Bring Back Gladstone

candidatesWill it be the man in the suit who buggered up my mobile ‘phone or will it be the one who looks as if he has just been ejected from Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
The woman who knows all the facts, or the silver haired man ‘who has consented to stand’?
The man who has just hired a bulldozer to repair the road to town which has been impassable for three years – and in so doing has been threatened with legal proceedings by the Roadworks Agency who should have done the work; the woman whose main claim seems to be her extensive family connections, or the man with the clipboard?

Yes, local elections are coming up in February and the candidates are doing their best to raise the political temperature in the area from somewhere near sub zero to something approaching the blood heat of a crocodile in the dark hours before the dawn.

The seven candidates have one thing in common….no, two things: they all want to be mayor and they are all shocked to find that the populace demonstrates a certain cynicism as to their motives for so doing.

Of course, they all want the best for the local people…the cynicism of the populace lies in the determination of who, exactly, counts as ‘local people’…
Is it local people in general, or is it certain people who live locally?

In order to bring things into the open the stringers for the national press organised a meeting, live online, where the candidates could answer questions and express their views.
Needless to say we saw a great deal of the said stringers congratulating themselves on organising the event…and a lot of camera time dwelling on the backdrop with the names of the local businesses sponsoring it…but we did also see the candidates.
All seven of them.

Eventually, things began with a rendition of the national anthem sung with enthusiasm.

As it was being distributed live online only the seriously narcissistic were present to watch the event, which, given past form at council meetings might have been an advantage. (The action on the video starts at four and a half minutes and involves the intervention of the police a minute later…)

Matters proceeded with a rendition of a ghastly ditty celebrating the area and they were off!

The candidates introduced themselves, talked about their families and then answered questions which were of two types: the first being written questions submitted to the stringers and the second being questions about the area and the work of the council written by the stringers themselves.

While the answers to the first batch of questions were the usual mix of wishful thinking and back handed swipes at the outgoing regime I was delighted to find that most of the candidates answered most of the ‘general knowledge’ questions correctly…apart from the one about the number of employees the current regime owns up to which produced a fair amount of wild guesswork as while some are visible and occasionally active others seem to live in a shadow world where only their paycheck is real.

So, whoever we get, the new mayor will have some idea of what he or she will be dealing with.

The same could not be said for Myriam El Khomri, France’s new Ministre du Travail (minister for employment) who made a real ass of herself in a recent television interview.

The lack of stable employment is a serious problem in France
If you are lucky – or started work in the Dark Ages – you will have a permanent contract, a CDI.
If you started work after Personnel Departments started calling themselves Human Resources then you are more likely to have a temporary contract, a CDD.
While the latter are supposed to be only for short term specific jobs, in reality they are about all you can get these days, because they allow employers to get rid of staff without the costly rigmarole of warnings, assessments and compensation afforded the holder of a CDI, and can be renewed without having to be converted into a permanent post as long as there is a break in or change of terms of employment.

There is, of course, abuse of the system.
La Poste holds, I believe, the palm, having employed someone for twenty five years on temporary contracts by moving the unfortunate worker from one office to another….but they are not alone – notably the Pole Emploi (Labour Exchange) in the public sector, the banks in the private, so for the person on a temporary contract the matter of the renewal of contracts is most important.

Not, it seems, for the Employment Minister.

Asked how many times a temporary contract could be renewed before having to be transformed into a permanent contract she dithered and dithered..and finally admitted that she did not know.

Not that it mattered, of course. The next day she said that she had been deliberately trapped…as had other politicians before her..it’s happened before and it will happen again, said she insouciantly.

This from someone who has never held down a proper job in her life.
From university onward she has lived from the public purse…from cronyism… flitting from one political job to another until the need to appease those of immigrant stock who still vote for the Socialist Party arose – and there she was: a woman of Moroccan origins. Ideal!
Does it matter that she has no experience in the field? No.
Does it matter that she appears incapable of acquiring any? No.

Because modern ministers are for the most part figureheads…the policy is decided elsewhere, by the global businesses who now control politicians, and all that is required is to toe the line and accept the handout on retirement from office.

We, the people, do not matter – except as a Human Resource.
And we, the people, have no power except at the changing of the guard called elections when one uniform replaces another to continue with the same policies.

The last Presidential elections in Costa Rica produced a nasty surprise for entrenched power: an outsider came to power borne on people’s resentment of corruption and cronyism.
He says he will not stand again…it has been a constant struggle to start the process of change; setbacks and ambushes at every turn…but there have been changes and people have seen that they could make their voice count and that they can do it again if need be.

I note the way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been demonised in the press; how the New Labour elite are organising to overthrow him as leader of the party…
But many people voted him into that post, people who, like Costa Ricans, had given up on politics. They voted for change once they had the chance.
Voted, like the Costa Ricans, for honesty and competence over entrenched privilege.

