The pressure finally told. Ever since it was formally announced a few days ago that Francisco Camps would definitely face a trial for having accepted gifts of expensive clothing from the companies involved in the Gürtel corruption case, the Valencian president had almost completely disappeared from view; all official engagements were cancelled. Then, following what seems to have been some very intense behind the scenes negotiations with the national Partido Popular, he suddenly announced his resignation yesterday afternoon.
On his way out of the Valencian presidency Camps has created an even bigger judicial mess than that which existed before his resignation. The plan for yesterday, as pacted with the national PP, was that all four of the accused in the case were to submit a document admitting their guilt with the aim of avoiding completely an embarrassing trial. Camps and the others would pay their fines and that would be the end of this part of the story, even though it would have left Valencia with a president convicted for corruption. All the signs were that the national party would not force Camps out even if he was found guilty.
It was probably the doubt about whether he could really accept the rap and still remain as president that forced Camps to change his mind after a day of uncertainty. All a bit sad for two of the other accused who had already turned up to the courts to sign their admission of guilt. The only way of avoiding a trial altogether was for all four of the accused to do this, but with Camps still refusing to take that step there will now have to be a trial. Those who have now formally accepted their guilt will find it hard, if not legally impossible, to retract. The two, Camps and Ricardo Costa, that still formally refuse to accept the accusation against them are now tainted by those that have.
The man who had really taken the full measure of Camps was Costa, previously well known for having resigned but not really from his position in the Valencian PP. Costa refused to sign the admission of guilt until after Camps had done so, demonstrating in the process just what levels of confidence the people who really know Camps have when it comes to trusting his word. Costa had in any case been the most unwilling to sign up to the supposed deal, apparently seeking assurances from the PP that his sacrifice would be compensated and he would not be left out in the cold if he did so.
Finally Camps has had to face harsh realities that he thought for so long he could just wish away. The truth is he almost got away with it, only the Supreme Court ordering the Valencian courts to carry out a proper investigation after the initial acquittal has forced the situation that we now have. We know that Camps has not told the truth, but he still can't do anything that publicly acknowledges this fact. Last week it was reported that he had changed his defence strategy from claiming that he had paid himself for the clothes to admitting accepting the gifts but with the excuse that he was wearing the hat of leader of the Valencian PP at the time, rather than that of regional president. Leaving aside the bizarre distinction between his different roles when presents are being handed out, he can't simultaneously try to sustain both versions.
The national PP has done little so far to force Camps to act. The problem has been there for two years but that is a short time for someone like Mariano Rajoy. The PP's leader could simply have refused to accept Camps as a candidate in the May elections, but instead the two men stood side by side in a grotesque end of campaign rally in Valencia. In the end it has been the prospect of a trial coming either before or even in the midst of an autumn national election campaign that has forced the national PP to put pressure on Camps. It's worth remembering that this is the small part of Gürtel in Valencia, the real meat comes in that part of the case dealing with serious accusations of illegal financing of the PP in the region. Then there are the other corruption cases affecting the Valencian PP. Mr Camps and his fine clothes are in some ways just a headline grabbing sideshow.
Rajoy supporters claim yesterdays events as vindicating his do nothing style of dealing with problems, letting people be dragged down by the force of circumstances rather than acting directly against them. Many are starting to wonder whether Rajoy's way of dealing with the internal problems in the PP is also going to be his way of dealing with important questions of government. The signs are that it will be, try asking any Rajoy supporter for a list of the man's achievements in the eight years he spent in senior positions in Aznar's administration. The man who leaves no footprints has just dozed his way through another crisis.