The survey on voting intentions at the next local elections released by the Ministry for Social Studies made interesting reading yesterday and it is quite incredible how diverse the political map is in the Balearics. The fact that the right-wing Partido Popular would win the elections but without a majority will come as no surprise. Basically, for the last three years the PP who reigned supreme in the Balearics over 12 years have done little or nothing during their time in opposition. What can you say about the five party coalition? Well not a lot either, basically their share of the vote, according to the survey will remain much the same. The stupidity of the election system in Spain means that even though the Partido Popular will poll in excess of 45 percent of the vote, while the second placed socialists will get just 22 percent, there is a very good chance that the next Balearic leader will be a socialist, in other words Francesc Antich could be returned to power. My problem with the Spanish election system is that parties, which poll just a handful of votes, can be so important because they hold the balance of power. The Majorcan Unionists polled just 20'000 votes, across Majorca, but their President was elected head of the Council of Majorca because their few votes allowed the socialist led coalition to form a majority. In other words you get politicians, who could never dream of being in power, having important roles. Whatever the outcome of the local elections which are just a few months away it is more than likely that we will be faced with a period of more political uncertainty of pacts and behind the scenes contacts and pledges. The Balearics at the moment needs strong government and perhaps what is needed is a broadband accord between all parties.

Jason Moore

Ministers decide

Who rules Britain? Elected ministers or the generals? The question is perhaps too crudely put because we are not talking about a South American republic, but nonetheless the open intervention of the Chief of the Defence Staff in the firefighters' dispute yesterday certainly raises quite serious questions about how far senior officers should air their views in public. Senior civil servants do not do so and until fairly recently nor did generals, but yesterday Sir Michael Boyce told an official press briefing that the army's role in firefighting during the impending eight–day strike will over–stretch its capacity and affect military efficiency and morale.

It is quite understandable and proper that he should hold these opinions but the correct channels for him to voice them is either through the Defence Minister or, if he wishes, directly to the Prime Minister. His error in making his reservations known so explicity to the media was compounded by two factors: firstly that the Defence Minister, Geoffrey Hoon, was at his side and was clearly embarrassed; and secondly that Sir Michael went beyond the matter of role and resources to say that troops should not be used to cross the firefighters' picket lines to get access to modern fire engines. This is an acutely political issue and whatever views the Chief of Defence Staff holds on it should be communicated to ministers privately.

Ministers, who are elected to make decisions, are put in an impossible position when what they decide is second–guessed by their senior advisors.