Enter Gladstone, monument of rectitude.

In the wake of the disastrous campaign in the Crimea his government resolved to shake up the armed forces…to make them efficient, competent and open to talent. His War Minister, Cardwell, abolished the purchase of commissions bringing fresh blood into higher command….a process gently mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in the Major General’s song:

Gladstone shook up the Civil service too…entry only by competitive examination.Goodness only knows what he would make of the tribe of ‘consultants’ leeching the public purse these days….

We need another Gladstone…but unless we combat the influence of global business’ lapdog, the media, we won’t get one.
We need to talk to each other, encourage each other, help each other to bring people back to voting again…to back candidates with whom we do not agree on all points but who are honest and willing to stand up for all the people, not just the privileged.

Open the Cage and Let Them Out

open the gates
Politics is in the air at the moment.

If it’s not Donald Trump in the U.S.A. then it’s Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. …and here, in my little town, the candidates are squaring up for the local elections in February next year.

So far, only one party has announced whom its candidate for mayoral office will be: the party currently holding power.

The party whose representatives are responsible for the ever immobile bulldozer, the dustcart that collects more dust than rubbish and – latest item, remember you heard it here first – the payment of over two million colones (some four thousand dollars) to an enterprise appropriately entitled ‘El Gusano’ (The Grub) for cutting down a tree.

Be that as it may, the party faithful, all sixty three of them, assembled this weekend to elect their candidate for February.

The list had been whittled down to three….the current alcalde (mayor) – pink shirt; a gentleman who had given long service to the party both in the council and the National Assembly – blue shirt and a hair style expertly imitating a wig – and a large gentleman distinguished mainly by his striped polo shirt, resembling a navigation buoy swept inland by a tsunami.

Now, the party nationally runs the rule over those of its members who wish to stand for office.

It doesn’t like to endorse those who have previously stood for office for other parties….or those who have less then two years’ membership of the party.
No problem for the local candidates there.

It will not endorse those who contravene the requirements of its ethics committee.
No problem there either.

It will not endorse those condemned by the justice system…
Ah! A hitch!
One candidate was refused the party’s approval on these grounds.
The one with long years of service at local and national level.

It appears that this gentleman had been an agent for the then monopolistic state insurance company INS. Apart from his other activities.
As an agent for INS he had accepted payment for car insurance and had duly delivered certificates of insurance to his clients.
Unfortunately, he had forgotten to inform INS of his transactions.

It all came to light when a client, passing the head office of INS in San Jose decided to check his policy…only to discover that INS had no record of it.

The state prosecution service became involved and eventually the forgetful gentleman was hauled into court.

The Costa Rican justice system allows for a conciliation process before action proceeds, and at that process, the future candidate offered to refund the nineteen million colones (some thirty eight thousand dollars) identified as entering into his possession but not into that of INS and was given three years in which to do so, in addition to a payment to benefit the National Children’s Hospital and the obligation to do one hundred hours of community service.

Simple, you would think. Condemned by the justice system…can’t be a candidate.

But this is to underestimate the abilities of this gentleman.

Instead of appealing against the decision of his party immediately he waited until the day before the election and took his case to the national Election Tribunal who decided that, as a long serving party member and not otherwise disqualified by internal party regulations, he could proceed with his candidature while he appealed his party’s decision in an internal tribunal.
No time for the party to disqualify him again, then.

First round of voting….the navigation buoy is eliminated. Pink shirt and blue shirt tie.

Second round of voting….blue shirt wins.

Deep unhappiness among those whose candidate was not successful…..who have launched an appeal to overthrow the decision.

With a bit of luck this series of appeals will last until after the elections…or they might do a re run and elect the navigation buoy.

Needless to say, the social media are fizzing…..very good for my Spanish vocabulary, if somewhat repetitive.

I have no idea what the reaction in the U.S.A. to Trump might be…I just wonder if he reminds anyone else of a troll (Norwegian variety, not internet)….but Corbyn’s candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party certainly seems to have enlivened political life in the U.K.

It appears from the reaction of an unholy combination of press and politicians that his election will end civilisation as we know it.
Looking at said civilisation as exemplified by the U.K., I tend to think that that is no bad thing.

There have been years of privatisation – both openly and by stealth – of public assets. Sheer daylight robbery.

Years of kow towing to the U.S.A. government- the follies of whose evil policies are plain to all.

Years of grinding the faces of the poor….no proper employment resulting in artificially induced dependency; education designed to depress, not encourage talent; inadequate housing, poor nutrition.

But what seems to worry the powers that be the most is that Corbyn would like to hear what ordinary people think, what ordinary people want….and proposes to try to put those wishes into effect.

Shock horror!

Democracy!