Zinedine Zidane has stepped down as the coach of Real Madrid. I mention that first and foremost because I like to reflect on the past news to help me make sense of the current news. For example, to understand how a “Frankenstein government” (as Pedro Sánchez has been termed by you-know-who) has now taken office in Spain, it might help to read all previous 19 installments of this blog. The answer is very simple: Frankenstein is better than Francoist. I mean, here’s some of the other week’s news to help put the Friday vote of no confidence in perspective:
Following on from the Gürtel corruption verdicts, the wife of former PP treasurer, Luis Bárcenas (himself jailed for 33 years) managed to suddenly come up with the €200k bail finance to avoid going to prison herself – er, apparently because she has a 29 year old son at home (but who seems perfectly healthy, as far as I know). I’m not sure if this has anything to do with reports that Bárcenas has 14 briefcases of ‘explosive’ recordings to avenge his wife’s possible imprisonment … but it stinks, if you ask me. It stinks even more when you bear in mind that some of the Catalan politicians held in pre-trial detention for over 7 months now, 600km from home, without bail, and on trumped-up charges of ‘rebellion’, have very young children, including one who is under a year old, and also 3, 5 and 8 year olds. Don’t forget that. Never forget it.
Originally charged with terrorism, and also locked away for 500 days without trial, the youths of the Altsasu ‘bar brawl’ have now been convicted of ‘just’ public order offences – but their sentences still range from 9, 12 and 13 years in prison. The fight involved off-duty Civil Guard officers.
What else? People continued to place some yellow towels on beaches, because yellow crosses have been banned. Little Enric Millo, the (previous – how great to now write ‘previous’!) Spanish government’s delegate in Catalonia (the man who claimed that ‘everyone around the world can see that Spain has a consolidated democracy’) complained that Quim Torra, the new Catalan president, doesn’t answer his calls and turns his back when he tries to greet him. Enric, hombre, seriously, can you blame him?
Spain’s (previous!) Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, stated that Antonio González Pacheco, also known as the sadistic torturer ‘Billy el niño’, would be keeping a medal awarded to him over 40 years ago. Pacheco was a Madrid police inspector during the Franco era charged with multiple counts of torture and sought for extradition by an Argentine judge since 2014. He’s keeping his medal …
It emerged that the department of Spain’s (previous!) Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, was offering €12,000 to any foreign correspondent who could write the most positive things about Spain. You see, they don’t want us to write about innocent Catalan citizens being beaten up for voting, or rappers jailed, or yellow T-shirts being taken off you before football matches, or government bribery and corruption, or censoring art exhibitions, or banning yellow ribbons, or maintaining Franco’s mausoleum and the ‘honorary’ title of duchy of Franco, or being charged for insulting God or the Virgin Mary, or any other attacks on freedom of speech. My friend, Graham Keeley, The Times correspondent in Spain, wrote a light piece for the newspaper’s ‘Thunderer’ column, under the title ‘Spain won’t improve its image by giving journalists money’. He concluded: ‘If the Spanish government wants to improve its image, it would be best employed explaining its actions in Catalonia.’ Needless to say, I won’t be receiving the €12k, either. I get criticised for never writing anything positive about Spain in this blog, but I hope to rectify that soon. In the meantime, Mr.Dastis, I highly recommend this ‘love letter’ of mine to Madrid: ‘A Load of Bull’ – and you might even laugh out loud a few times.
So, the big news was that yesterday, Pedro Sánchez, 46, leader of the Socialist PSOE party, was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Spain, in front of Felipe VI at the Zarzuela palace, promising to fulfil the obligations of the Spanish Constitution in a short ceremony, yet without using a Bible or a crucifix (as if that last bit really matters, but it did cause a bit of consternation amongst some of the right-wing PP press). On the same day, and approximately the same hour, a new Catalan government was officially formed, led by Quim Torra, and Article 155 was finally removed, ending the suspension of home rule after 219 days, or nearly 8 months. As for Rajoy, he was packing his bags (or shredding documents and filling up bin bags). You couldn’t really make it up, could you?
Just look at all the odds. Never before has a no confidence motion succeeded in Spain (only last year Rajoy survived a motion of no confidence led by Podemos). Not so long ago, Pedro Sánchez was a finished politician. He’d been ousted as the leader of his own party, and had abandoned his seat in parliament, all thanks to political backstabbing back in October 2016 – and he then made a comeback by appealing to the PSOE grassroots groups. Last year, he was unexpectedly re-elected to lead the party, yet only a few weeks ago they were still trailing at around 20% of the vote in the polls – and some people were even questioning the relevance of his party (me included). Never before has a non-MP become the Prime Minister, and never before has the PM been someone who has previously lost an election. How on earth did he become Prime Minister of Spain?
Well … I personally can’t believe Rajoy lasted so long. If you’ve been following this blog since the very first ‘inept’ entry about him, you might understand why. I think he was utterly incompetent, and he failed, he failed miserably, despite being a so-called ‘politician’ – to ever really do politics. He used the courts and his police forces instead! Not only that, but his party is clearly stained with corruption, with most of its heirarchy still entrenched in Franco’s past. Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciudadanos (the one who doesn’t see blues or reds, etc, he only sees Spaniards) accused Sánchez of taking office ‘through the back door’, without first getting elected, and forming a ‘Frankenstein government’, reliant on far-left politicians and regional nationalist parties that want to break up Spain. Rivera called it a ‘terrible day for Spain’. But, no, Albert, it’s not. I have criticised Pedro Sánchez in recent weeks, for wanting to change the definition of ‘rebellion’, for example – and for calling Quim Torra a racist and supremacist. But right now, and with the PSOE backed up by Podemos (with whom I wish they would formalise a true coalition), I actually think it’s the best thing that could have happened to Spain. Pedro Sánchez is not going to have an easy run at all, but he has become the Prime Minister of Spain because the alternative was an utter failure and damaging the image of Spain. Whether you like it or not, the alternative was, and still is, ‘Francoist’. And whilst that is still simmering away, I believe Spain is far better off with Frankenstein.