12 April 2022: Refugees, here and there; An interesting ex-magazine; Ukrainian hopes; French travails; & Other 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   

There are said to be over 110,000 Ukrainian refugees now in Spain. This compares with only 35,000 in the UK, which has a population almost 50% larger than Spain’s. One factor, of course, is different public attitudes towards immigration. Spain has always found this easier to deal with, as most immigrants come from ex-colonies with the same religion and language. And little or no racial aspect. So, more easily assimilated. En passant, in a reversal of the norm, another factor in this is said to be a higher level of bureaucracy in the UK. But, then, this is a reflection of the political factor, I guess.

The Times yesterday had an article on the publisher – Sr Carceller – of a Spanish satirical magazine of the 1930s. Naturally, this fell foul of France and Carceller was first jailed, then maltreated/tortured and finally executed horribly. The military court’s verdict had it that: Carceller deserved the death sentence because he was “dedicated in the lowest, coarsest and most vulgar manner to insulting the highest representative personalities of National Spain, the dignity of the Church and the principles of the Glorious Movement to Save our Homeland for the benefit of Marxist subversion”. Which says all you need to know about the murderous Franco and his pals.

An interesting article on federalism, with a mention of Spain’s pseudo-federalist system of government, via its 17(?19?) regions (autonomous communities) – some of which are more autonomous than others.

An astonishing story about stuffed wild animals. And an even more astonishing foto of elephant tusks. I’m reminded of another old joke:-

Taxidermist: Would you like these 2 squirrels mounted?

Customer. No, holding hands will do.

Page one news in the Diario de Pontevedra yesterday – Our football team in now top of its league and could be automatically promoted, without involvement in play-offs! Maybe I’ll switch my allegiance from faltering Everton. And also, now that I’m Irish as well as British, look for an Irish team to support. . .


Marie Le Pen is a breeder of cats. Allegedly, she fell out with her (in)famous father not only because they differed on policies but also because his doberman ate one of her felines. As I would, if I were a Doberman. Just kidding.

Writing in 1945, George Orwell cites an Anglophile Frenchman – Pierre Maillaud – who most admired about Britain its respect for minorities and its ability to make deep changes without either shedding blood or losing touch with tradition. Perhaps more interesting is M Mailloud’s professed desire to see a federation of Western European states. Orwell felt that this was less likely in 1945 than when the book had been written, seeing a good first step as a better understanding between Britain and France. Plus ça change . . . But I think we can safely say that’s gone by the board for now.

Back to today . . . France should take a leaf out of Brexit Britain’s book. Once again, the French establishment is proving that it is not fit for purpose, says a British historian below.

And AEP takes a look at the presidential race in the 2nd article below.


The Russians have certainly been inept so far but  . . . What happens next will very largely depend on the quantity and quality of the armoured vehicles friendly countries are willing to hand over to the Ukrainians. 

Probably accurate views:-

1. The very great problem we all face — Americans, Europeans, Ukrainians and even Russians — is how to end this new European civil war.

2. Only a sordid bargain will end Ukraine’s war. Defeating Putin or calling his nuclear bluff are unrealistic options, so let’s prepare for a costly and protracted struggle.

The Way of the World

I see that my suggestion of a 3rd category for athletes is gaining ground. To be called the ‘Open’ group. For all transfolk. Though it’s hard to envisage men who used to be women wanting to compete with women who used to be men. Even though biology and male teenage physical developments are ‘irrelevant’ to trans truth.

Meanwhile – and failing that new group – I wonder when we will get the first transwoman female boxing champion. It has to happen, following the swimmers and the cyclists.


Una radiografía: An X-ray

Finally . . . 

Friends persuaded me to get an X-ray last night, after I’d banged my head during my fall down some stairs on Sunday morning. Everything was OK but it’s sad to reflect that, as I live alone and – like everyone – am ageing, I’d best keep my phone with me at all times, in case the next fall is more serious. Hey ho. As María says, life goes on. And the Semana Santa procession of last night went ahead despite my non-attendance . . .

But I noticed that this procession last night was for for El Cristo de las Tres Caidas. And today is El Día de San Colin de la Una Caida . . .

I’m by no means an expert on WordPress, who host my bog. Yesterday, I clicked on a little bell symbol, to discover several people had been kind enough to click a Like button I didn’t know existed. So, my thanks to all of these. I’m still unclear as to why some people follow me daily and suspect this might just be beneficial in some way. But, anyway, one regular Liker is Scott Austin Tirrell, who writes novels in a genre which might well be of interest to some folk. So, here is his page.

