Posts Tagged ‘Zapatero’



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The show of shows

You don’t get a political night bigger than this. It’s not just an Americn election, it’s not just the American election that will end the disastrous Bush presidency, it’s the American election that will end the disastrous Bush presidency and be starting (fingers crossed) the Obama presidency, a black man with a completely un-American approach to politics, more European if you like.

Tonight half of the world will be glued to a TV to follow this election coverage, you know the famous ‘and CNN is now ready to call the state of ???? for Senator/Congressman/Governor ???’.

In proper American style, I have got myself plenty of beers, potato skins, hotdogs and doritos with tomato salsa to get through the night. Also bought a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate a historic moment (if it is to be).

I will not be blogging tonight because American elections, like Hollywood, is a show to be enjoyed free of distractions. Iain Dale is doing a live chat in his blog if you are feeling active tonight. On this side of London I will be watching CNN and BBC simultaneously with a beer in my hand waiting for the numbers to come in. And by the way if you are a numbers-geek or simply want some great quality polling commentary go over to this great great site.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

I leave you with two videos one with Obama working as an intern for Zapatero (with this second time, do you reckon Zapatero is the most mentioned foreign leader in this election?) and a hilarious one, an American introduction to football on Phoenix from the Flames, bless them! (Mark this one is for you mate!)


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The White House today announced the celebration of the economic summit in New York in mid-November. The G-20 countries are meeting up to design a new structure for capitalism. It definitely sounds glamorous, it sounds like a 21st century Bretton Woods.

But there are two key reasonsĀ  why this economic summit is complete rubbish.

The first reason is because by the time the summit kicks off on 13th of November the US electorate will have elected a new President. By that time the host of the summit, the man speaking on behalf the most powerful economy in the world, will officially be a lame duck, even if in practice he already is. Who is going to be seriously negotiating with a man who his own fellow countrymen believe to be an utter disgrace in economic affairs? specially knowing he is gone and a new, definitely more protectionist President whether Obama or McCain, could easily roll back any agreement they might have hammered down in this summit.

The second reason is the exclusion of Spain from the negotiating table. Now, I know most of you are going to roll your eyes and think this is just a bitter comment with a bit of a nationalist flair to it. And partly it is, that sentiment was what initially made me think about writing this post. But please bear with me, because I think I do have a point.

Brown, Sarkozy and Barroso have said they wanted Spain to attend the summit. The Bush administration has declined inviting Zapatero on the grounds that only the G-20 countries should attend. Now, I have no problem with the developing countries attending. But I do have it with the developed ones. Out of the G-7 countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan), five have had to save several of their national banks (US, UK, France and Germany), one is in a deep economic stagnation coupled with a serious leadership crisis (Italy), Japan which is ok and Canada which is pretty irrelevant in this case. Now, on the other hand you have Spain, which despite finding itself in a deep housing crisis and having been exposed to the credit crunch as much as the G-7 countries, has a banking sector that has not just weathered the storm but gone on the offensive buying banks abroad. Santander has bought three UK banks in as many years, Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley and across the Atlantic it has bought Sovereign. BBVA has entered China through Citic Group and has become one of the most important banking entities in America through its BBVA USA network.

The reason for this is the regulatory system set up in Spain by both the government and the central bank. Weekly risk assessment committees asses Spanish banks investment decisions to guarantee their soundness. The level of savings guaranteeing liabilities are the highest (without being excessive or burdensome to business) in the Western financial system. Good regulation not excessive regulation, exactly what is expected of this summit. You don’t believe me? Read this and this.

Now, if the Spanish banking sector is done much better than its counterparts and this is certainly due to a better regulatory system. Why shouldn’t the country responsible for this system be invited to provide that experience to a summit on world financial regulation?

These are my two reasons why next month’s summit in New York will either be not more than a photo-op for world leaders (Gleneagles style) or a total shambles of inefficient regulation which will not stand for long and certainly not help reassure markets in the tough year to come.

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Obama v McCain debate: an analysis

Yesterday I struggled to stay up to watch the first US presidential debate on CNN (unlike in 2004 BBC 1 wasn’t showing it) but I managed to watch it all and certainly wasn’t too impressed. Both candidates stuck to their messages and there was little interaction between them, more than a dialogue it was a series of independent statements from both of them.

Having said that I think Obama’s team did better at crafting what messages they wanted out there (middle class tax cuts, Iraq, Afghanistan and Russia). He did have an awful moment when he called McCain first Jim, then Tom and then claimed he was in Congress not in the Senate. But overall he came out much better than McCain who was certainly quite nervous despite being a seasoned (I would say over-seasoned) politician.

