saw a big beast of the Rock’s political jungle, Fabian Picardo, go ape. The opposition spokesman who includes the environment in his portfolio blasted: “This is an issue on which there is a clear partisan division, with the GSD insisting on killing apes because they have not been successful in managing the problem of the growing ape population and the Opposition being firmly on the side of better management of the ape population.”

He added that the Minister’s answers to the Parliament “belie the fact that clearly the GSD government has authorised the killing of a number of apes since the matter was last debated in the Parliament. Given that the GSD have gone ahead with the killing of apes in the face of both national and international protest, it is really quite unacceptable for Minister Britto not to confirm the number of licences he has signed for the killing of apes. This is a very serious issue affecting the killing of sentient mammals simply because the GSD have not known how to deal with this issue more effectively.”

Fabian Picardo then struck a chord which I am sure resonates with every person and organisation that has the macaques’ welfare at heart. He stated: “The Minister should not be seeking to hide behind ‘secrecy’ and purported ‘national interest’, which is actually just his own interest, to avoid providing the public with the information on the number of apes he has licensed the killing of.”

If the apes could speak I’m sure they would shout “Hear, Hear.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

THAT TOMORROW MAY NEVER COME

None of us likes to contemplate our own mortality. However if I lived to be the same age as my father there is another 30 years to go. If I follow my mother another 20. Of course I could drop dead tomorrow or be run over by a bus but let’s say for the sake of argument its 20 which will take me to 2028.


I raise the subject because I’ve just been looking at a series of predictions for Spain in 2040 by which time I should have long been gone. Am I not concerned how future generations will cope, you ask? Not in the least!

About a year ago I was chatting to my cousin who is probably in her late 70s. She and her husband had just bought a new carpet for their house and she was worrying whether it had a 20 year guarantee or not. He told her not to worry, she was about to argue, then thought about it and saw his point.

So it is with purely academic interest that I read a report by APD and the Hay Group presented yesterday in Bilbao. Apparently by 2040 Spain will have the oldest population in the world – old being people aged over 55. So that’s old is it? In addition almost 40 per cent of the population will be non-Spaniards.

The report actually says foreigners but as a proportion of them will be my fellow country folk I should stress we’re not foreign, we’re British!

A depressing fact is that with the increase in the aging population there will be a skills shortage. Those of the ‘baby boomer’ generation will be actively encouraged to work on, at least part time, because we will have a monopoly on skills.

So that’s the long, peaceful retirement out of the window.

It appears the only real rest in life will be death!

CLAP HANDS! HERE COMES ETA!


In the days since Luis Conde de la Cruz was murdered by ETA various photographs from town halls of the brief ceremonies held in his memory have arrived in my in-box.

The Spanish habit of silence coupled with clapping at such solemn occasions or funerals sounds odd to the British ear but the sentiments we understand only too fully.

I am not sure how many victims have fallen to the terrorists with the brigadiers death, it certainly many hundreds, I am sure that ETA are keeping count.

ETA will claim that their victims are largely members of the security services or politicians. I am sorry that cuts no ice with me. They are people just like us, son and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.

I must admit that photographs I have seen of convicted ETA terrorist José Ignacio de Juana Chaos makes him look like somebody who would bite your kittens head off. But both the two ETA – Batasuna members arrested in France on Tuesday, who stole the vehicles to be used in terror attacks, look just like the boy and girl next door. I find that even more depressing.

As far as I am aware the vast number of people living in the Basque region want no part of ETA and Batasuna’s independent state. Even if they did it would not excuse the murderous campaign pursued by the terrorists.

I would certainly not want to be a member of any such nation – but then ETA probably wouldn’t want me as a citizen either.

(Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley! is a popular song, first published in 1925 and written by Billy Rose, Ballard MacDonald and Joseph Meyer, and recorded by several popular singers of the era. A version was recorded by Billy Murray in 1925, whose version has apparently entered the public domain. As with many other popular songs of the 20's, It's largely forgotten today.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CORRUPT OR COMMUNITY TV

There are some major differences between the television services in Britain and Spain. I suppose the BBC and TVE equate as State broadcasters. Then in Spain we have other truly commercial national broadcasters such as Antena Tres, Telecinco and La Sexta whereas these stations in the UK operate on a regional basis under the ITV banner.

When it comes to regional broadcasters in Spain they are controlled by the respective regional governments. Hence Telemadrid is governed by the Partido Popular and Canal Sur in Andalucía by the socialist PSOE.

You then have a further layer of stations which are operated by the local town halls. Hardly a city, town or village, however large or small, has not got its own municipal station.
Now in theory this layer of regional or municipal stations should create a truly community level of broadcasting but of course politics prevents that.

The major regional stations are essentially mouthpieces of the administration that governs that specific autonomous region be it Basque, Catalan, Valencian, Andalucian or the capital Madrid.

The town hall stations are blatantly nothing more than local megaphones for the party in power especially at election time.

Indeed the press is full of accusations that a certain town hall under the control of this or that party has excluded the opposition from the airwaves during the elections. Little notice is taken of these protests as in one town hall the socialists will be the abusers whilst in the neighbouring municipality they will be the abused so I guess it all works itself out.

When I ran an English radio service on the Costa del Sol I shared my office with the television station of a small municipality. The diet was council meetings broadcast in depth, major events in the village, a blockbuster movie borrowed from a friendly video shop for illegal transmission and at mid-night on Friday and Saturday a person was delegated to go to the station to put on the pornographic tape. Needless to say the only politician with a right to access was the mayor or one of his cohorts and they set the ‘political’ agenda.

A recent blog on ‘Voto en Blanco’ raised the subject of these regional political stations at this time of economic crisis. The PP administration in Madrid is already talking of privatising Telemadrid and ‘Voto en Blanco’ argued that they all should be sold off first to save the tax payer millions of euros but also in the interests of democracy.

In theory I agree with this stance. There is no justification for politically controlled television at either a regional or town hall level. Furthermore there is even less justification as to why the people should fund these stations through their taxes. What we have to ensure is that in tossing out this bath water we do not pass the baby to “entrepreneurs” who then make money out of broadcasting whilst supporting in their programming their favoured political allies who awarded them the contract.

