Marx on Monday: Gibraltar

I was in Malaga last week playing golf and decided to drive south to visit one of Britain’s last colonial outposts – the great rock of Gibraltar. Things did not go as smoothly as planned, however, and I found myself stuck in a six hour traffic jam whilst waiting to cross the frontier. Tempers were frayed as thousands of motorists queued impatiently in the 100 degree Fahrenheit heat, but one person seemed to find the whole spectacle most amusing.

He was a little Spaniard with a droopy moustache sat at the side of the road wrapped in a poncho and hidden beneath a giant sombrero. The angrier the motorists became and the more they aimlessly honked their horns the funnier he seemed to find things. Even beneath his disguise he looked vaguely familiar. At first I thought it might be Clint Eastwood, but then it came to me – it was none other than Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister of Spain.

I climbed out of my grid-locked car and sauntered over to him.

“Hola Mariano,” I greeted him, “are you enjoying yourself?”

“Very much so Kevin,” he grinned back, “it causes me great amusement to make you gringos wait at the frontier of Spain and Gibraltar.”

“But what’s the point Mariano,” I challenged him, “what do you hope to achieve by it?”

“You British are illegally occupying Gibraltar,” he replied, “which is a historic part of mainland Spain.”

“But hasn’t Gibraltar been part of Britain since it was ceded to them by Spain in perpetuity by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713,” I played Devil’s advocate, “that means it has been British for 309 years – 67 years longer than it was part of Spain after they won it from the Moors in 1462 – who had ruled it since 711.”

“What has that got to do with it?” the Spanish Prime Minister scowled, “it is geographically part of mainland Spain – how can Britain have any moral claim to occupy part of the mainland of another country?”

“But don’t Spain have two colonies, Ceuta and Melilla, both of which are part of mainland Morocco?” I asked. “And haven’t Morocco demanded that you return them?”

“But the citizens of Ceula and Melilla have been balloted,” the Spanish Prime Minister protested, “and their overwhelming desire is to remain Spanish. It’s a matter of self-determination.”

“But weren’t the citizens of Gibraltar balloted in 1967,” I asked, “and didn’t 12,138 out of the 12,237 citizens of Gibraltar vote to remain British?”

“Well then forget self-determination,” the Spanish Prime Minister scoffed, “Britain’s occupation of Gibraltar is a violation of international law, whatever the people who live there think.”

“But I thought the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of it being a British Crown Colony in 1946?” I pointed out.

“Well then forget international law,” Mariano scowled, “Britain think they can impress us by sending three warships to Gibraltar. If they want a war with Spain they can have one!”

“War?” I spluttered, “why on earth would you want a war?”

“I’ll be honest with you Kevin,” he sighed, “I’ve completely messed up the Spanish economy. Over 50% of our youth are unemployed. My approval rating as Prime Minister is below 10%. Just like Mrs Thatcher before the Falkland’s conflict, I need a war to help get me re-elected.”

“But Mrs Thatcher’s war was with Argentina,” I said, “it was a war she was confident of winning. It will be a lot more difficult fighting a war against Britain. We haven’t lost one since 1066 – and we’ve never lost one against Spain.”

“But Gibraltar is a long way from Britain,” the Spanish Prime Minister countered, “and you have very few troops there. How do you think your small garrison would fare against the might of the entire Spanish army?”

“But didn’t you try that in 1779 with the great siege of Gibraltar,” I asked him, “when 77,000 Spanish troops backed up by 47 Spanish Warships invaded Gibraltar, which was defended by a garrison of 5,000 British troops backed up by 12 small boats?”

“Yes and although we didn’t capture Gibraltar on that occasion,” the Spanish Prime Minister sniffed, “the three and a half year siege was quite a success. We killed 333 British troops.”

“That’s true,” I conceded, “but didn’t the British defenders kill 6,000 Spanish troops and sink 10 Spanish warships?”

“Well then forget a siege,” Mariano snapped, “we’ll take the war to the British mainland. We’ll send an Invincible Spanish Armada to capture Land’s End and declare it a Spanish Colony –let’s see how you like it!”

“But didn’t you send the Armada Invincible to invade England in 1588,” I asked, “where the invincible Spanish navy of 130 ships with 26,000 men on board attacked the 34 warships of the British Fleet?”

“Yes we did,” Mariano flushed with pride, “and although we didn’t succeed in invading England we certainly gave them a bloody nose!”

“How?” I asked, somewhat mystified.

