A dark day for Spain
Today, Spain faces its first general strike in more than a decade. The reasons for this nationwide walkout have been well documented, the government wants to change the labour laws and thousands of people may not be entitled to unemployment benefit at the end of the season. Now, I understand that this is a good enough reason to strike but it shouldn't be a day for celebration. I've got the impression over the last few days that some union leaders are really flexing their muscles and are taking some delight in taking on the government and rather destroying the big party planned by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for this week in Seville, at the end of Spain's presidency of the European Union. A general strike is a very serious state of affairs. It means that dialogue has broken down and there is no option but to bring the country to a standstill. Who will be the overall winner? No-one, I'm afraid because I can't see any overall winner and some might say that it is another nail in the coffin of the tourist industry. Today's strike is going to cost many billions of pesetas at a time when the Spanish economy is suffering. The holiday plans of 100'000 fellow workers from other European countries are going to be disrupted. Today, is a sad day for Spain. My thoughts are with the army of holidaymakers who will find their precious days in the sun disrupted. It can be argued that everyone is used to industrial disputes but when you are on holiday it has a rather different dimension. There are no winners today eventhough both sides will claim victory. Spain has been celebrating 25 years of democracy this month, an important milestone. It is a shame that it will be marred by a major industrial dispute.

Jason Moore

Blair needs a holiday
Tony Blair does not look at all well; he certainly needs a holiday. It is always difficult to judge by public appearances at press conferences or in the House of Commons because of variable lighting conditions. But at his Downing Street briefing with Jose Maria Aznar on Tuesday he looked haggard and pre–occupied and his right eyelid seemed half–closed. In the Commons for Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday his appearance was similar but he seemed in lively form. The only occasion on which Mr Blair's inner feelings have shown so clearly was when Peter Mandelson resigned from the government. It is possible that on Tuesday the row over Cherie Blair's remarks about Palestinian suicide bombers had got to him.

The triviality of PM's Question Time was totally exposed yesterday. After Mr Duncan Smith had rabbited on about child curfew orders and the fall of the stock market it was left to Robert Wareing, an Old Labour MP from Liverpool, to ask what should have been the Question of the Day – where did Mr Blair stand on President Bush's new pre–emptive strike policy which would make possible the killing of Saddam Hussein by US special forces? Mr Blair said that Mr Wareing should not be misled by “media speculation”. Media speculation, indeed! The policy was announced in a statement from the White House and explained in some detail by Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. Answer please, Prime Minister – do you support this policy or not?



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