Community broadcasting yes but for the people and by the people but not on their taxes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

RELATIONS WITH USA WILL IMPROVE

In marked contrast with the UK, where both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have set the agenda on foreign affairs, Spain’s premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has taken a back seat. Spain’s man on the international stage is Miguel Ángel Moratinos although I doubt whether John McCain has heard of him either.

This is a change here from the days of José María Aznar who was a frequent visitor to George Bush. Some say that Zapatero’s lack of international engagement is due to his poor grasp of other languages but it may just be that in Moratinos he has an effective advocate.

Whatever.

Moratinos believes that US relations with the wider world will improve once George Bush leaves the White House. He says this will be true whether George McCain or Barack Obama wins the presidency in November.

Speaking in New York where he is attending the General Assembly debates in the United Nations Moratinos was commenting directly on whether John McCain would welcome Zapatero to the White House if he becomes president. This is in response to a radio interview last week in which it appeared that McCain believed the Spanish premier was actually the leader of a Latin American country of dubious standing in the USA.

Moratinos would not be drawn on the US presidential race. He did say that: “Spain is a fundamental country to the USA with reference to the exchange in commerce, investment, the fight against terrorism, military co-operation, Afghanistan, the Middle East and of influence in Latin America.”

The head of Spain’s diplomatic service confirmed that relations between Spain and the USA were on a friendly basis of “co-operation and loyalty, but balanced without submission, defending the interests of Spain in the USA.”

Moratinos added: “The Spanish government has defended with dignity its interests in the USA and in the rest of the world. There has been no meeting at the highest level because George Bush has not wanted one.” Indeed Bush has never met with Zapatero during his term of office.

Spain, along with the rest of the world, looks forward to a new beginning with the USA once Bush leaves the White House. However the general feeling seems to be, whilst relations will improve, Obama will herald a brighter future than McCain.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

PEAK OIL, PEAK FOOD

Many years ago, when I and the world were young, I did a TV interview for GBC in Gibraltar. In the studio I met James Machin, who if my memory serves me right and it rarely does, was producing a series of science films for schools.

Well many tides have come and gone in the bay zone before I met James again several years ago. The occasion was an Ecologistas en Acción demonstration in Campamento in San Roque against the pollution from the nearby Cepsa oil refinery.

James told me he’d send me some information on “peak oil” which he was promoting in the area. At that time “peak oil” was a potty theory promoted by batty environmentalists of which James was proud to be one.

Of course with the present fuel crisis if you Google “peak oil” you will find it is the current buzz phrase used by financial analysts and politicians. “Peak oil” has gone from being an ecologists’ rant to the mainstream of political and economic thought.

Now step forward “Peak food”.

James with a group of people in Estepona, largely members of Ecologistas en Acción, have launched a new environmental initiative. It is called “Estepona – Ciudad de Transición’ and is based on a rapidly growing movement in the UK called Transition Towns.

James is acting as the co-ordinator for the venture. He told me: “We are starting with a promotion, the object of which is to pass on the agricultural knowledge based on growing without chemicals from the older generation to local youths before it disappears.”

The project is linked to “peak oil” and James explained: “World oil production has been on a plateau for four years now at 85 million barrels a day. Demand has however been increasing. The gap has been plugged so far by bio-fuels. From almost nothing five years ago we are now planting 80 million hectares for bio fuel production.”

“This land was formerly dedicated to food so we have also passed “peak food” on an industrial basis and hence the ‘huerta’ initiative.”

If you are interested in learning more about the important Transition Towns project which will become a main steam political theme in the future you can visit the UK website at http://www.transitiontowns.org/

Friday, September 19, 2008

JOSÉ LUIS WHO?

One of John McCain’s strengths as a presidential candidate has been his alleged knowledge of foreign affairs. That is why his Democrat opponent, Barack Obama, chose Joe Biden as his running mate because of his supposed grasp of that very subject. By the by the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has only just received her passport.

However in a radio telephone interview broadcast in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries on Thursday Republican McCain gave every indication of not knowing who José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was.

He seemed to believe the president of the Spanish government was one of the Latin American autocrats who govern such nations as Venezuela, Bolivia or Cuba. Asked pointedly whether if elected he would have an early meeting with Rodríguez Zapatero of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español McCain would only say that he intended to work closely with the governments on the American continent who are “our friends”.

Under the previous Spanish premier, José María Aznar, the country was a close ally of the USA in the invasion of Iraq. That policy was very unpopular in Spain and partly led to Aznar’s election defeat in 2004. Rodríguez Zapatero then withdrew Spanish troops and there has been a freeze in relations between the USA and Spain ever since. Indeed there has never been a meeting between George Bush and José Luis.

During the Second World War the USA marched through much of Europe and the Far East. Since then there have been US engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan to name but a few. Despite this the fact is that the average American, and I include recent US Presidents amongst them, has little knowledge of the wider world and believes Paris is in Tennessee (which it is as well as a number of other States).

Little surprise then that in the recent international poll by BBC World TV 46 per cent of people believed the USA’s world-wide relations would improve under Obama and only 20 per cent under McCain.

Luckily nobody has yet asked Obama if he will meet with José Luis because he probably doesn’t know who he is either.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

LORCA’S REMAINS TO BE EXHUMED

The foundation that represents the family of Federico García Lorca has agreed to the exhuming of his remains. This has been staunchly opposed in the past but the situation has changed with the new investigation in to those slain in the Civil War era ordered by Judge Baltasar Garzón.

What has altered the family’s stance is the decision of the descendants of two of the deceased buried alongside Lorca to have the remains of teacher Dióscoro Galindo González and ‘banderillero’ Francisco Galadí exhumed. They were shot along with Lorca and share the same grave. The fourth victim shot that night, Juan Arcola, was also a ‘banderillero’ but has no surviving family.

The Lorca family’s spokesperson, Laura García Lorca, said they were not happy with the resting place being disturbed but would not stand in the way of the request of the other families. However she did express her concern about the remains of between 1,000 and 3,000 people also believed to be buried in the ravine at Víznar. What will happen to their remains, she asks.

Federico García Lorca, one of Spain’s most famous poets, was shot on the orders of the Franco regime at Víznar on the night of August 18 in 1936. The Irish historian, Ian Gibson, identified the location of Lorca’s grave in his book ‘The Death of Federico García Lorca’ published in 1971.

