Monday, November 02, 2009

Ready For Rajoy's Super Tuesday?

Last year it always seemed to be Monday that was the worst day of the week for Mariano Rajoy, as it is for many of us. In Mariano's case it was because that was the day chosen by his enemies inside the Partido Popular to complicate his bid to stay as leader of the party. Well last week he must have felt that every day was Monday, so bad did things get that even Rajoy himself finally had to protest and...this was a novelty...take decisions!

It was bad enough with the bitter battle taking place within the PP in Madrid over control of Caja Madrid, a conflict that reached its peak with the (kamikaze?) interview that Manuel Cobo gave to El País, in which too much about Esperanza Aguirre's leadership style was revealed for anyone's liking. Then Valencia struck back in a bid to steal the limelight. Ricardo Costa had resigned as secretary general of the PP in that region as a result of the revelations from the Gürtel case, at least that was what the national party claimed. The problem was that he carried on doing the job and the press reported it. Even that might not have disturbed Rajoy's siesta if it hadn't been for the fact that Costa felt the need to draw attention to his defiance. At that point the national leadership finally decided they had to do something, and Costa was promptly suspended from the party.

Meanwhile Aguirre, despite having effectively lost the battle to place her man in charge of Caja Madrid, was still mobilising her forces and preparing to surround the Ayuntamiento of Madrid until she got someone's head on a spike. By now there was hardly a senior PP figure who wasn't out there somewhere with their diagnosis of what was wrong with the party. José Maria Aznar couldn't be left out and launched a thinly disguised attack on Rajoy's leadership. Proving just how little shame he has, he even called on politicians to act over corruption. Given that the guest list from his daughter's wedding now reads like a Who's Who of the Gürtel case you would think that a bit of discretion might be advisable.

We even got the opinions of Manuel Pizarro, who if you remember was the PP's economics superstar in the last election...for about 30 minutes. Pizarro treated us to a parable of a shepherd unable to lead his flock without the help of a trusty sheepdog to keep order. He finished by claiming that Rodrigo Rato would make an excellent president of Caja Madrid, and an excellent head of the government! Woken up just before the removal men arrived to carry him away, Rajoy invoked the spirit of Job and declared that his patience was at an end. What's more, he set a deadline to put an end to the PP's crisis and that deadline expires today.

It's been a busy weekend, Valencian leader Francisco Camps had what was said to have been a very tense conversation with Mariano about Costa, and today he finally announced a successor for Costa's job. Camps gives the impression of living in a parallel universe where everything is "muy bonito". Knives are being sharpened around him but he seems completely unaware of how his situation is deteriorating. In Madrid Espe sent out Ignacio Gonzalez to confirm her defeat, as Gonzalez gave way to Rato in Caja Madrid. Here is the man who is probably the big winner in all of this, not only does he get another nice little earner but he emerges untouched by all the infighting surrounding his appointment.

Today we will get Rajoy's speech to the national executive, now that he has ensured a temporary ceasefire. Stand by for the internal party code of conduct on corruption! This will presumably be followed by the family photograph where everyone will gather as near to each other as they can bear to stand, the weapons having been checked in at the door. On Wednesday we will find out whether Aguirre gets a consolation prize as Manuel Cobo appears before the PP's disciplinary committee charged with telling the truth. The PP has a lead of 3% over the government in the opinion poll published today, but with data gathered before the latest crisis; a lead that is due more to a decline in support for the PSOE than any significant rise for the PP. It will take a day or two before someone in the party unfavourably compares Rajoy's advantage with that enjoyed by the Tories in Britain, then they can all get back to fighting each other again.

34 comments:

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi Graeme,

Well, you missed a lot of the Valencia chapter, but I guess that you are really happy to have arrived back on time for the next one on Madrid.

Whatever you will write about Espe within the next few hours, I have to say that, to me, she comes across as very brave. Or is there support in the background of which we simple people do not know?

//Erik

ejh said...

"Brave"? Shouldn't that epithet be reserved for brave people?

Graeme said...

