This government doesn’t do much either; while the public is prohibited from everything except paying taxes, Mr Zapatero’s crew have discovered a wonderful way to force legislation on an unwilling public – without the bother of a debate in the Congress first: it is called the Decreto Ley. I will explain it. All they do is come from the parliament-paid flat in the official black Audi and have a get-together of Zapatero’s cabinet; agree on a new Law and declare it law later at a press conference, skilfully avoiding any democratic nonsense about Parliament being the lawmakers.
The very latest prohibition is an idea of Leire Pajin’s. I will explain her too. She is the Minister of Health without Portfolio. By ‘portfolio’ I mean education, manners or knowledge. Of these she has nothing, but she is an unredeemably clever politician. She has even declared she might be a candidate for the presidency of the Government next year. Half Spain, on hearing this frightful piece of information, is asking how much a single ticket to Shanghai costs. Pajín’s latest venture is a law prohibiting the exhibition of smoking on stage or large or small screen. Someone might whisper in her ear that this means 99% of films, Spanish or international, must vanish from cinemas and TV screens, including Lord of the Rings (Gandalf smokes a pipe) and Casablanca (Bogart and Bergman smoke fags interminably). The only comic thing about all this is that the Pajín does not actually prohibit the sale of tobacco. And you do not need me to tell you why.
One thing will be safe – the art gallery/museum. Pajín does not know what they are or where they are. Pictures by dead artists do not interest Leire. A chap called Gauguin painted Eiahá ohipa with a chap smoking in it, but in 1896. Even more ancient is La Cometa painted by Goya in 1778. Safe as houses. Leire will not be able to send men armed with scissors. Getting nearer the twentieth century is Cézanne’s El Fumador de Pipa (1890) with a cheery chappie puffing away at a Gandalf. Dangerously nearer the Pajín’s historical spectrum is 1926. She knows about 1926 because it was only 4 years before her darling 2nd Republic. 1926 was also the year in which a corrupt guirri called Otto Dix painted Sylvia von Harden with dry martini, monocle, matches and a ciggie. Mind you, the Pajín may have a go at this painting not because the lady smokes a cigarette, but because she is a ‘von’.
Madrid is so proud of Joaquín Sorolla it maintains a museum and gallery wholly dedicated to this master of light and shade. In 1894 Sorolla painted the novelist Benito Pérez Galdos smoking a cigarette in a holder! Then Max Beckmann did his Quappi con sueter rosa around 1933, in the middle of the 2nd Republic! Full of daring, these artists! Things were slightly more relaxed then, of course.
Britain is another European country with a nanny government. Cameron’s lot are not very different from the Blair/Brown lot. They continue dominating people’s lives, exercising a baleful influence over the public who voted for them – just as in Spain. Fat people or people who like a drink or seven are favourite targets in both countries. We are foolhardy in a car, ferocious on a motorbike, flabby, footloose, and feckless, and we should be much thinner, both in the flesh and the bank account – things like 189% tax on the sale of petrol, and 230% tax on a packet of fags should do the trick.
Spanish and British clones of Mary Poppins make laws that ensure we will all be non-smoking, no-booze, cola and cider-sipping, Guardian and El País-reading (and therefore opinionless), skeletal-thin, condomed or pilled, bicycle-riding, vegan and fruit-only-eating (like bats, an appropriate word), grammar-free monumental bores. In Spain this is a result of a modern political miracle, because this government (seven years of it) has never had a majority.