Dear Sir, In this week's article in the Bulletin by Anne Kay “using friends” to obtain a fast lane to receive state funds, should ring some alarm bells, especially in light of recent events in the UK and Peter Mandelson in particular. For those readers who have not followed/read the recent exchange of letters in the Bulletin between Ms Kay and myself, the subject was the PP (conservative) Andratx council, by-passing the Balearic government (socialist) to go direct to the ex-president of the Balearic government (PP) now a minister in the main government in Madrid, to arrange for some 330 millions of pesetas to buy a plot of land of some 20'000 sq ms.

She did not clarify if these “state funds” were from the European Union, but from wherever, some might consider this as help from one politician to another group of the same leaning, which could affect voting in future elections, and open the door to other similar councils obtaining large sums of money beyond the normal channels.

This sort of thing leaves so many question marks in the air, and has a nasty habit of sometimes being misconstrued.
Mandelson's intervention in the passport application (which had been previously refused), for that person who in turn made a donation to the “white elephant” Dome, now facing charges in India on illegal arms deals, may affect yet another UK minister - this one in the Foreign Office, also Asian and a friend of the applicant. It makes one wonder how many other such “favours” have been given. “Sleaze” comes in many different forms, not just cash stuffed into brown envelopes. Pre-election donations, such as the one from the Formula One boss, who then had the ban on cigarette advertising suspended, to others being granted ministerial posts. These are of course just “friends” helping each other, but what strikes me as strange, is that normally clever politicians (did I hear “too clever at times?”), are not intelligent enough to benefit from the experience of past mistakes, personally or from colleagues. Mandelson was two strikes and out.

Leaving sleaze for the moment, one thing that gives concern over the UK Labour government, is not so much their seemingly arrogant or indifferent attitude to many genuine protests from the general public, ranging from high tax/petrol prices to the countryside lobby, but their lack of results after nearly four years in office. They cannot keep blaming the last Tory Government (it just sounds like a stuck record), for the truth is, they inherited the economic rise that was just kicking-in after the European-wide recession in 1990-1996. Given a buoyant economy, plus many “stealth” taxes they introduced, the vast sums they had to invest in public services was immense.

However, it seems that they just “throw” money, in a “knee-jerk” reaction, to any problem that hits the headlines. This ranges from two millon pounds to try and reduce teenage pregnancies (highest in Europe), to 15 billion pounds for rail/track improvements. Whilst these might be headline grabbers, the results do not materialise. Less policemen, more crime, mediocre schools, low standards in the teaching profession, National Health a disgrace, with a quoted 5'000 deaths each year just because hospitals cannot even be cleaned properly, shortage of nurses, a rail system in chaos...the list goes on and on. So the conclusion has to be drawn that they are totally out of their depth and/or incompetent.

Winning a general election is no qualification for running a country. The election is a populari ty contest built on “spin” and promises, and we all know what the average politician's promise is worth! I am disappointed, but not overly surprised, that Blair has backed away from direct debates with the opposition leaders in a forthcoming election, as I have always found that an interview gives only one side of an issue, and party political broadcasts are boring and predictable. The viewer/listener gains a thousand per cent more insight into the issues that are of importance with opposing parties in direct confrontation. Also, we see the mettle of the man (or woman) under pressure, as opposed to the cloned, groomed image, planned to impress the impressionable.

This makes me recall all those decades past, when the Spanish Parliament was taken over in an attempted coup d'etat by a rogue element of the Guardia Civil, with TV cameras still running, the images relayed of Felipe Gonzalez diving for cover under bench seats, whilst Adolfo Suarez confronted the GC when they tried to take away the communist party leader, Carillo. Suarez was an elegant and intelligent president, but also showed in that moment what ”a man” he was. He would always get my vote!

Graham Phillips
Palma

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