I visited the site whilst researching a play on the last night of Lorca’s life when he was held at La Colonia nearby. It is my only play of importance to me that has never been performed and I found the memorial area where Lorca’s remains are believed to rest as very barren and depressing. It was some 12 years ago in mid-February but the memory lingers of a desolate place but I guess there are no happy mass graves.

If Lorca’s remains are found then Laura García Lorca has suggested they will be cremated. Some ashes will probably go to New York where his father is interred, some to Madrid where his mother and sisters lie, others to the family home of San Vicente as well as places that were important to his life.

The recovery of the remains of those slain in the Civil War is a painful process for all the families involved but not as painful as having their resting place unmarked and their deaths un-honoured. The view of the Lorca family has been different and Laura told El País: “Nos preocupa que una exhumación parcial marque diferencia entre unos y otros. Ahora todos descansan en un cementerio común, todos han sido víctimas del mismo salvaje y cruel asesinato. Entendemos que ésa es su tumba definitiva, en ese barranco y en esa compañía.”

May they all find peace – Amen.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

I ate breakfast in Antonio’s yesterday as La Tasca and the Vecina bars were both closed. It was packed largely because it was the only village bar thereabouts open. I managed to squeeze into a small table and laid before me was toast, ham and a rather odd looking tortilla with a high content of olives. I think it’s his version of the Med diet so I guess it must be good for you! I spread my newspapers out and had to re-arrange them speedily as an old man decided he was joining me. In fact he didn’t so much join me as took over my table giving me a steely glare which suggested it was me that was in the wrong place. I didn’t offer him any tortilla!

“Get on with it you fool” I hear you cry!

Both he and my heckler interrupted me as I as was dwelling on a report in Europa Sur that the Spanish Government and the power industry have been reviewing security in the country’s nuclear centres. This follows a number of safety scares over the summer months.

It so happened that just before I left the house I heard a report on the BBC Radio Four ‘Today’ programme that in around five years Britain would suffer power cuts and rationing. This is largely because 30 per cent of the country’s power output will be lost through decommissioning and little has been done to replace that loss let alone meet increased demand.

I must admit that I don’t have a fear of nuclear power largely because as a child I spent many hours fishing and paddling beside the Bradwell nuclear power station on the Blackwater in Essex. I haven’t grown two heads but I may glow in the dark like Antonio’s tortilla.

None the less Spain’s premier, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has reiterated in his State of the National address that the PSOE party would honour its election pledge to rid the country of nuclear energy. Indeed this very week the government of the País Vasco says it is decommissioning the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant because its level of security does not safeguard the local population or the environment.

Greenpeace is in no doubt that “nuclear energy is one of the technological errors that has most seriously damaged the environment, the economy and society in our time”.

The problem is if you take nuclear power out of the equation it is difficult to see how we are going to bridge the energy gap in the immediate and coming years. The subject is debated by “experts” and governments but the populations of all countries are ignored as if this was a matter too weighty for our poor little heads. It is the people who will have to suffer the power cuts as industry will be given priority, their energy bills will rise further and they will be confronted by possible dangers from nuclear power stations. I think it is time that “power to the people” stopped being a slogan and became a reality. It is time for us to be consulted over our future energy needs before the lights go out! This is too important an issue to be left to bumbling politicians, “the industry” or self-interest pressure groups.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

PLEASE SEND ME TO CANNES

I have spent recent days reading about the crash of US banks, other financial institutions in danger, the looming recession, job losses, 29,000 people in Málaga province can’t afford basic foodstuffs and a dying woman is stranded in Egypt because of the collapse of British travel company XL.

Then I spot an item on the Voto en Blanco website that says that the Spanish Government gave a grant to film director Pedro Almodovar to attend the Cannes Film Festival. Indeed according to the reports the Ministerio de Cultura gave him 60,000 euros and as that wasn’t enough added some more.

Are we living on the same planet here?

Isn’t Pedro Almodovar an internationally famous film director who could pick up his own tab or pass it on to his film company?

According to the Voto en Blanco this largesse only found its way to Almodovar because he is a friend of the socialist government in Madrid. He has openly supported PSOE during the elections, participated in the “No a la Guerra” campaign and said nasty things about the Partido Popular. Meanwhile other worthy film makers, writers and scientists are ignored.

OK.

I marched against the war and HMS Tireless in Algeciras.

I will vote for PSOE for ever more.

I think Partido Popular leader Mariano Rajoy looks like Papa Smurf.

Now can I go to Cannes? (Or just send the 60,000 euros - and keep the change!)


WE ARE NOT GUESTS, THIS IS OUR HOME

Just after the riots in Roquestas del Mar in the first week of September I tuned in to ‘Gente’ on TVE1 where one of the Senegalese immigrants was being interviewed. The disturbances were sparked by friction between gypsies and the Africans who live cheek and jowl in the same quarter of the town after a Senegalese had been stabbed to death.

Enough column inches have been written about that tragedy so I won’t enter that debate now. What struck me though was that the African gentleman being interviewed spoke fluent Spanish and he and those with him were fully aware of their rights under Spanish law and were determined to have them respected.

Now over 275,000 Britons are officially registered as living in Spain and the number who live here either full or part time is probably treble that. Many are part of the income tax and social security system, they have invested in property, some own businesses and those who are signed on the census at their town hall can vote.

Britons are protected by the same laws as their fellow Spaniards and as EU citizens are fully entitled to live and work in this country – the same as a Spaniard is in the UK. Some years ago it was suggested to me by some older Spaniards that as a foreigner I had not rights. I am not sure whether that was the case in Franco’s time but I was more than happy to educate them as to just what rights we shared.

The reason I am raising this issue is that whilst the impoverished Senegalese living in a slum in Roquestas del Mar are fully aware of their rights, and insist on them being respected, many Britons in Spain behave as if they were just guests and wouldn’t say boo to the proverbial ‘fantasma’.
In a recent article in ‘Magazine’ on foreign residents in Spain a 68-year old man from Newcastle was featured who now lives in Mijas Costa. “Kevin and Wendy read The Daily Telegraph. They watch the BBC. They listen to Spectrum FM, a radio station in Marbella which only broadcasts in English. Kevin said: ‘Before we came, we were intent on learning Spanish in our country. We went to evening classes. But when we arrived here the reality is that nobody speaks it. We never have the opportunity to practice it.’”

