3 November 2021: Spain’s energy crisis; Kids and Franco; A car claim?; Leprous treatment in Madrid; The moribund avocado; & less important stuff.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
– Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España/Galiza 

The BBC reports that Spain’s energy crisis – not helped by developments in Algeria and Morocco – is now so serious it’s hampering the recovery from Covid.

German TV has recently shown a documentary on the Franco years. Two interesting comment on it were that it’s highly recommendable for any young Spaniard who sees this period as  a faraway time. And: The only surprising thing about it is that it has surprised Spaniards. It’s strange that we have seen so few documentaries like this one.

The Supreme Court has ruled that, because there was a price-fixing cartel operating back then, folk who bought a car several years back can now make a claim against the relevant manufacturer for up to €3,000. At least, I hope it’s the manufacturer – in my case, Honda – as the dealer went out of business just after I’d bought the car. As had the Rover dealer, after I’d bought my previous car.

Down in Chamartin station in Madrid, there are no longer embargoed chairs separating those available for use. But not everyone is happy with his. When, last evening, I sat in the penultimate chair, the lady at the end of the row immediately got up and walked away. I tried hard not to feel like a leper wearing asymbol indicating I was Unclean. And almost succeeded. I wondered if she’d stand in the  doorway of a packed train all the way to wherever.  But rather doubt that she did.

The UK  

Can you really believe that, despite government guidelines, MPs have only now been told to wear the masks long since mandatory for parliamentary staff. Not being employees, MPs can’t be compelled to wear them. This belated development follows a rise in cases there. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. My father’s favourite phrase, as I now recall . . .


Emmanuel Macron’s chauvinistic liberalism is a danger to the West. See the article below.

The Way of the World 

We all subscribe to the gospel of AGW and Net Zero, of course. But does everyone really know how feasible this goal is, and how much it will cost each of us to try to get there? And what the ‘more sensible’ alternative remedies are? This counter-blast to what somme think is quintessential ‘group think’ – now championed by the posturing rogue, Boris Johnson – makes for interesting listening. 

At a mire micro and near-term level, are we seeing the demise of the avocado, as chefs turn against it and invent alternatives? One reason is that it allegedly requires 320 litres of water each to grow each one. One restaurateur has gone so far as to call avocados the “blood diamonds of Mexico”

Quotes of the Day 

All from the same person . . 

I know I should care, so why does this climate summit leave me feeling cold? Cop26 is reinforcing my sense of powerlessness at a time when we need hope, not endless doom-mongering, or it all becomes a vast switch-off.

It’s difficult to make an emotional connection to changing one’s own behaviour when the most powerful people in the world apparently do not. 

I live with someone who is a member of Extinction Rebellion but never turns the lights off at home. 

Finally  . . .

Kids again . . .   A little girl has just finished her first week at school. “I’m just wasting my time,” she said to her mother. “I can’t read, I can’t write and they won’t let me talk!” 

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Emmanuel Macron’s chauvinistic liberalism is a danger to the West. The French president has failed to reconcile the elite system he represents with rising populist anger: Sherelle Jacobs, DT

The “proxy wars” that have erupted between the UK and France, on everything from fish and vaccines, to Aukus and immigration, are about so much more than any of those individual issues. Not in the sense that Remainers like to think, of course. We have not been witnessing  a clash between the dark nationalist forces of Brexit Britain and the enlightened European order. This Franco-UK split is much more epic than that. It is collateral damage from the moral collapse of Emmanuel Macron’s brand of Western liberalism, as it collapses beneath its own contradictions.

By voting for Brexit, the UK recognised that that the liberal order can best be safeguarded by bringing power back to the people. We weren’t rejecting the international rules that underpin everything from free trade to the laws of the sea; rather, Brexit was a vote of confidence in the continued relevance of the nation state and its ability to navigate those rules itself. More than that, it was a way of tackling the causes of populism and reconciling the nation state with the global order. Failed elites have been dethroned at home and abroad. Over time, and with a democratically accountable government, we ought to reap the benefits.To Macron, however – the standard-bearer of those failed elites – Brexit is quite literally revolting. The causes of populism aren’t meant to be resolved: that would mean doing the unthinkable and slaughtering the liberal order’s sacred cows, such as clawing powers back from Brussels. Still unlike neo-liberal predecessors like Tony Blair, he acknowledges that anger at the status quo cannot be ignored. So Macron has positioned himself as a champion of a new Third Way: through skilful demagoguery and antagonistic attacks on the hated British, he has sought to inflame and channel populism towards his own establishment ends.We are witnessing the chaotic failure of that approach today.

