Galapagar*? … We Have A Problem

The agreement on the minimum wage and the relative success of the trip to Catalonia encourages the new governmentSpain's president Pedro Sánchez and Vice president Pablo Iglesias

A.J.A. | It is a common misunderstanding, typical of young people, to think that the greatness of democracy lies in the fact that we can choose who governs us. No. Its greatness lies in the fact that it gives us the chance to boot out the incompetent Government that has governed us for the last four years. Be it a PP Government, be it a PSOE Government. That’s what people in Venezuela, Cuba, or in China can’t do.

The problem gets worse when there are people, and there are many, that prefer a bad Government from the party they support to a good Government from the party they don’t. There are those who go as far as to refuse to admit that a political party they do not support can ever do anything right. It would be a sort of metaphysical impossibility. Only the ones they support can do a good job. With such ideological blinkers, you end up losing your way. And as Seneca said, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable. “

Spain began to lose its way when the then general secretary of the PSOE – full of willingness to negotiate- made a pact to prevent his coalition partners from reaching any understanding with the opposition party, the PP. When did Perú go to the dogs? Vargas Llosa used to ask. I don’t know, but that day Spain began to go to the dogs. Because the discourse of the Right and the Left, which had been so hard to overcome, started to come to the fore again. And since that day, it has been getting worse. The political calculation was clear: in a country where the majority are centre left, if voters are divided into two irreconcilable groups, the left would be in power for ever.

The problem is that those of us who, in 2004, voted for Zapatero – because those that had ignored our clear mandate that Spain shouldn’t back that war had to be booted out of power – couldn’t vote for him again in 2008, given that he was a dangerous sectarian politician who went as far as to deny the looming crisis threatening us: “Zapatero guarantees that this crisis will not affect us.” was a headline from the always so sharp El País.

After having lost his way is such a spectacular way, and after starting cuts in Health, Education…(which today are blamed exclusively on Rajoy’s Government, because you can only cut back on what you spend) the PSOE was booted out of power and the PP won the general election. With an absolute majority. Rajoy – ugly, without charisma…- took charge of a country that was going to the dogs and turned it around, therefore, although with difficulty, he returned to power in the following general election. And he managed to have the budget approved, a budget still in force today.

Until the darling of the selective Ibex 35 index (the money they have poured into Ciudadanos / Citizens) decided that the corruption devastating the PP was unbearable, unlike that of the PSOE, which was perfectly bearable- and put an end to Rajoy’s term of office. Sánchez took him at his word, mounted a vote of no confidence and here we are. The PSOE, with its worst electoral result in history, formed a provisional Government, with the support of Podemos, the Catalan independent parties, Bildu… from outside Government. And as he didn’t do anything for months, neither good nor bad, Spain got used to seeing him in the news, looking so presidential. We have to admit, credit where it is due, that for the first time a Spanish President can speak English. A step forward.

The problem is that now it would be good if he could do something else apart from speaking English and appearing on the news. And with regard to that, this man is like a fish out of the water. Because apart from raising his hand to vote first in Cajamadrid as a board member between 2004 and 2009, and later in Parliament as a member of the socialist party- he has never managed anything apart from his own personal political ambition. And it shows.

That the current Government has lost its way is clear. When you can hear the President of the Government going on and on for hours and end up saying, literally, “I don’t go into political matters.” You come to the conclusion that either the person in charge of the teleprompter is a member of the PP, or that this man has lost it.

About the current Government’s incompetence, enough has been said, only its hard-core supporters can say something good about how the Government is managing things and the barrage of nonsense that it tells us every day. Because they don’t stop speaking. The narrative is all they are concerned about. The serious problem is that their ill-begotten ideas appear on the news and in the BOE. But Spain can endure this, and more.

And, in the face of Sánchez’s incompetence, the leader of Unidas Podemos (United We Can) wants to be the country’s true saviour (and as there is power in unity, he manages to get his wife a post as a cabinet minister. With Sánchez’s acquiescence. It’s difficult to understand). Unlike Sánchez, Iglesias is an expert at communication, always in command of the narrative. It’s not just his ability to deal with contradictions. He is a contradiction himself. But his spiteful comments and his verbal diarrhoea got him 3,1 million votes.

So from his post as vice president, Iglesias keeps setting the Government’s agenda and with a firm hand. Let’s recapitulate: At the end of January, on the 23rd , when his Secretary of State, Ione Belarra, took up her post, he explained that they were to launch a quality accreditation programme for care homes for the elderly so as to avoid the kind of degrading situations that had happened recently. “It is unacceptable that there should be old people that are not receiving what they have earned with such great effort,” said Iglesias on January 23. And just two months later they had already got it. Iglesias has conquered heaven and he has sent many of them there. May they rest in peace.

Anyway, the true Spanish drama is that at the last general election, we couldn’t decide whether or not to vote for the person who had governed us for the last six years… because they had got rid of him. And we had four candidates to choose from, all very handsome, all with a silver tongue… and all absolutely useless. Because some of the prerequisites to get good electoral results like: – being atractive, having a silver tongue… are of hardly any use when you have to govern, which is what has to be done now.

And that’s the real drama, the members of Parliament don’t owe their seats to the Spanish people who voted for them, but to the general secretaries of the different parties who decide their places on electoral lists. That power turns leaders into some kind of autocrats. And therefore anyone that has something interesting to do in life or who lacks incredible ambition stays away from politics.

Now the right wing parties want Iglesias out of the Government if they are to strike a pact with the PSOE. They say, and with good reason, that the Moncloa pacts were proposed by the political centre parties and after some notable achievements on the part of the Government, which is not the case now. It would be a serious mistake to throw Iglesias out of Government. The day will come when we will be able to vote and decide who is in Government. For now, Iglesias is better inside than outside, wearing a face mask which we have not seen him wearing yet, and explaining what exactly is that quality accreditation programme for care homes for the elderly in which he apparently has been working for months.

*Galapagar is the town where Iglesias, second vice president of the Government, and his wife, a cabinet minister, live.

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The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.