So they don’t speak Spanish in Spain!

Of course the same situation exists in Britain amongst the various immigrant communities who insist on sticking to their traditions and language, especially those from Asia, and we known the average Britons view on that.

The fact is we’re not guests, we live in Spain legally, we have the full weight of European and Spanish law behind us and the sooner many Brits come out of the ghetto and start participating in the life of the country – politically and socially – the better it will be for Spain and for us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CORRUPTION – A REAL DANGER TO SPANISH DEMOCRACY

Spaniards are not a corrupt people but sadly some of their politicians are. The problem is there is not a corrupt political party but bad apples in every party.

There has always been a low level of corruption in Spanish political society. The party in power at the town hall was always expected to look after “the family” of those who supported it. However before we Anglo-Saxons become too smug let us remember our own saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” which applies as much in Britain and it does in Spain.

The corruption that now endangers Spanish democracy is not the small “favours” but the large scale fraud that has been witnessed in Marbella, Estepona, Manilva and in town halls throughout Spain. This is largely based on illegal town planning deals that have gone to swell the off-shore bank accounts of the perpetrators including mayors and councillors whilst leaving the municipalities bankrupt with the local residents picking up the crippling tab.

In the dock working from left to right are PSOE, Partido Andalucista, Partido Popular plus GIL and post-GIL councillors of deceased maverick Marbella mayor Jesús Gil who have left their mark along the Costa del Sol. They have all been caught not with their hands in the till but with the actual till. This leaves the Spanish citizen and foreign resident at a total loss as to who to trust, who to vote for.

In my own municipality I would tend to support PSOE but because of the actions of the previous mayor I have tactically voted PA and Izquierda Unida at recent elections. However in the neighbouring municipality of Gaucín it is the Partido Andalucista that is at the very heart of the problem.

After the last election the socialists and PP formed an unlikely left-right coalition to keep the Partido Andalucista out of power. The PA mayor, Francisco Corbacho, faced trial and has since been barred from office for misusing town hall funds but is appealing the court ruling so is still a councillor. His fellow PA councillors have been accused of various town planning offences.

Recently the PP withdrew from the coalition but said it would vote with the minority PSOE administration. Then one of the two PP councillors broke ranks and last week Francisco Ruiz was elected mayor with the support of the PA councillors led by Corbacho who will now occupy the real seats of power in the municipality. The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum and Francisco Ruiz this weekend placed town planning at the top of the agenda and declared “El nuevo PGOU es vital, aquí comemos de la construcción.”

Gaucín is a rural municipality and the level of corruption is small beer when compared with Marbella and Estepona on the nearby coast. However this corruption is at the very heart of local society and those who support the PA in Gaucín back a corrupt party whilst those in neighbouring municipalities do not.

At the time of the discovery of the missing funds I lived in the same valley as Corbacho’s father. The word was that his father was beside himself with worry as he had to mortgage his home and land to raise the money to return the missing amount to the coffers. Therefore the notion that these crimes of greed are “victimless crimes” is nonsense. Corbacho’s father was a victim as too are the residents of bankrupt municipalities that owe millions, can’t provide a decent level of service, where the town hall workers are often unpaid and the municipal tax and other bills are huge.

There have already been major demonstrations in Marbella and Estepona by ordinary residents against those involved in the corruption scandals at their town halls. That is fine but the time is not far off when the people, who are being hit hard in their pockets, will be at a total loss as to who can be trusted and who can safely be entrusted with power unless drastic steps are taken by the major political parties to put their own houses in order. To date there is little sign of that despite pious words. If that breakdown in society comes it will be democracy that pays the price and we should fear even more the person who will be waiting in the wings to offer peace and stability to a traumatised nation.

Friday, September 12, 2008

SPAIN BACKS OBAMA

An opinion poll by Transatlantic Trends 2008 shows that 80 per cent of Spaniards have a good image of Barack Obama compared with just 33 per cent who view John McCain in positive terms.

On the wider stage the BBC World Service carried out a survey in 22 countries over July and August. Forty nine per cent of 22,500 people questioned wanted Obama as president compared with just 12 per cent for McCain.

If the 47 year old Democratic candidate wins 46 per cent believe the USA’s international relations will improve but only 20 per cent believe the same to be true if the Republican McCain wins on November 4.

Doug Miller, president of GlobeScan, the pollster who carried out the survey stated that it was very clear that the majority of people around the world favoured an Obama victory.

Yesterday I wrote: “If the USA wants to be the leader of the free world then the free world should have a say in who leads us. Give us a US vote I say!” Given the findings of these two polls I suspect the Democrats would support my call whilst the Republicans would set Sarah Palin on me.




Thursday, September 11, 2008

GIVE US A USA VOTE

I am registered at my local town hall on the ‘padrón’ so am able to vote in Spanish local and European Parliament elections. However I cannot vote in Spanish or Andalucía general elections although as a resident of Spain what is decided in Madrid and Sevilla impacts directly on my life.

Only Spanish nationals can vote in general elections here. I am unhappy with not having a voice but the same situation exists in all EU countries so we all suffer from equal inequality. Likewise in the USA you have to be a national to vote in the presidential elections but should that be so?

Elect a government in Britain or Spain and it only really impacts within that nation as the EU now governs Europe and will increasingly set its foreign policy. However who is president of the USA affects the entire western world.

The saying goes that when America sneezes this side of the pond we catch a cold. Well right now the USA has the flu and hence we have caught pneumonia. In both domestic and international policy we can link the USA to our woes. Just two examples.

For years the USA has sold mortgages via the sub-prime market to people who could not afford to own a home. That bubble has now burst and not only are those folk defaulting on their loans but so too are people who previously were viewed as prime. This should have impacted only on the USA but because our banks and building societies fed at the sub-prime trough in search of profit they are now in crisis because the apples turned out to be bad. Hence the entire financial world is in chaos.