That much is clear in the President’s panicked grandstanding in the run-up to the French elections;. His “Third Way” –  which has unapologetically embraced international institutions like EU, while tossing gilets jaunes types the odd bone on trade and immigration  – has not impressed voters. Three years ago, Macron sneered in Donald Trump’s direction that “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism”. Now there is apparently no low Macron will not stoop to, as he scrambles to avoid being toppled by France’s Trumpian wildcard candidate Eric Zemmour. Not only has Macron been forced to take a wrecking ball to French relations in the Maghreb, the country’s only remaining sphere of influence, by slashing visas for North African citizens – he has shown himself happy to break international law in order to make nationalist points.

The president’s recent antics have proved a masterclass in populist post-truth. His claim that the fishing dispute was a test of UK “credibility” was particularly daring considering that Paris either failed to read the UK-EU trade agreement that it ratified, or knowingly attempted to blackmail the UK. True, Britain might have been too bureaucratic in its interpretation of the rules. But this pales in comparison with France’s conduct. The Elysee impugned Britain for “unilaterally” imposing license conditions for French fishermen, when these are stated in the treaty text. It also claimed – without evidence – that “small” vessels were exempt from having to provide the paperwork for a license.  Macron has probably poisoned relations with the UK for a generation.

Will Macron care? Probably not, if his performative spats avec les Anglais win him the election. But by damaging the international order itself, they could have much more serious consequences than that.

Firstly, they have further sabotaged the credibility of the multilateralism that Macron purports to uphold. Donald Trump and Brexiteers have been lambasted for undermining global institutions by challenging their current terms. The French President’s strategy of aligning himself with the rules-based order while flagrantly ignoring those rules when it suits him is far more destructive. After displaying such contempt for fishing agreements in the Channel, what leg does Paris have left to stand on as China smashes years of painstaking progress in maritime law? Given that it has struggled to discipline its members to accept the fishing settlements it negotiates, can Brussels look anything but ridiculous in lecturing Beijing as it aggressively expands its fishing activities across the South China Sea?

Macron’s Third Way also threatens the global order for a more basic reason: it is incapable of confronting the over-reach of international institutions at the expense of the nation state. Until recently, Macron happily neglected the sufferings of French fishermen. If he were really serious about reconciling populist anxieties with elite liberal ambitions, he would have spent his term negotiating the phasing out of Brussels’ Common Fisheries Policy, in recognition of the basic reality that as the world becomes more globalised, maritime borders become more symbolically powerful.

He also would have been at the forefront of calls to reform the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The US has refused to ratify this convention because the UN has declared the deep sea bed “common heritage”, to protect it from exploitative mining by rich countries. That stance may sound noble, but the UN is acting on behalf of developing nations fearful of a drop in demand for land-mined minerals. A perfect example of how the global system only weakens itself with insincere altruistic displays that corrode national powers.

The failure of Macron’s vision is all the more catastrophic given the rise of the Chinese civilisation state. Beijing isn’t just a challenge to the rules based order, but to the nation state itself. Take its ambitions to reclaim territories like Taiwan. Or its modern spin on the ancient tributary system through its Belt and Road agenda, and colonial domination of African countries. It is giving other countries with imperial pasts dangerous ideas, from Turkey, to Russia. This is no time for the likes of France to be playing fast and loose with the international order.

The great irony is that in this emerging age of neo-empires, Brexit Britain – so often derided for its dangerous nostalgia – is one of the few trying to stand up for the twin nemeses of imperialism: free trade and the modern nation state. It’s the kind of chauvinistic liberalism espoused by Macron that will destabilise the West.