For new reader(s): If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.   


France should take a leaf out of Brexit Britain’s book. Once again, the French establishment is proving that it is not fit for purpose: Tim Stanley 

Britain, as you’ll know from watching Channel 4, is a right-wing theme park, the most absurd and irrelevant country in the world. It sounds tremendous fun, though two things cast doubt on the liberal hysteria. First, the PM popping up in Kyiv, where he was greeted like a rockstar. Ukraine likes us. We can’t be all bad.

Second, the French, commonly cited as a more enlightened country, are repeating their five-year ritual to decide between a pompous ass and a stick of dynamite, a contest that, for once, could go either way. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a radical socialist, and Marine Le Pen enjoyed a last-minute surge.

Put together, all the so-called extremist candidates won around half the vote. Anne-Élisabeth Moutet, our wonderful Parisian writer, tells me right-wing Le Pen has been “detoxified” by the even wackier candidacy of Éric Zemmour who, among other things, wanted to ban Muslim names. Marine, a qualified breeder of Bengal cats, began to look cuddly by comparison.

You could say she’s been detoxified by the French establishment. In 2010, under President Sarkozy, veils were outlawed in public places. François Hollande opposed the controversial “burkini” bans of 2016, but it was during his administration that the state was successfully sued for racial profiling in policing. In a recent debate with Macron’s interior minister, Le Pen denied that she is anti-Islam, and the minister accused her of going soft: “You need to take some vitamins,” he said, “you’re not tough enough here.”

Meanwhile, the centre-right candidates, debating the “great replacement” theory that the growth of the Muslim population is an attempt to diplace whites, distanced themselves from the term, but not the premise. Valérie Pécresse did not like it because “it implies we’re already screwed.”

Marine has moved to the centre, perhaps, but the centre is zigging about like a jelly on a wild horse, and the two left/right movements that dominated French politics since the war have collapsed into single digits. Macron only won the presidency in 2017 by painting his centrism as populist, for France is not immune from that concept. It is ground zero. This is where Pierre Poujade launched his shopkeepers’ movement in the 1950s, labelling parliament a brothel stacked with thieves, attracting the membership of a young Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine (dad and daughter fell out over politics, and, reportedly, because his doberman ate one of her cats). Blue Labour and Red Tory, with their mix of redistribution and social conservatism, seem novel in the UK, yet they are imitations of French Gaullism. As for Euroscepticism, France did that first, in 2005, when it rejected the EU constitution in a referendum.

What’s remarkable about the British system isn’t Brexit but how rare Brexit is, and that our two main parties, far from being destroyed by it, adopted its ideas and absorbed its constituencies. We have a gift for stability via integration: not only is our current chancellor a Hindu but the two frontrunners to replace him are of migrant heritage, too, whereas the French presidential candidates list has been almost entirely white. Brexit Britain is a more open society than egalitarian France, possibly because we don’t seek to define ourselves with academic precision.

Hence another election about what it means to be French, an idea invariably “threatened” by a foreign alternative, be it Islamism, globalisation or wokery. France is being invaded, Macron has said, by “certain social theories entirely imported from the United States”. In fact most of those daft ideas were cooked up by a Frenchman, Michel Foucault. The only value added by American professors was to take them rather more seriously than even Foucault probably expected.

2. Marine Le Pen’s national socialism is a potent political brew. The economic agenda of Emmanuel Macron’s opponent is a celebration of the welfare state and the French social model:  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph

Emmanuel Macron did everything within his power to engineer a run-off election against Marine Le Pen. He should have been careful what he wished for. Le Pen has a fair chance of scooping up the neglected constituency of the old left, and that could swing the final outcome on April 24. Her economic agenda is a celebration of the welfare state and the French social model. She backed the protest of trade unions against the reform of the pension system in 2019, and again last year over the weakening of unemployment protection, describing President Macron’s policies as “shameful, economically stupid, inhumane, and unjust”. Her plan is a mix of Keynesian big spending and redistribution towards the working poor and young families, those suffering an erosion of real living standards long before commodity inflation hit them with a hammer blow. She has married left-wing economics with law-and-order nationalism to make a very potent political brew. 

“She is a woman of the left. All her reflexes are of the left,” said rival Eric Zemmour, who pushed a radically different form of populist capitalism, aiming his fire at the suffocating tyranny of the French tax system. To lump them together misunderstands the political topography of France. 