Both Britain and Spain participated in the Iraq war that was hugely unpopular with its citizens. Both nations also have armed forces in Afghanistan. However if the USA hadn’t decided to seek adventures in those countries we wouldn’t be there.

Now its US presidential election season. On one hand we have John McCain who is old for a candidate and a national hero plus Sarah Palin who is a hockey mom and wears cute glasses. On the other hand we have Barack Obama, who to quote a song is “young, gifted and black” and somebody else who nobody seems to mention.

Given McCain’s age Palin is literally just a heart beat away from the presidency and given the American habit of taking a pot shot at its leaders, the other guy may well have to step in to Obama’s highly polished shoes. Where does that leave us? Very worried I would say! Are these the potential presidents that we want?

If the USA wants to be the leader of the free world then the free world should have a say in who leads us. Give us a US vote I say!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NATIONAL FOOT SHOOTING DAY

Remember that old marcher’s chant – “The People United Will Never Be Defeated”? Well today Gibraltar celebrates its National Day and a people united they are not.

In recent years there has been a National Day rally in Gibraltar’s Casemates. This consisted largely of leading politicians from the Rock’s major parties taking the stage to declare Gibraltar’s nationhood and the right to self-determination. There were also usually a number of British politicians on an away-day that made speeches which would largely have been treated with derision in their home constituencies.

This year the GSD government of Peter Caruana has knocked the Casemates rally on the head. His view is that now that Gibraltar has a new constitution and its colonial status is at an end the traditional National Day rally is redundant. Instead there will be a civic rally in John Mackintosh Square addressed by the mayor, Solomon “Momy” Levy, with music and choirs.

This has caused uproar from the opposition parties – the GSLP and Liberals – as well as the unelected PDP. Adding their voices have been the Self Determination Gibraltar Group (SDGG) and Voice of Gibraltar. They argue that Caruana is wrong and that despite the new constitution nothing has changed and hence the National Day rally should continue in its past form. Of course a cynic might say they were just upset at being denied a political platform for the day.

Step forward the SDGG to organise a rival rally in Casemates that of course is being attended by all of the above. It is timed for 11.00 the same hour that the official government ‘civic’ celebration is held further up Main Street. What will happen is that members of the GSLP, Liberals, PDP, SDGG and VoG will head to Casemates whilst the GSD supporters will be in John Mackintosh Square. This will leave the politically neutral on the Rock – basically one man and his dog – to choose which event they will support although the dog will probably favour the government’s celebration as there is free food.

At the end of all this the two sides will sit down and decide which rally was the most popular and therefore who has bragging rights for the coming year. They will conveniently forget the people who didn’t attend either rally and opted to spend the public holiday having lunch in Spain instead.

Of course the wider world, or rather the real world, will say that if the 28,000 Llanitos can’t come together to celebrate their Gibraltar National Day then they are still a long way off being a nation. However look on the bright side – “shooting yourself in the foot” is now truly established as the Rock’s national sport.

NATIONAL DAY TURNOUT

In today’s (September 11) report in the Gibraltar Chronicle the police estimated that over 4,000 people attended the Government’s “civic” ceremony in John Macintosh Square known locally as the Piazza. The police placed the figure at the SDGG organised political rally in Casemates at 850. You can read reports of the National Day celebration at http://www.chronicle.gi or by clicking Panorama on the links section.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

THE GOVERNMENT OF DEATH

The Spanish Government has stated that it wishes to bring in legislation in this parliament to legalise assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The minister of health and the consumer, Bernat Soria, said the government was going to review euthanasia and did not rule out changes to the country’s penal code.

Soria explained that the government was looking at the situation in Holland and Switzerland where the legislation did allow for this type of death. He added that both his ministry and the Ministry of Justice would work together to see how a new law could be implemented and expected a decision to be made in a year and a half.

The problem with any debate on euthanasia is that it is carried out in the abstract with those involved largely having no understanding of how a terminally ill person may view it.

In December several years ago I visited a three-patient room in the Punta Europa Hospital in Algeciras. One of the patients was a man in his 70s who was in the terminal stages of cancer. He was attended by his wife and sister from Madrid. She said that there he would not have been allowed to suffer in this way and his life would have been ended. Maybe so or maybe not but in January I re-visited the hospital and although I went to a different room I met the man’s wife who told me his anguish was still continuing. Then days later I learned that there had been a commotion in the early hours of the morning and the man had died but sadly his passing had not been a peaceful one.

So with assisted suicide where would the process kick-in? When a person was diagnosed with terminal cancer? When a person stopped reacting to those around them? When a person was in unacceptable pain? When the family could no longer cope or wanted it finished? When the health service decided it did not want to fund any more treatment?

During the era of Franco Spain had one of the most repressive regimes in the Western World based on solid support for the Catholic Church. Today Spain is a secular State and one gets the impression that the president of the government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is intent on creating the most liberal regime in the Western World for no better reason than to distance the country as far away from the fascist era as possible. For not only is this government intent on introducing euthanasia but it is also reviewing the abortion legislation. Both these actions threaten to split an already divided nation and the accusation is that they are on the agenda now to divert attention from the Spain’s financial woes.

Not surprising then that there has been bitter opposition to the euthanasia proposals which of course divide on left and right lines, between those who are secular and those who are Catholics. The Partido Popular’s vice president of communications and spokesperson, Esteban González Pons, accused the government of “liquidating people at the expense of the social security system.” The president of the right to life organisation HazteOir, Ignacio Arsuaga, stated that these proposals confirmed that the Zapatero administration “was the government of death...intent on destroying life in the final moments.” However the association Derecho a Morir Dignamente said its members were “very hopeful” at the minister’s announcement, and looked forward to a “significant change”.

NO PROSTITUTION, OFFICIAL

In my recent blog, Hello Sailor, I told of how although Gibraltar has been and is a major naval port there is no prostitution on the Rock. I said that was certainly the case ten years ago when I first wrote on the subject and I suspected nothing had changed in the interim.

Now I have heard from Ian McGrail, the Royal Gibraltar Police Media Officer. He told me: “Prostitution has not come to the Gibraltar Police's attention for a very long time, certainly not for the past 25 years which is the time I have served in the Force. There have not been any complaints in this respect from members of the community and neither have we received any intelligence to suggest that any prostitution takes place in the jurisdiction.”

