A.J.A. | An Argentine friend of mine once asked me why I thought his country was not coming back from the precipice. “To put it simply, Alfredo, if a country’s greatest pride is Maradona’s “hand of God” against England…. It’s fucked.” He nodded, silently. There was little to discuss.
Yesterday Spain had its own “hand of God”, one of those images for the gallery destined to mark an era. To see your country’s Prime Minister, in Parliament, celebrating with jubilation and giving the thumbs up – like Nadal when he wins a tournament – for the approval of the labour reform… because of the mistake of a PP deputy! It is, more than anything else, sad, very sad.
First off, the writer of this piece voted for this man (and I am not cutting my hand off because I need it for the mouse). And in the background, the fact that the whole of Spain had already approved the labour reform, which after all has the backing of the employers and the trade unions. So its approval only seems to bother the left-wing separatists, Catalans and Basques, and the ineffable Pablo Casado (the PP leader. Spain has two problems, and one is called Pedro; the other is called Pablo).
Yesterday evening, several of the PSOE-UP government’s usual partners in government (ERC, Bildu, PNV) had decided not to validate the Royal Decree incorporating into Spanish law the labour reform that Madrid has committed to with trade unions, employers and Brussels. Faced with the possibility of failing in the parliamentary vote, the PSOE secured the votes of Inés Arrimadas’ Ciudadanos and several smaller parties, including two deputies from the Navarrese right.
The Minister of Labour, leader of UN Podemos in the government and architect of the reform, tried until the last moment to obtain the backing of the usual majority, that of the investiture. However, seeing that it was impossible, she, and everyone else, we all gave the go ahead to negotiating inch by inch with each MP.
Then came the vote… And the two deputies from Navarre cut their party some slack and voted against the government. (In quick response, the PSOE in Pamplona city council supported a vote against the mayor, from UPN, which gives you an idea of the level at which we are moving). As a matter of fact, the PSOE’s president of the Congress threw out the numbers and declared the Royal Decree rejected. The right-wing benches rejoiced and the government and left-wing benches were astonished and uneasy…
After a few minutes, the legal services informed the presidency of the House that one of the 16 telematic votes, that of a PP deputy for Cáceres, had, against all odds, been in favour of approval. And, therefore, the Royal Decree was in fact approved: 175 votes in favour, 174 votes against.
Shock on the right-wing benches. Joy and jubilation on those of the government and the left. So far, so “normal”. Or, at least, understandable. Anyone can make a mistake, or was the PP MP for Cáceres a brave, wayward MP who really wanted to pass the labour reform? In any case, surprising.
Then the absurdity began. The legal services and the PP itself warn that the vote of its MP for Cáceres, sent telematically, has been badly processed. And, in any event, that the MP had taken it upon himself to testify to the House – before the vote – that he wanted and wants to vote “no”. Something that is rejected by the Chamber’s bodies, which consider the telematic vote to be a good one. We shall see how far the legal battle the opposition will undoubtedly unleash will go. But that, believe me, is now the least of it.
The most important, indelible thing is to see the President of the Government of your country with his thumb up and a smile from ear to ear, as if nothing had happened there. Sad, really sad. And a terrible symptom. Of many things.
It has always been said that when the PSOE executive kicked him out as secretary general of the party (for wanting to negotiate a government like the one he has finally set up) they had even found him with a group of his supporters behind a curtain… with a ballot box. I found that hard to believe. And I still find it hard, but less so. Sad.
In this old country, which is mine, we are all taught that one is worth as much as one’s word is worth. No more, no less. In that old Spain, which is still here, very much alive, because we are all getting older, the word of the President of our government has not been worth much for a long time now…
It is true, on the other hand, that he seems to be following the current of the times: the British Prime Minister, the Australian Prime Minister and the former President of the United States seem to be players in the same league. One with people who are perfectly dispensable as far as history goes.
However much they may boast.