Le Pen’s plan includes an income tax exemption for the under-30s and low-interest loans of up to €100,000 for couples starting a family, with debt wiped clean if they have three children. She proposes free public transport for young workers and tax-free overtime pay for the proletariat. She wants to keep the retirement age at 60 for the less privileged who left school early and have put in 40 years of hard labour. She wants to reindex pensions to rising inflation, raise the minimum to €1,000 a month. She is targeting that large segment of society damaged by global wage arbitrage and by the wealth inequalities of quantitative easing. These are the little people neglected by Mr Macron, an Enarque and Rothschild banker, who kicked off his term in office by abolishing the wealth tax. Gilles Ivaldi from the National Centre of Scientific Research says she bet early and hard on social populism and the cost of living crisis, speaking to a forgotten “fragile France”. The gamble has paid off. 

Macron thought he could coast through this election, deeming himself too busy with the affairs of the world to bother with the hustings. He seems to have assumed that it was enough to keep painting Le Pen and her Rassemblement National as the unreconstructed face of the xenophobic extremism, taking it for granted that voters on the left would have to back him again come what may. Many will, of course. But this description of Le Pen has lost traction in deep France. The Élysée has been strangely slow to see the danger of her pastoral style of campaigning, and her new, carefully cultivated image as the matron of the nation, photographed with her six cats (she has just got her breeding licence). 

What you pick up loudly on the street is the unforgiving hatred for Macron among that large, amorphous social strata loosely known as the gilets jaunes, or among those who wince at his cockiness and grandstanding self-importance. A chunk of the 20% Corbynista vote for Jean-Luc Melenchon will gravitate to Le Pen in the run-off on April 24. Less clear is how much of the intellectual bourgeois left or the green youth movement will abstain rather than vote again for the man who fooled them in 2017 with a false prospectus. They thought he was at least leftish. But as made ferociously clear in The Traitor and the Abyss by two Le Monde journalists, the Socialist Party was just his stepping stone to power.

Le Pen has been turning her party into a statist, anti-globalist, defender of the Modèle Français ever since taking charge in 2011. It had to “walk on two legs”, she said. It could never gain power on an anti-immigration ticket alone. This was her way to detoxify (dédiaboliser) the brand, accompanied by a purge of anti-Semites and Vichy nostalgics left from the original Front National. Broadcaster Eric Zemmour made this task easier for her by taking over the ideological fringes of the far-right, even to the point of rehabilitating Marshal Pétain, an odd button to press for an Algerian-born Jew. Zemmour has made her look respectable. Le Pen has stuck doggedly to her bread-and-butter script, resisting the urge to fight the culture war even when part of her base seemed to be drifting away, and when the press was writing her off.

The Institut Montaigne thinks her economic plan would cost a net €105bn a year. It is obviously untenable for a country that already has Club Med levels of public debt and almost the highest structural budget deficit in the OECD. But austerity is out of fashion. The pandemic reflex of “whatever it costs” has made it hard to close the floodgates again. Macron himself has been prime-pumping the economy with €50bn or more of electoral hand-outs. He has capped the rise in electricity prices to 4%, for rich and poor alike, at a high cost for the French state. It is an energy consumption subsidy, obliterating the price signal when the imperative is to curb the wastage of power. Yet it is Le Pen who is making most of the cost-of-living shock. It is paradoxical that she should be the beneficiary of an upset caused in part by the invasion of Ukraine, given her ties to Vladimir Putin. But unlike Zemmour, or Donald Trump, she has been quick to see the perils of that association. She has backed the open-door policy for Ukrainian refugees.   

 The issue is in any case blurred by Macron’s own dealings with Putin, both the decision to host him at presidential summer retreat at Fort Bregancon, and by continuing to legitimise the Russian dictator with biweekly chats even as war crimes accumulate. If Macron tries to play the Kremlin card in the forthcoming televised debate, she will hurl the card straight back at him. Le Pen has not abandoned her right-wing policies on immigration, nor her defence of France’s cultural terroir. She remains a nationalist to the core, and an implacable foe of Jean Monnet’s European project. She will endeavour to undermine the primacy of EU law and the hegemony of the Commission from within. One might argue that her agenda smacks of national socialism, but there is no mileage in trying to evoke loose parallels with the 1930s. Le Pen is competing at the ballot box and under the rule of law. Nobody suggests that she plans a 1933 Enabling Act or a French police state once inside the Élysée Palace. Her ideological enemies are Anglo-Saxon globalist capitalism and the EU superstate in equal measure. It is a Gallic view of the world, through and through. That is why it is so tricky for Macron to counter.

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