So there you have it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

1,502 EUROS – THE PRICE OF JUSTICE

The judge Rafael Tirado will face a disciplinary hearing this Wednesday and learn what punishment he will receive for his lack of action which could have led indirectly to the murder of four-year old Mari Luz Cortes in Huelva in January of this year.

The alleged killer, Santiago del Valle, was given a prison sentence in November 2002 by the Sevilla court that is headed by Tirado. He was sentence to two years and nine months in jail for sexually abusing his own daughter. The sentence was confirmed by the Sevilla court in 2005 but Del Valle never went to jail. Had he done so then he may not have been free to kidnap (which he admits) and murder (which he denies saying her death was an accident) Mari Luz.

Since the facts surrounding the case have emerged Tirado has been in the dock with Mari Luz’s family assured that he would face disciplinary action. The instructor of the case against Tirado is recommending to the Consejo General del Poder Judicial that he should be fined 1,502 euros for a serious offence and not face the very serious charge sought by the prosecutor.

The instructor, Wenceslao Olea, argues that Tirado’s inaction is justified by the chaotic state of the court system in Sevilla. He believes the very serious charge should not apply simply because he did not pay more attention to the business of the court in ensuring that sentences were enforced.

Now the Consejo General del Poder Judicial will decide whether the 1,502 euros fine should be enforced or whether the prosecutor’s demand of three years suspension from office with the possible ceasing of his judicial career.

The father of Mari Luz, Juan José Cortes, says he believes that the prosecutor’s decision to deem the charge as “very serious” is the correct one. He added that people “can have confidence in the justice system if they know that when the judges make errors, they pay for them.”

Certainly with power should go responsibility and if the Consejo General del Poder Judicial deems that Tirado has been seriously negligent in running the Sevilla court then a suspension and not a light fine should be imposed. After all Mari Luz paid for his mistake with her life.

Friday, September 5, 2008

THIS LITTLE PIGGY...

...My oh my, two animals in one day! First the endangered lynx and now the little piggy Lionel Barber who the ‘Asociación de Directivos de Comunicación’ (Dircom) would like to see turned in to bacon.

Lionel Barber is the editor of the august Financial Times in the UK. What has angered Dircom is that on Monday the newspaper carried an article in which it labelled the economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain – as the P I G S to reflect the reality of their economies.

The president of Dircom, José Manuel Valesco, wrote a letter to Barber which was published on Friday in which he says the FTs remarks were both “disrespectful” and “denigrating”. He said the use of the word PIGS could not be accepted as a “play on words” or “a joke in bad taste” because they showed a lack of respect for the citizens, political representatives and businesses of the companies concerned.

Valesco went on to say that the FTs arguments were “superficial” also pointing out that the problems faced by the Spanish and other economies were largely external and from the same source that was hitting the USA and the UK. In addition he stated that the Spanish economic had enjoyed long term growth and the country was a major attraction to those who came to retire here or to spend long or short-term holidays.

Just last weekend the British Chancellor, Alistair Darling, was quoted in The Guardian as saying the economic times “are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years ... and I think it’s going to be more profound and long-lasting than people thought.” The headlines immediately proclaimed he had admitted the economy was about to go into its most savage downturn since World War 2. He has since backtracked from that and says he was referring to the world economy.

None the less since then the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has forecast that the UK economy will shrink 0.3 per cent in the third quarter, and by 0.4 per cent in the fourth. The definition of a recession is two successive quarters of negative growth. According to official UK data released last month, the economy came to a standstill during the second quarter of 2008.

In contrast the economy in Spain is taking one hell of a battering but the government is adamant that it will continue to grow and that a recession will be avoided. Economic Secretary David Vegara is standing by his forecast that growth would fall to a 15-year low of 1.6 percent this year from 3.7 percent in 2007 but dismissed talk of a recession. Spain is also only one of the euro zone’s four big economies not to shrink during the second quarter.

What I know about the economy you could write on a one euro coin which I believe is still outperforming the pound. One hopes that the article was written in the spirit of warped but good old fashioned “British humour” and that the FT wasn’t being pig headed, piggish, attempting to hog the headlines or telling “pork pies” but you must remember, no FT, no comment.

THE ENDANGERED LYNX

There has been rather a rich diet on this blog this week with two days of prostitution and yesterday’s denied allegations that the former president of the Spanish Government, José María Aznar, was the father of French Justice Minister Rachida Dati’s unborn child.

Today I’m going to deal with a life and death issue, that of the endangered Iberian Lynx. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Adena have reported that they are very concerned about the population of Lynxes in the Doñana national park and state that it has dropped by 20 per cent in recent years. This they say “is very discouraging”.

In a press release WWF/Adena has called for the implementation of an immediate emergency plan to overcome the basic problems faced by these cats and to do what is necessary to save this species rather than the present random and uncoordinated actions.

The WWF/Adena has criticised the current programme that concentrates on the relocation of Lynxes or breeding programmes and says these are of a secondary nature. In calling for a return to basics the environmentalists say the priorities should be the conservation of their habitat that is under threat from intensive farming and irrational construction of infrastructure. In addition the state of the population, the increasing deaths from illegal hunting, their illnesses and lack of food all need to be promptly addressed.

Previously lynxes born in the Sierra Morena have been moved to the Doñana and WWF/Adena says it opposes this programme because it ignores the international instructions on the reintroduction of endangered species.

The environmentalists argue that before a species is re-introduced in to an area there is a need “to identify and eliminate or reduce to a sufficient level the previous causes of the lynx’s decline and this has not occurred in the Doñana where the problems, not the solutions, are increasing.” In short WWF/Adena does not believe that the current strategy guarantees the survival of the species in the Doñana area.

In April of this year three of the four cubs of a Lynx named ‘Wary’ were found dead in the Doñana. They all died within a week and it appeared that the cause of death was likely to be hunger. The WWF/Adena stated at the time its concern about the breeding programme in Doñana and called for steps to be taken to ensure such a tragedy did no occur again. ‘Wary’ is one of three breeding Lynxes in Doñana that had been transferred from the Sierra Morena.