Brave indeed. I don't know what they put in that desalinated water that you all drink down on the Mediterranean these days Erik, but it must be good stuff. "Brave" now becomes the short form of swaggering, petulant, aggressive bully. If I didn't know better I'd swear you were trying to wind me up.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi Graeme,

Oh, of course I wanted to provoke you. I'll have to be more careful to put out ;-) smileys in the future.

Having said that, please, help me with a new post on what is going on. What I see in media is one single person - a woman in a conservative party! - who obviously refuses to follow instructions from her party leader and jokes (?) about it by saying that she does not want to make comments in public not wearing high heels. Sorry, I am an average boring Swede, and need help to interpret the message I receive.

//Erik

Graeme said...

I'll see what I can do about the additional post Erik, but I'm not making any promises - you know that its not something I like to write about.

Erik Wirdheim said...

Hi Graeme,

Thanks! I guess that I'm not the only expat in Spain looking to your blog to understand the PP better. I certainly wouldn't want to push you and, honestly, thought that you liked to write what you find out about them.

Possibly, you don't even have to write anything new, but just refer back to some of your earlier post.

At face value (or how is it you say?) Rajoy has managed to unite the party, except for Espe and Juan Costa in Valencia, but is that so? Fraga seems to support Rajoy while Aznar seems to keep silent on this issue, or am I wrong? And, as you have already pointed out, in the opinion polls PP is only getting stronger.

The only good thing I can say about what I see is that these are interesting times. Let's see whether the "grass roots" decide that they have had enough of the current political parties. Here in Catalonia there is clearly something going on.

//Erik

Ellie said...

Holy crap. I'm trying to pay more attention to Spanish politics and this just sounds like a soap opera! Calle Coronation, here I come!

ejh said...

I am, incidentally, hearing interesting things (I work in schools) about how Esperanza's education policy works. It does not involve making life comfortable for people who don't want to come under her control, you'll be amazed to hear.

Andrew said...

Erik, Graeme does state he comes from left field. No neo marxist or neo con, for that matter will understand a LIBERAL in the old fashion sense.
Aguirre came from the Union Liberal party, she will never lead the PP because of her libertarian streak.

Spain is run in a corparatist manner. If the State were less involved there would be less corruption and more real freedom.

Rajoy will lead the PP into the next election and be faced by ZP and Spain's economic decline will continue along with some other European countries I might mention.

Graeme said...

@Erik

I think any unity in the PP is just an illusion, what the last few weeks have shown is just how little control he has over the party - which still doesn't mean he won't survive as candidate. One effect of all the corruption and infighting is to leave him with fewer credible rivals.

@Ellie

I think this one could outlast Corrie, it's got an even more outlandish plot.

@ejh

I won't even try and pretend to be surprised by that news.

@Andrew

I'm aware of Aguirre's background but don't you think its useful to check out the chasm between what she says and what she does? That's what Manuel Cobo explained very nicely from within her own party. There is absolutely nothing about Aguirre's political practice that conjures up the word libertarian. It's revealing how easily the so called liberales in Spain still find their natural home together with the most reactionary Catholic circles. As for economic decline, I think you'll find that some of those countries which have followed the free market dream are leading the fall.

ejh said...

There's also a limit to how liberal you can be and still try to get your critics thrown out of your party for speaking against you.

A lot of "liberal" people are very much in favour of a hands-off approach to their property and power, and a little less so when it's their own hands involved.

Andrew said...

I don't get Esp as a reactionary catholic. She is a politician and may have some unpleasant bed fellows.
I live not far from Algarrobico and have seen what so called socialist ayuntamiento and juntas can do and get away with. Not far from El Ejido too and the PA's racist major.

I just think the PP needs people like Esp to get them to be more positive. Like one of your other correspondents I dream of a middle way - I once joined David Owens lot in the UK!!!

ps great blog - keep it going

Graeme said...

@Andrew

The problem is I don't think Espe goes along with your idea of the "middle way". As for her libertarian positions, there she was just the other week holding hands with the faithful on the anti-abortion march.

