As a new calendar year approaches it’s a time to take a look at the year ahead.
The Story Bazaar has plans to publish more books in 2016. In Spring, the long-in-gestation ‘Reconquista‘ will appear ( it will, really it will ). In Summer, we will be publishing a non-fiction book by a new Story Bazaar author, followed by a series of ‘e’-books by the same author ( watch this space ). For next Christmas, another Compendium. I am also hopeful of publishing the sailing memoirs of suepsails, though these are not yet complete, so I am reluctant to set a publication date. Sue is, even now, on board Garmin yacht, bound for Hobart. Garmin, lying fourth in the race overall, is estimated to arrive in fifth or sixth place sometime tomorrow afternoon ( latest diary of a crew member can be read here ). Incidentally, The Story Bazaar 2015 is now available in paperback on Amazon and will, shortly, be available as an e-book ( shameless plug ).
In London we have a mayoral election scheduled for 5th May 2016, the incumbent having already ruled himself out, his sights being set on a bigger prize. Boris Johnson has already re-entered parliament as a Conservative MP, despite holding mayoral office as a day job, although many claim that he hadn’t been spending much time on that for quite some while ( if ever ). His legacy – ‘Boris bikes’ and no more bendy buses. I love living in London, which is a great city, and it would be good to see someone elected who might tackle some of the city’s problems, like the ridiculous costs of housing and the ever-growing inequalities, rather than simply using the office as a springboard for their own ambitions.
On the national stage the UK has a government whose only constraints are those it imposes upon itself, any parliamentary opposition being absent. The Liberal Democrats are reduced to eight MPs and the Labour Party has entered one of its periods of internal strife, rather as in the 1980s, when purity of thought is judged more worthy than actually doing anything practical to alleviate suffering and inequality. Interestingly, Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Ken Livingstone, (a former mayor of London, for those who may not know) finds himself with a seat at Labour’s top table. Please do not let the Boris-Ken rivalry re-emerge at national level.
In Europe Chancellor Merkel’s humane and compassionate response to the largest movement of people in Europe since WWII competes with the tawdry indifference and cynical protectionist views expressed by many other politicians, in Germany and elsewhere. European countries are wealthy. If they choose to spend on properly offering sanctuary and succour to these sad migrants they can afford to do so. Instead political demagogues fuel the fears of ordinary people. Politicians insist on public sector cuts, the impacts of which fall disproportionately on the poor, who cannot then fail to see these refugees as threatening. A New Year bouquet to Angela Merkel and a heartfelt hope that the UK stays in the EU in 2016.
In Spain, as I write, there is no government. In the General Election on 20th December, the PP, the former ruling party won 123 seats in the Congress of Deputies, down over 16% on their pre-election position. PSOE (Spanish socialist party) won 90 seats, almost a 7% reduction on their previous position. Thus, neither of the two big parties of modern Spanish politics, which had, between them, ruled the country since the return of democracy to Spain following the death of Franco, had sufficient seats to form a government. Both were tarred with corruption scandals, though PSOE changed its leadership last year in an attempt to re-brand. In addition, the PP is widely held responsible for an austerity programme impacting upon the poor and working classes, while exempting business and the rich ( including the banks, which are coruscated even more in Spain than in the UK ).
Podemos, a party formed only two years ago, after the indignados protests, won 69 seats (but polled only 341, 316 votes fewer than second placed PSOE, just over 1% of the total number of votes cast). While an even newer party, Cuidadanos, won 40 seats. The Catalonian and Basque parties also gained, with 9 and 6 seats respectively (although the Basque share of the vote reduced). The PP retained its majority in the Spanish senate, the second chamber of government, though these seats are subject to change with regional elections. Turnout was high at 73%, so the democratic vote is alive and kicking in Spain, if not in the UK (overall average 66% turnout earlier this year, even including a democratically resurgent Scotland).
So what happens now? During the election campaign it was thought that Cuidadanos, despite calling itself a pro-business, anti-corruption centre party, was, in fact, a creature of the right. Rumours surfaced that the very corporations which had corrupted the politicians of PP and PSOE had bank-rolled the new party in order to split the anti-austerity Podemos vote. But then counter rumours suggested that the original rumour was just that, started by the left in order to win back support from voters wavering towards the centre. Either way, support for Podemos, which had been falling after the party aligned itself closely with Syriza in Greece, rallied. No one knows what will happen next. Negotiations continue.
Enough of politics.
I wish Story Bazaar readers a prosperous and happy 2016. We will continue blogging over the holiday into the New Year.