The fact is that if the Iberian Lynx is allowed to become extinct then all our lives are diminished. To find out more about the WWF/Adena and the endangered Lynxes visit their website: http://www.wwf.es/

Thursday, September 4, 2008

INTERESTING AZNAR

If I had a vote in Spanish general elections I would not have cast it for former president of the government José María Aznar or his Partido Popular.

Not only do I oppose his politics but always found the diminutive Aznar rather dull and boring.

Until now that is when suddenly he is very interesting.

The Moroccan newspaper, L'Observateur, has alleged that Aznar is the father of the unborn child being carried by the French minister of Justice, Rachida Dati. She is of Moroccan and Algerian parentage.

Aznar has reacted with fury to the allegations and has ordered his lawyers to take action strongly denying he is the father. Rachida Dati has always refused to reveal who the father is.

As far as I am aware Aznar has not commented on whether he is a “friend” of the French minister. Nor do I know where this leaves the solid Catholic marriage of José María and his awesome politician wife, Ana Botella.

In Britain such indiscretions amongst politicians are deemed a disaster. However I remember the tale of a leading French politician of very mature years having been discovered to have fathered an illegitimate child. It was election time and it was suggested the fact should be revealed to discredit him. His opponent blocked the move declaring that if the news leaked out “everybody will vote for him”.

C’est la vie – isn’t that so José María ?

HELLO SAILOR

Yesterday I stated how startled I was that Spain generates 50 million euros a day on prostitution. Today I said I would reveal an interesting statistic on prostitution in Gibraltar and I will - it doesn’t have any!

Around ten years ago it struck me that here was a major naval port and yet I’d never seen any signs of “working girls” or boys for that matter. I had read the hilarious autobiography by George Melly entitled “Rum, bum and concertina”. It covered his World War II years in the Royal Navy and several pages were dedicated to his warship’s call in to Gibraltar on its way back to Blighty.

Sadly I don’t have a copy to hand but it gave a graphic and wonderfully funny picture of Gibraltar just as the war had ended and prostitutes there were a plenty.

Now the whole world knows all the girls love a sailor – and none more so than the girls of the night. So why weren’t there any prostitutes on the Rock?

John D Stewart had been a senior Civil Servant in Gibraltar for 10 years and in 1967 he published “Gibraltar – The Keystone”. This is what he says about prostitution:
“Another social problem, prostitution, was banished from The Rock about half a century ago, and Gibraltar became, the sailors tell me, the only whoreless port in the Mediterranean Sea. Can we give the churches and their earnest adherents the credit for this reform? Catholic countries around the world seem well furnished in this respect. Can we credit the British administration then? I think not, for the world’s supermarket for whores is Hong Kong, where the Anglican British are in undisputed authority.

“As I see it, Gibraltar was simply too small, crowded and intimate to contain the trade. The brothel quarter was right in the heart of the city, naturally known to every citizen, regardless of sex or age. A local septuagenarian told me, without remorse, how he used to go there as a little lad on his way home from school and see an impressive peepshow for a penny... So notorious a place, hemmed in on all its approaches by respectable private houses, could have been of little use to the manly citizens. It served only as a magnet for soldiers and sailors, and became a resort of drunkenness and noisy debauchery, with the inevitable fighting which attends such occasions, and it was ended easily, like Gibraltar’s other social problems – by export.”

So where did it go? – across the border to La Línea in Spain of course. John D Stewart continues:
“When the law was passed the professional ladies, some Spanish, some British moved to La Línea. The frontier was not much restricted at that time, and their clients could find them. The migration covered not much more than a mile as the crow flies and in the circumstances, as they knew, he flies fast and straight. In La Línea they colonised a whole street, a street which points straight at The Rock and, perhaps for that reason, but some say for nostalgia, was called La Calle de Gibraltar.”

And there it seems to have stayed. Not in the calle Gibraltar, which much earlier had been at the heart of the tobacco smuggling trade, but is now part of La Línea’s thriving town centre. However there are certainly “working girls” in the border town and they used to parade along the road to Campamento although I suspect the now tougher police regime has moved them on.

I spoke to a Royal Gibraltar Police officer when I did my original article and he told me there was no prostitution on the Rock and indeed, in all the years he had been on the force, he couldn’t remember there having been such a case. I have seen no suggestion of any change unless, of course, you know different.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

HOW MUCH?

I am too long in the tooth to be startled by much in this world but the discovery that Spain generates 50 million euros a day on prostitution certainly does the trick (strictly in the non-sexual connotation).

I was also stunned to learn that it is estimated that there are over 300,000 dedicated to prostitution in Spain and that Andalucía has the largest number of them. I have also added a new Spanish word to my vocabulary as I now know what a “meretriz” is.

The facts are a bit confusing because it seems that experts are divided amongst themselves on the number of prostitutes on the game with those advising Spain’s lower parliament, the Congresos de los Diputados, saying its not 300,000 but certainly well over 100,000. I will refrain here from making any linkage between the word politician and prostitute.

So what other facts have emerged? The brothels or rather ‘clubes de alterne’ turn over 18,000 million euros a year but also the media benefits hugely by accepting both display ads and classifieds for very explicit sex enticements. It is also estimated that six per cent of the male Spanish population is a regular user of prostitutes.

It falls to the Guardia Civil to carry out periodic checks on the brothels and their ‘census’ places the number of prostitutes in these establishments at around 96,000. To those have to be added the street girls and those who operate out of apartments and so on.

As I said Andalucía is said to have the largest number of prostitutes with 18,200 followed by the Comunidad Valenciana (14,200) and Madrid with almost 13,800.

According to the expert panel constituted by Congress prostitution is the second most profitable business in the world behind arms trading but ahead of drugs.

I have to confess to only having entered a brothel once in my life. Many years ago I was dining at the then famous Bianchi’s restaurant opposite Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Soho. I was with a party of friends and we decided to book a table for a performance later that evening. I dashed down stairs to make the reservation and rushed back upstairs again. As I turned left I discovered I hadn’t entered the restaurant but a bedroom with a waiting lady of the night lying back on the bed who greeted me with a smile. Being a gentleman I said “Good evening” and then fled realising that in my haste I’d run up the wrong stairs. I admit to being in a state of shock but not as startled as discovering how much Spain spends on prostitution.

