Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Aguirregate....The Damage Limitation Begins

Esperanza Aguirre has got what she wanted, the suspension of the internal Partido Popular enquiry into the allegations of political espionage organised from within her administration in Madrid. In return she has had to concede to a commission of investigation, something which sounds far more threatening to her position than it will actually be. The party responsible for the espionage will control the commission and you can almost guarantee that the conclusions will focus on anything and everything except the activities of those under Aguirre's control. It's worth remembering the last occasion when the Comunidad de Madrid set up such a body. The commission investigating the murky and still unclarified events leading to Aguirre's assumption of power in Madrid came to the unsurprising conclusion that there was nothing at all that needed investigating. That commission was presided over by Francisco Granados, the man at the heart of the current espionage scandal. Granados was not an important figure in the Madrid PP until he performed that role, ensuring the non-investigation of the "Tamayazo" smoothed the way for him to become one of the key figures in La Lideresa's government.

One of Aguirre's great political failings is that she is seemingly indifferent to the collateral damage her political battles cause, a factor that accounts for her increasing unpopularity with other sections of her own party. The local PP in Galicia and the Basque Country are watching in despair less than a month before the elections in these regions. Not only is the infighting in Madrid completely overshadowing their campaigns, the evidence of the opinion polls also shows a party that is failing to capitalise on the difficulties facing the government. PP leader Mariano Rajoy knows that a poor result in the upcoming elections could damage him - perhaps even lose him his job - and so he also has a keen interest in not permitting Aguirregate to continue to grab the headlines. The PP's own investigation could have been used to hurt Aguirre and she knew it; that's why her media allies have been so busy attempting to implicate the national party in the affair.

The attempts by Aguirre to fight back have had another undesirable (from her point of view) side effect. By trying to claim that her vice president Ignacio Gonzalez is the only genuine victim of the spying, the Aguirre supporters have inadvertently managed to focus too much attention on Gonzalez. Someone, quite possibly in the national PP, has found it necessary at some point to commission a very extensive report on the activities of Gonzalez, and specifically on the use of his powerful position to favour friends and family. The account of just how far this process has gone in Madrid is really worth reading. It's no wonder that they want to privatize the Canal Isabel II water company, having placed so many of their nearest and dearest in key positions it's not hard to imagine who would be the main beneficiaries of the process. Aguirre, Gonzalez and Granados have all emerged damaged by the fallout, agreement to a bogus investigation is their only escape route after the failure of their initial response when they tried to pretend it was all a setup by El País. Over at that newspaper they are still waiting for the Madrid PP to act on their threats of legal action.

Will this be the end of it? Not quite, in the first place because this whole affair has only been a single battle in a larger underlying war. The scars it leaves behind ensure that the next battle may be all the more bitter. Given all the information that has floated to the surface of a very mucky pond in the last few weeks, there is enough material to keep a diligent prosecutor busy for quite a while. The only doubt is whether the case ever reaches the hands of such a person. Perhaps the commission of investigation will be shown live on Telemadrid, as its predecessor was - it boosted the dismal viewing figures of that channel by quite a margin. However, that was in the days before Telemadrid underwent the process of Aguirrefication.


Tom said...

Your point re: the internal investigation being suspended. Is it right to say, then, that because the PP will now be 'on the defensive' to avoid opposition parties gaining any ammunition against them, Aguirre really does gain from this external commission being formed? And did she actually manoeuvre to make this happen?

Graeme said...

All the signs are that it was a deal between Aguirre and the PP national leadership - she announced the commission and a few hours later the PP announced they were suspending their own investigation. She's already informed the world that no political responsibilities will emerge from her commission's work, so it starts with the result already decided. It will be interesting to see whether the opposition parties agree to participate.