Monthly Archives: September 2006

PP in far-right placation (again)

Much has been made by anti-Catalanista bloggers and commentators of the behaviour of certain minor extremist groups who take direct action against people they consider to be ‘fascist’ or otherwise undesirable. I’ve been directed to read one particular article about JERC teenagers causing trouble at a political meeting, by the man who penned the piece, naturally. The argument against interrupting meetings, threatening ‘undesirables’ and generally interfering with those who espouse an apparently antithetic ideology is simple: these thugs, by preventing other parties from expressing themselves freely and without fear, are attacking the very basis of our democratic society. They’re as bad as brown-shirts burning books.

So I’ve been surprised to see that these fearsome defenders of human rights, crusaders for freedom of expression and opponents of ‘bully boy tactics’ are as yet silent on the case of Pepe Rubianes. This actor’s latest play, a work about the poet Lorca (murdered by the fascists, incidentally), has been cancelled by the mayor of Madrid.

The reason for this censorship is that Rubianes has made himself unpopular with the Spanish right wing. A few months ago, he uttered some pretty offensive comments about Spain during an interview on TV3. This incident led to him being threatened with a law suit, and further enraged those same supporters of freedom and critics of Catalan TV – for having the nerve to broadcast his outburst. When it became known that this monster (who had, in the meantime, apologised and tried to explain his comments) was to perform an unconnected play in a municipal theatre in Madrid, the right wing wiped the foam from their mouths and started a campaign to stop him. At all costs.

So the campaign went into action. Blog posts were written, threats were made, demonstrations were (apparently) called. All this pressure came to bear on the one man who could do something to stop this disgraceful indulgence. Mayor Gallardon couldn’t handle that pressure. Whether it was the awareness that he was elected by ‘Libertad Digital’ reading pricks or a more personal hatred for the freedom of expression, Gallardon moved to stop the play from being performed. Another great day for democracy and freedom of expression under the PP.

At first, this case looks much like those where political meetings have been violently broken up by ultra-nationalist youths: the employment of mob rule to prevent people you don’t like from saying things you don’t want to hear. But this case is far worse. In this case, the mob has spoken and elected officials have moved to placate it. The precedent is far more dangerous and deserves strong opposition from those who oppose repression of free speech.

So where are the crusaders?

Wine, wine, wine

I’ve just discovered that Spain is the world’s third largest producer of wine. Behind France and Italy (I must admit that I can’t remember the time I last tried a glass of Italian), Spain produced nearly four million tonnes of wine in 2005. I suppose that it makes sense: from the ubiquitous Rioja, through Cava to the Valencian fare sold for four pounds a bottle in England, almost every region in Spain produces its own variety of God’s greatest gift. Personally, I’m a great fan of Priorat. The Catalan county which gives Priorat its name has a minuscule population of fewer than 10,000. And yet it manages to produce a wine whose quality and richness is even now being ‘discovered’ by the bodegas of New York City and London. Read more about Spanish and Portuguese wine at Catavino.

Speaking of wine, Gemma and I watched the film ‘Factotum’ tonight. An adaptation of one of Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical novels, it tracks the jobs, drinks and women of Henry Chinaski who weaves his way between work and bed and racetrack in the form of Matt Dillon. I hadn’t read Factotum before. I loved Post Office and Ham On Rye and so knew – more or less – what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. The direction and acting in the film were smart and well adapted to the subject material. I laughed my head off at parts. And it stars Marisa Tomei… always a good sign, right Costanza?

Graeme at South of Watford drew my attention to the mad ravings of a Libertad Digital blogger today. Pio Moa (or Pio Mio, as I call him) wrote a piece yesterday which basically argued for the use of violence to wrest power from the democratically elected socialist government. The justification he offers for starting a new civil war is that the socialists conspired to bring about the Madrid bombings two years ago in order to steal the election which followed days later. Naturally, this theory is totally lacking in evidence but then most crazy conspiracy theories are. It would be easy for me to say that this guy needs to drink either more wine or less wine, depending on his current wine consumption.

Pio, I’d be more worried about the crack if I were you.

A coup is a transition

There’s a lot of interesting spin coming out of the PM’s office and the Treasury at the moment. Blair’s supporters are blaming Gordon Brown for orchestrating a ‘coup’ and have appeared on the BBC in their droves insisting that forcing Blair out now will be ‘damaging to the party’ and that Brown wouldn’t want to inherit that, now would he?

I take issue with the main argument here: that removing Blair ASAP will damage the Labour party, whereas allowing Blair to hang on for eight months will strengthen it. Is it not true that the single most unattractive thing about Labour is Tony Blair himself? Is it really worth hurting the party even more than it has been hurt over the last decade, just so that Blair can get his jubilee?

It looks to me as if Blair is now committed to preventing Gordon Brown from becoming leader. The eight month wait is ample time for John Reid or another loyal Blairite to establish himself as a successor to the great leader.

I wouldn’t say that Brown deserves to be PM in any way. But someone needs to take over pretty quickly if Labour is to slow – and reverse – its sliding in the polls. Besides, where’s the categorical difference between a coup and a transition? A coup is a transition… much quicker, of course, and sometimes bloodless.

(Oh, and by the way: anyone referring to Blair as ‘Bliar’ in these pages will have their IP address blocked.)