Tomorrow I will reveal an interesting statistic on prostitution in Gibraltar.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

MUCHÍSIMAS GRACIAS FRANCISCO

Let me start today’s blog by thanking all of you who have taken the trouble to contact me over the past weeks with your comments. A special nod in the direction of fellow journalists Joe Garcia, Alberto Bullrich, Lenox Napier and Jon Clarke. I am more than happy to hear from readers whose views are fair, balanced and honest and I can be reached via the comment section or the blogs’ email.

However I was especially pleased to receive an email from Francisco Rubiales. Francisco is a respected journalist who was born in Villamartín in the Sierra de Cádiz. His journalistic experience is without question having been a writer for the daily "Madrid", a correspondent in the Far East and Mexico, director of the EFE offices in Cuba, Central America and Italy as well as an advisor to the United Nations. Later he was the commercial director and director of special information at EFE and director of communications at Expo 92 in Sevilla.

You will see immediately from his profile that he spent many years informing Spaniards on what was happening in overseas countries. Likewise I ply my trade by telling English-speakers about Spain and Gibraltar and when the wind takes my sails I stray slightly off-course but that is the privilege of a hack. Hence my sincere “muchísimas gracias” to Francisco for his kind comments about my blog.

Today Francisco presides over the Euromedia Comunicación group as well as the Fundación Tercer Milenio, writes for many publications and takes part in debate forums and gives post graduate classes at the Universidad de Sevilla. He has also published and edited numerous books.

Francisco hosts the blog ‘Voto en Blanco’ – you will find a link on the right side of this page. It is a blog – “para ciudadanos libres, para pensadores independientes, no para fanáticos.” For me it is required reading because it expresses interesting views on the Spain we live in today written by thinking people which are important to understand whether we agree with them or not.

The ‘Voto en Blanco’ is of course the blank vote that is a powerful (some will argue wasteful) option all voters in free countries have the right to use at elections The website explains: “El voto en blanco expresa la protesta ciudadana en las urnas. Es un gesto democrático de rechazo a los políticos, partidos y programas, no al sistema. Conscientes del riesgo que representaría un voto en blanco masivo, los gestores de las actuales democracias no lo valoran, ni lo contabilizan, ni le otorgan plasmación alguna en las estructuras del poder. El voto en blanco es una censura casi inútil que sólo podemos realizar en las escasas ocasiones que se abren las urnas. Esta bitácora abraza dos objetivos principales: Valorar el peso del voto en blanco en las democracias avanzadas y permitir a los ciudadanos libres ejercer el derecho a la bofetada democrática de manera permanente, a través de la difusión de información, opinión y análisis.”

If you want to encounter challenging views then this is the blog for you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

COULD CEUTA AND MELILLA BE TRADED FOR GIBRALTAR?

Over the years I have long argued that the day may come that sees Gibraltar in some form become Spanish and both Ceuta and Melilla become part of the state of Morocco.

The two enclaves on the north coast of Morocco have been Spanish for centuries. Melilla was occupied by Spain in 1496 whilst Ceuta was captured in 1580. Gibraltar in contrast was taken for England in 1704 and ceded in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

The status of the Spanish enclaves and Gibraltar are very different. Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of Spain – as Spanish as the mainland provinces of Málaga and Cádiz to which they have close ties. By contrast Gibraltar has been an often ill-used British colony. It is probable that the Rock is no longer a colony as such, although opinion is divided on that point.

Ceuta and Melilla play a part in the every day life of Spain voting in the nation’s general elections. Gibraltar has been considered little more than a military base, its strategic importance ebbing and flowing with the tide of world affairs, where the views and opinions of the residents have been given scant regard with no official voice at Westminster.

Spanish politicians and the Royal Family visit the enclaves on a regular basis. Only British politicians involved in the day-to-day affairs of Gibraltar visit there and no monarch would contemplate a visit for fear of offending Spain.

However both Ceuta, Melilla and Gibraltar share something in common. All three are coveted by Morocco or Spain. The visits of Spanish royals to the enclaves cause outrage in Morocco but Madrid doesn’t care. As I said no British monarch would visit Gibraltar because the Foreign Office in London would quake in its boots at the mere suggestion. Gibraltar has never been an integral part of Britain hence London’s indifference to defending the Rock’s interests over its own.

It is probably true to say that the people of Morocco do want to see the Spanish enclaves become part of their nation. As it is not a democracy it is hard to tell. In contrast the majority of Spaniards, except those in the Campo de Gibraltar, have no strong views on the Rock other than a vague sense that it should be Spanish.

This is reflected in a recent survey in El Mundo were just 12 per cent of Spaniards said they would not mind if Ceuta and Melilla were handed over to Morocco, so long as Gibraltar became Spanish. Only 5 per cent believe the enclaves should be handed over to Morocco immediately. In contrast 70 per cent take the view that the Spanish Government should protect Ceuta and Melilla “because they are as Spanish as any other cities” in mainland Spain. I should add that I do not believe that the man and woman on the Clapham omnibus hold any such strong views on Gibraltar. Llanitos may look to Britain but if Britons look in this direction at all it is to the holiday resorts of mainland Spain and its islands.

Whilst Gibraltar is not high on the agenda of the Spanish public, even if it registers at all, the fact is the Rock is a political Holy Grail. No party, especially on the right, is going to give up the sovereignty claim, and no party on the left is going to be accused of doing so, especially when there are so many other real issues to make a stand on.

However the problem remains. Gibraltar will always be a thorn in Anglo-Spanish relations especially as Britain has been seen to weaken and seek some form of joint sovereignty. Morocco has been given no such joy by Spain but these two nations face each other across the Strait of Gibraltar and peace, harmony and joint development is very much on the agenda.

I still believe that if Britain allows Gibraltar to become Spanish in some form then the pressure from Morocco will force Spain to move on Melilla and Ceuta. Or, if Morocco exerts strong pressure on Spain, a deal will be needed on Gibraltar to save face in Madrid. The decision might even be made on a tri-nation basis with, I suspect, joint-sovereignty being the key. I fear that when the time comes for such an international deal the views and wishes of the people of Gibraltar, Ceuta and Melilla will be given scant regard. The interests of thousands will not be allowed to stand in the way of the will of millions; they never have even in democracies.