“Our Invincible Armada killed nearly 50 British Sailors,” the Spanish Prime Minister puffed out his chest.

“But didn’t the British fleet kill 17,000 Spanish sailors,” I replied, “and sink 67 of your 130 war ships?”

“That might be right,” Mariano sulked.

“And how many British war ships did your Invincible Armada sink?” I asked.

“I don’t recall the exact number,” the Spanish Prime Minister avoided my eye.

“Then let me remind you,” I replied, “it was none – not a single one!”

“Alright,” Mariano sulked, “we may not defeat you with a siege or an Armada, but what about a football match? Now there’s something we always beat you at. The first game I remember was Spain’s famous 1-0 victory over England in the 1950 World Cup.”

“It was a great victory for Spain,” I agreed, “but in the five World Cup and European Championship games we’ve played since then England have won four times and the other game was a draw.”

“There must be something Spain is better than Britain at,” the Spanish Prime Minister pouted.

“What about corruption?” I put forward, “didn’t a million Spanish voters sign a petition earlier this year demanding your immediate resignation for accepting bribes of 50,000 Euros?”

“That was never proved,” Mariano jutted out his jaw defiantly.

“And didn’t you claim nearly 2,000 Euros a month subsistence housing allowance in spite of the fact that you occupied the Moncloa Palace in Madrid rent free as Prime Minister of Spain,” I asked,” and weren’t you ordered to re-pay the money, particularly as you had introduced savage public spending cuts which, according to the Spanish opposition, are making the lives of most Spaniards an absolute misery?”

“It’s easy to focus on the negatives,” Mariano countered, “but what about all the positive things I have done as Prime Minister of Spain?”

“Like what?”

“When I came to power bullfighting, that fine old traditional Spanish sport, where a bull is tormented and then tortured to death by a combination of courageous picadors and brave matadors, was banned from Spanish television,” he replied, “now, thanks to me, live broadcasting of this sport has resumed.”

“That is a great success,” I conceded, “but under your premiership Spain’s property values have fallen by half and continue to fall by 15.2% a year; unemployment stands at 26% and 56% for those under 25; you have received over 137 billion euros in EU bail outs which will need to be paid back and your international credit rating, which was AAA, has been downgraded three times in the last year and now stands at AA2.”

“Your point being?” Mariano cocked an eyebrow.

“My point being that in Gibraltar house prices are rising, GDP is forecast to grow by 7.8% this year, they have received no EU bailouts, their credit rating remains AAA and unemployment, compared to the surrounding area of Spain’s 36%, is just 2% in Gibraltar.”

“Goodness me!” Mariano jumped up and ran towards my car, “we need to go to Gibraltar now.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I need to see if they will agree to Spain becoming part of Gibraltar,” he replied, climbing into the passenger seat.

I got into the driver’s seat and we crawled forward a few yards before grinding to a halt.

“Can’t you go any faster?” he spat out impatiently, reaching over to honk the horn.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied, “there’s a blockade on at the frontier.”

9 comments on “Marx on Monday: Gibraltar

  1. Mary Ross
    August 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Very interesting the way you know your history and the Spaniards. Now, I was wondering, when you said that Britain had not lost a war since 1066, does the war with the USA factor in there?

    • James Eadon
      August 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      @Mary Ross – we were at war with the USA? Fascinating. When was that? I do seem to remember some kind of civil war before the USA was founded. 😉

      • grimbler (@Grimbler)
        August 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

        In the war of 1812 America declared war and in the end a draw was agreed.

    • Kieran
      August 20, 2013 at 7:26 am #

      Or indeed the war with the taliban

    • The PrangWizard of England
      August 24, 2013 at 7:59 am #

      Sorry Mary Ross. Britain didn’t lose the ‘War of 1812’. The US lost that, It gained nothing. Children in the US are not being told the full story.

  2. jazz606
    August 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    This is all to do with the basket case Spanish economy.

    • James Eadon
      August 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Politicians, especially unpopular ones, love hostilities as a way to raise false patriotism. Look at the Argies – worst PM in years, and that’s saying something, banging on about the Falklands.

  3. concretebunker
    August 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Reblogged this on Concrete Bunker and commented:
    A good way to pass attention from the corruption to a more nationalistic matter!

  4. caesaripse
    August 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Pretty good at making up strawman arguments. I miss Jenkin’s ear war though, and a couple of historic details about Ceuta and Melilla, like when was the Morocco Kingdom brought into existence and when did those cities became Spanish but, hey, don’t let historical rigor spoil a good fiction argument.

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