Now that the Supreme Court has returned the case concerning Gürtel and Francisco Camps to the Valencian courts, it has become clear just what a gift to the Valencian president was the decision by the local courts to shelve the case last year. The Supreme Court ruling does not make it certain that Camps will stand trial for the gifts he received from the Gürtel companies, but it makes it quite likely. At the same time it puts the political future of one of the Partido Popular's main regional barons in doubt.
Some things have of course changed since judge Juan Luis de la Rúa came to the assistance of his friend Mr Camps last August. Despite the claims of many in the PP that this is a trivial case of a few innocent gifts we now know quite a lot more about the close ties between the Valencian administration and the Gürtel companies. The African bull elephant in this particular room is the issue of illegal financing of the PP, and a report prepared by Hacienda suggests that the party could have hidden around 2.5 million euros of income. None of this affects directly the case against Camps, because the main bulk of the Gürtel case remains in the hands of the investigating magistrate in Madrid.
The PP's defence is already familiar. On the one hand we have Camps continuing to claim that he didn't receive gifts anyway, whilst his closest associates suggest that even if he did there is no problem as no one would sell himself for a few suits! This gets mixed in with the "they're all out to get us" conspiracy theory which tries to present the party as an innocent victim of the corruption case. However, the decision by the Supreme Court leaves it clear that the judges do not believe the version of events offered by Camps. When the judge in Madrid recently asked for details of all those involved in awarding contracts to the Gürtel companies, the PP's legal machine went into overdrive to try and stop this from happening.
Camps organised today a homage to himself, but attention already focuses on the absentees from this event. Party leader Mariano Rajoy seems to be so keen to avoid being seen with Camps at the moment that he took what I at least consider to be the extreme measure of going to eat snails in Lleida! There are many voices inside the PP who now question whether he can continue as Valencian president and bets are already being taken on who his successor might be. Not that he doesn't have any friends at all. One of the Basque PP's hardliners, Carlos Iturgaiz, described those criticising Camps as "Bolshevik hyenas". Which tells us all we need to know about his ideological roots.
Before the Supreme Court reached their decision there was optimism in the PP that Camps might get away with it, and Rajoy said at one point that he would still be the PP candidate in Valencia regardless of what the justice system had to say. Yes, this is the same party that lectures the rest of us on respect for judicial decisions. At least so far there is no sign of the case having any impact on the PP's electoral support in Valencia, but it will be harder to pretend that everything is going fine for the leader if he has to go on trial. Despite the evident danger to his position, Camps still remains trapped in his own little world of "Estoy tan feliz, todo es muy bonito".