@ejh

I saw a really good example of her liberalism with other people's money just after I wrote my last Gürtel piece. Apparently she was proud of not having contracted the Gürtel companies for PP events in Madrid. Because they were corrupt? No, because they were too expensive. A factor that didn't seem to be so significant when it came to her administration in Madrid awarding over 300 contracts to the same people.

moscow said...

Graeme,

I think Andrew has got a point. I think El Mundo and Aguirre are liberal both in the economic and social sense - please don't vomit on the keyboard. Aguirre's views on prostitution, gays and so on, indicate she is not a conservative catholic fundamentalist like some (many) in her party. But she is cautious expressing those views... one must sometimes read between the lines. And when she expresses views more in tune with the PP's more conservative line, it sounds sort of phony, as if she is just trying to go along with some of her allies' credo - and need she does allies within the party.

I support her bold moves on the economic front - shop opening hours, her drive to reduce read tape - but I don't expect you, Graeme, to like them. Understandably, given your views you would be entitled to a fiplant remark or two in response. What I don't like about El Mundo (well it is PJR for you) and Aguirre is their machiavellian methods...the sort of anything goes approach to politics...but perhaps it is just that they are more in-your-face than some of the more weasely elements in spanish politics. I wonder, is she more Thatcher than Berlusconi? Or is it the other way round?

Graeme said...

I come back to my previous point Moscow, let's look at what they do rather than what they say. Another example, any true economic liberal would argue that radio and television licences - if they exist at all - should go only to the highest bidder. What happens in Madrid? Aguirre gives and her equally "liberal" allies at Libertad Digital and El Mundo happily accept whilst of course preaching that the rest of the world should act differently.

As for the social issues, most of the PP leadership avoided the anti-abortion march....not Espe. Gallardón is actually far more liberal on issues such as gay marriage than Aguirre. I read things on sites such as Libertad Digital - purely as a public service you understand - and its noticeable that these liberals always find excuses to make common cause with the most reactionary positions. Many of the former cold war fachas raised under the dictatorship now embrace this rehashed neocon ideological mess - the rhetoric doesn't match the reality.

moscow said...

Graeme,

In the case of the TV that is precisely what I meant when I wrote about her methods. Gallardon would do well in Die Gruenen, there is nobody to his left in the PP. As for the abortion March....don't know...perhaps she had no choice...or maybe Rajoy told her not to go..so just she went. Don't know. But I bet would she ever become PM (just a theoretical scenario) the issue would be swiped away deep under carpet. Which is the same as saying that she is cynical and hypocritical in equal measure. Happy?

Graeme said...

I would add vindictive and authoritarian to the list, then I think we've more or less described her.

ejh said...

What you tend to find with economic and social liberals is that the economic liberalism tends to trump the social liberalism : it's much more important to them. This is partly out of personal interest - we're basically talking about people from well-off backgrounds who have a large dislike of trades unions and welfare, neither of which they need nor understand - but partly because that set of people is quite a small minority within society, and so they can't get their way on economic policy without making allies on the Right who do not share their social liberalism.

I spent much of this week in suburban Madrid and you can see where Aguirre gets her supporters from - people who basically want to keep as much of their money as possible and have as little to do with the lower orders as they can. They love her.

Andrew said...

Lets not get confused about social liberalism. What I mean by it is views on personal behaviour such as sexuality, abortion etc. I don't include welfare etc in the same category. Social provision by the State is a mechanism of dealing with poverty, misfortune, inequlity(of opportunity or outcome or ability).
Anyone who has read Vonnegut will recall ballet dancers wearing sandbags so they were more equal with others such as me!
Social liberalism is a philosophy that considers social problems should be tackled but does not necessarily prescribe the mechanisms. Clearly, in many European countries, the States involvement in trying to deal with these social problems is becomong increasingly counterproductive and greater economic liberalism MAY be an answer in some areas.
What I am clear is that PSOE and PP are essentially corporatist in their approach to economic and social problems and I would favour greater liberalism.
Clearly I am no fan of the PP/catholic attitudes on social issues but despair of PSOEs economic policies.

moscow said...