A couple of times I saw a chance for Obama to make a little fun of McCain but he made a pass which I though it was a shame. Happy to have seen Zapatero mentioned in the debate by Obama (he won me over with that one : )

Anyways, there is a great analysis on why polls give Obama a victory in the debate over at my favourite polling site, FiveThirtyEight, not to be missed!

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The big picture: the economy

Two days ago the Spanish finance minister, Pedro Solbes, wrote an article for the FT in which he explained the situation of the Spanish economy and the way the government plans to face the current crisis.

This article should be a must read for Alistair Darling and his entire department.

When an economic crisis hits home there are two messages that any government needs to put out to the electorate, a big picture analysis of what is going on and secondly a clear set of measures (no flipflopping, please) to handle that big picture.

A comprehensive and consistent approach to the economy is the only way to reassure voters that the government is able to handle the situation. In his article Solbes clearly presents the big picture of the state of the Spanish economy, its strengths and weaknesses. Transparency is a must in these situations, Darling needs to come out and clearly describe the state of the British economy so when proposals are put out there to alleviate the crisis the electorate understands what problem each one of them is targetting specifically.

Reassurance, information and transparency for stakeholders are the key to any succesful business, this Labour government needs to follow that exact same path to revive its fortunes for a comeback during the conference season.

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As promised yesterday I would like to throw out there a couple of ideas for a new political message for Labour. Now that Brown is finally taking some time out (and hopefully getting some good sleep to clear his head) I hope No. 10 staffers are working hard on the new message and calendar to plan a proper (and final) comeback in September.

Here are my two contributions to the debate:

– Firstly, emphasise difference between the Tories and Labour on the economy. They are the party of the rich and powerful, Labour that of the middle and working classes, let’s remind voters of that. In Spain the Zapatero government is dealing with a serious economic crisis of similar proportions to that of the UK. Of course Zapatero, four months after his reelection, is taking a toll on his popularity because of the crisis. But he’s holding up by emphasising the differences in the way he and a Conservative government would handle the crisis. No government is going to have the silver bullet to finish off the crisis at once. It’s an international crisis, and for the UK economy, highly dependent on financial services, the global trend will mark the national trend. So the government should focus on alleviating the crisis for those that are more vulnerable to it. Zapatero has promised in Spain to guarantee social spending during the crisis no matter what, pensions, dependency law, minimum wage, work safety, they won’t be affected by the crisis and at the same time helping people restructure their mortgages to ease their economic circumstances (true, Spain had healthier public savings than the UK but there are ways around it, that’s the challenge for Labour economists). Moreover Zapatero has announced that no public money will be used to save private companies that are in trouble by their own mistakes, pure liberal orthodoxy. At the same time long term measures are being taken to guarantee a switch to a more sustainable economic model (energy saving, investment in railways, higher productivity, less construction and more manufacturing). These announcements give working people the feeling that the government is on their side, not using their taxes to pump up the same economic model that has caused the crisis. Sure, they still feel the pain, but in the long term until the crisis passes this is the only way to get through it. Moreover, Zapatero keeps reminding voters of what the Aznar government did during the 2000 crisis, freezing public sector salaries for years, reduction in public services investment and privatisations without a plan that turned public monopolies into private ones with no promotion of competition (think Telefonica). When voters see the differences between the two approaches they do come around to more progressive ways of doing politics. And this is what Brown needs to do in Britain. Alleviate the pain of the vulnerable and make sure to reform the supervision mechanisms to guarantee enough solvency in the financial sector for the future. Around these ideas should be Labour’s economic message.

– A second idea is that Labour needs to go on the offensive. Find wedge issues, remember the Tory revolt on comprehensive schools?, to stir the Tory backbenches. There are plenty of issues that Cameron is embracing that old Tories are simply uncomfortable with, on social issues, civil liberties, environment. Let’s put those divisive issues out there. Voters are only seeing the nice face of the Tories because Cameron is doing well, let’s show their nasty side by bringing up those issues where their leadership and backbenchers disagree. There are plenty and some of them long overdue to be taken into consideration.

These are my two contributions to the debate on a new message for Labour. They need to emphasise what are the differences between the parties, what makes Labour a better choice, and that should be that it cares about people and it supports them better through difficult times than the Tories would ever do.

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Reading the Murcia local daily yesterday on the pool side away from the mundane noise come news of the death of Olive Riley, the world’s oldest blogger.

Olive Riley, died 108 years old in New South Wales, Australia. Her blog became an international hit after it was launched in February 2007. Her blog doesn’t seem to be working properly at the moment but you can read some of her entries here.

Riley’s fearless embrace of the internet at such old age is a great encouragement to old people across the world that can find on the internet and other activities new energy despite bad health eroding one’s will.

P.S.: Surfing around a little bit I found a Spanish 95 year old Socialist blogger. She has even met Zapatero! You can see some pictures of it here

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