Sometimes, in cables amongst themselves, politicians tend to forget that "real people" will eventually get to read their words (either that or they realize but just don't give a damn), and they drop the facade and talk in real terms. As Grant Williams explores in the following excellent discussion, the phrase "propitiate public opinion" among Spanish and UK minsters arguing over Gibraltar sums up perfectly the world in which we live. Propitiate - to make (someone) pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired. Behold, politics.
In a confidential dispatch from Madrid to Geoffrey Howe, the then Foreign Secretary, Ambassador Parsons wrote:
"The King emphasised, as he had done with me before, that that requirement was to take some step over Gibraltar which would keep public opinion quiet for the time being.
"It should be clearly understood in private by both governments that in fact Spain did not really seek an early solution to the sovereignty problem.
"If [Spain] recovered Gibraltar, King Hassan of Morocco would immediately activate his claim to Ceuta and Melilla.
"The two foreign ministers should reach a private understanding between each other, differentiating between their actual aim and the methods used to propitiate public opinion on both sides."
Did you spot it? No?
Well here it is again in slow motion:
"T h e t w o f o r e i g n m i n i s t e r s s h o u l d r e a c h a p r i v a t e
u n d e r s t a n d i n g b e t w e e n e a c h o t h e r, d i f f e r e n t i a t i n g
b e t w e e n t h e i r a c t u a l a i m a n d t h e m e t h o d s u s e d t o
p r o p i t i a t e p u b l i c o p i n i o n o n b o t h s i d e s."
... and here's the super-slo-mo close-up frame (if you have 3D glasses, put them on now):
"... P R O P I T I A T E P U B L I C O P I N I O N ..."
Let's go to the dictionary:
pro·pi·ti·ate transitive verb \pr?-pi-sh?-?t\ : to make (someone) pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired
Sometimes, in cables amongst themselves, politicians tend to forget that "real people" will eventually get to read their words (either that or they realize but just don't give a damn), and they drop the facade and talk in real terms.
Sir Richard Parsons' words, translated, are telling:
The two foreign ministers should work out what needs to be said to keep the public happy whilst they simultaneously pursue a completely different agenda — one which they feel best benefits the political ambitions of each side.
Now, I'm not telling many of you something you didn't already know — although there may be a few amongst you who still believe that all elected officials are there for the good of the people — but to see how things look when the mask slips and the monster behind is revealed is important in what I suspect could be a seriously turbulent year politically.
Mark the dates May 22nd to 25th in your diaries, folks.
That is the time frame during which elections to the EU Parliament must be conducted this year, and the potential for the politicians and bureaucrats who creep backwards and forwards to Brussels (on expenses) to receive a major wake-up call increases by the day.
Historically, turnout at EU parliamentary elections has been abysmal fairly poor and has declined consistently to the point where, in 2009, the percentage of eligible voters who turned out to select representatives to the body that would go on making ever more decisions about how they would be allowed to live their lives was just 43%.
Well, the people of Europe got the parliament they deserved.
Buy perhaps things will change this time?
As Grant Williams writes in this week's Things That Make You Go Hmmm... the EU Parliament looks like this:
By the time May 26th dawns on Europe, this picture could well be completely redrawn, as a group of previously irrelevant political parties look to capitalize on the growing disaffection with the EU project and its common currency, and are prepared to seize as much power as the citizens of Europe will grant them.
The problem is, these parties are nearly all extremist in nature; but whether right- or left-wing, they unite beneath an anti-Europe banner, and that may be enough to sweep them to relevance and give them a strong hand at the negotiating table.
Full Grant Williams Letter below...