@Andrew,
Which is precisely how I see things. I was using a somewhat loose (incorrect even) definition of social liberalism and what I meant to say is that EA doesn't come across as someone who spends much time in church.

@ejh, don't know why you have to be rich to appreciate longer shop opening hours, less red tape and rational severance conditions. Small business entreprenuers who work from dawn till dusk often without weekends probably also like what Aguirre has to offer (that is with exception of those running small scale monopolies, i.e. chemists, tobacconists and other medieval guilds).

ejh said...

A small business entrepreneur writes: one assumes that "rational" is a euphemism for "much reduced".

God, how tired I am of people whose prescription for everything is more insecurity for poorer people and employees.

Anyone who has read Vonnegut will recall ballet dancers wearing sandbags so they were more equal with others such as me!

Harrison Bergeron was written by a self-described socialist.

Graeme said...

Espe doesn't spend much time in church? I don't know, I'm still waiting for the celebratory Mass she promised us after the Miracle of Mumbai. Perhaps I've missed it. However she does her bit for Rome, a few years ago her brother in law wrote a (not very good) play called Me Cago en Dios which got attacked one night by some Christonazis. Espe's response was to threaten the place which staged the play with a loss of funding.

Then she did her very best to destroy citizenship education in Madrid. Whilst we're on the subject of education it was revealed today that the state schools in the region are going to have to tighten their belt a bit - there is a crisis after all. Strangely, the publicly subsidised but private concertados, many of them run by religious sects, are escaping the effects of the crisis and get a nice fat increase in funding from Aguirre's administration. With policies like that you don't need to go to confession every week. So what do we have on the other side of the balance sheet? We can go shopping in Carrefour or the Corte Inglés on Sunday afternoon. Hallelujah praise the Lord!

moscow said...

@ejh,
That is nothing to how tired I am of people who think changing Spain's absurd labour laws means making people poorer and more insecure. It never stops to amaze me that these very same people never want to discuss the details. I guess it is easier to argue using cheap rethoric.

Andrew said...

Moscow do not despair. I remember the words of Ralf Darendof "The costs of change is great but the benefits are often greater." What we must hope for is a party that will mange change sympathetically.

In the short run changes in restrictive labour laws will cause pain. But Spain needs to take some nasty medicine toavoid long term ill health.


The large numbers of unemployed young people in Spain (and in France and other countries) is a direct result of restrictive labour laws.

Only for so long can people sit in protected jobs making things that people don't want and costing us all whilst those not in the system get short term contracts at best.
One can, of course for a time, create more and more public sector jobs thus enhancing the menace of beaurocracy.

The other alternative is for Spain to leave the euro and devalue which was the traditional way of managing uncompetiveness.

moscow said...

@Andrew,
Amen

moscow said...

@Andrew,
BTW some modest change is already coming. This week parliament aproved the opening up the job hiring market to private ETT's (temporary placement agencies) - against the will of the PSOE. The PP, the PNV and CiU voted together this time. Then there is the Bolkenstein Directive coming up soon....this time with the government's support.
Dahrendorf.....had we more like him in this world....

Graeme said...

It's all quite surreal, we've just emerged from a crisis in the financial system which was only prevented from meltdown by a truly massive injection of public money, and yet the rewriters of history are already busy at work.

So yet again it's "big" government and too much regulation that has caused millions of people to lose their jobs, presumably even in those countries where the labour markets have already been deregulated? So let's have more deregulation, after all if it has worked so very, very well in the financial services industry.

It's easy to see why we're already on the road to the next crisis, and will probably be arriving shortly after the current one is finished; perhaps the cost of the next one will be high enough to finish off our governments. Then when there is no government left at all we'll have to blame crises on the weather, or anything at all but avoiding any questioning of the economic model which takes us to that situation.

We've had the discussion on the labour market before Moscow, and as I'm sure you will remember I had to point out to you that your favoured proposal for a contract will permit employers to effectively treat everyone as temporary workers because of a two year probation period. Maybe you don't see an increase in insecurity there but I see one as big as the Kremlin. Of course they don't present it that way but once again in this thread we are faced with the gulf between words and reality.

ejh said...

You can file all this stuff under "it's true because we want it to be true".

"As for "do not despair" - really, don't be so fucking precious.

moscow said...

Hi Graeme,

I knew you would come at me like a lightening rod (or rather the Khmer Rouge in their final assault on Phnom Penh).

Come on, I don't see myself as a neo-con right-wing conservative. I intensinvely dislike the PP's catholic nationalist wing (the majority apparently). But I agree with Andrew when he says that both the PP and PSOE are 'corporativist" (although this view might be somewhat exaggerated).

I don't want to dwell on the 'two year probation period'. This is a bit of a red herring. And anyway I agree that it is too long. The problem here in 'reality' is that a third of the employees have insecure rubbish short-term contracts while two thirds enjoy the sort of "protection" not granted in any other European country (not even Germany). This sort of situation generates a huge distortion in the labour maket, one which has been critized by a list of experts and organizations around the world so long that it makes the list of pending judicial cases on Berlusconi look short. And it is not just right-wing organizations or parties which say this. This goes pretty much across party lines.

It just happens that it is the PP (unfortunately) which is more in favour of tackling this issue head-on. But this doesn't invalidate the principle. Unless you take the view, that anything the PP ever supports must be inherently bad. If that is your line of argumentation then I have to admit I have no arguments - I am lost for words as it is.

ejh said...

No, the point is that it's not really relevant to the recession. Of course there are critical things that could be said about Spanish employment law. Similarly, there are things that I don't like, as a (very) small businessman, about Spanish bureaucracy. But these things don't have much to do with why the economic crisis happened, or how to prevent it happening again: and to be honest, talking about removing employment protections at a time of mass unemployment requires, shall we say, a little more tact and understanding of how people will be affected than is normally - perhaps ever - forthcoming.

It's the tone I don't like, as if there was this hard-pressed entrepreneurial class which was just desperate to employ as many young people as it could but was being prevented from doing so. Well, bullshit. It's the working class which is suffering most of the redundancies, the poverty and the insecurity, not the Esperanza-supporting classes. And if deregulation is the solution to the problem, you'd have expected to see working people supporting it in great numbers. Yet, oddly, they don't seem to. I wonder why that could be? Could it be because they see that it is supported most enthusiastically by people who are obviously not their friends? And could it be that they can tell that, from the language that is used? Or that the enthusiasts tend to be well-off people who are all in favour of changes that don't affect them?

Andrew said...

For ejh - Yes the current international economic crisis is causing pain and yes Spanish labour laws are not a causal factor. Yes many Governments are having to take short term actions (cash for clinkers, Plan e etc.

BUT it has exposed structural weakness in the Spanish economy such as the over reliance on an unsustainable and destructive(to the environment for instance)construction boom, an inflexibility to change to more sustainable work and an underlying uncompetiveness.

Also small business are hurting because of the crisis but they also suffer from structural problems. How long does it take to set up a company in Spain?

Those of us who have chosen to live here would like the people to have the opportunity to build on those areas that have a long term future. My own experience of Spanish industry is an inventiveness and enthusiasm which can produce wealth for all.

And yes brutal change can be destructive (remember Thatcherism) so it not just a desire for change but also a desire for politicians to manage change with sensitivity.

ejh said...

How long does it take to set up a company in Spain?

Too long, probably, but aren't entrepreneurs supposed to be able to take that sort of thing in their stride, being so dedicated to success, able to take knocks and all?

Talking of the environment - does anybody here know anything about

(a) a company called FIMBAS
(b) the destruction of neolithic remains in a spot called Chaves
(c) the illegal erection of a fenced-off private hunting park in the Sierra de Guara?

All this is about five kilometres from where I live and appears to be a really serious scandal on all sorts of levels.

(I was going to email our host about it, but couldn't find an email address.)

Graeme said...

@ejh

It's the first I've heard about this, although it seems to have quite a few references on the web. You've drawn my attention to the fact that my email address somehow disappeared from my Blogger profile.

ejh said...

I have employed it.