It's an unusual step to release an electoral programme in the midst of a long holiday weekend, I personally can't remember any similar precedent. But that's what the Partido Popular has just done in Spain. Anybody would think that they don't want people to pay too much attention to their proposals, and they would of course be absolutely right to think that. The timing, and the absence of any detailed substance in the programme, says a lot about the PP's determination not to reveal what they will really do until after the election on November 20th.
This doesn't mean that we can't draw any conclusions about the PP's policies. What you see if you piece everything together is the hazy silhouette of precisely the kind of failed economic policies that currently have us lurching from one catastrophic financial crisis to another. With a particularly Spanish nod in the direction of the construction industry. A combination of tax cuts for those who least need them, privatization gifts for the same beneficiaries, combined with even less employment rights and harsh austerity for those who are already bearing the brunt of the crisis.
The idea that the PP propagates, that they can reduce taxes at the same time as hitting the targets on deficit reduction is nothing more than a massive con-trick. The PP has already defined their get-out clause on this mathematical impossibility, everything is subject to the state of the accounts that they inherit; as if they really don't know what that situation is at the moment. What I predict we will see if they get elected is a now familiar recipe of tax redistribution, those that have the most will pay less and regressive indirect taxes will be significantly increased to pay for this. The only people in Spain who really pay taxes at a rate equivalent to other major European economies are those on salaries. The PP's strategy will increase their burden whilst reducing what they get in return.
Of course one way to substantially reduce the deficit without slashing public services would be to crack down on tax fraud and corruption. Neither issue gets a single mention in the PP's programme, we're back to the days where not talking about something means it doesn't exist. So how about changing the direction of the economy, and attempting to catch the already departing train of new, internet based, technology? No, no need for that apparently in the low rights, low wage economy they're preparing for us.
The PP provoked some amusement last week when they presented their Madrid candidates against a background of Madrid's now notorious smog. It's not really that funny, the city has yet again gone way over the limits on permitted annual air pollution and didn't even bother to present the paperwork for their proposed moratorium on doing something about it. They obviously believe a change of government will relieve them of the need to do anything at all to improve the air we breathe.
In charge (if we can call it that) of Madrid's environment is Ana Botella, whose husband used to be big in the Spanish government. I mention this because the inclusion of the current mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, in the PP's lists for Madrid makes it quite likely that the incompetent Botella will soon be in charge of the city; toxic particles and all. Gallardón has played a good hand, for himself if not for those of us who live in the city. By making Botella his likely successor, he increased his chances of becoming a minister in a government led by Mariano Rajoy. Having the support of the Aznar family business can do him no harm inside the party.
Someone else who would like to be a big hitting minister, if we believe leaks from within her circle, is Esperanza Aguirre. Rumour has it she would like to be foreign minister. The South of Watford Institute for Political Studies reckons she is more likely to be offered an ambassadorship to a remote Pacific island nation, or one of the poorest former Soviet republics. If Rajoy wins with a big majority Aguirre faces a dramatic loss of power in the PP. This was already illustrated by her absolute lack of influence over the PP lists in Madrid. There is already much talk of this being her last legislature as president of Madrid, and it's quite possible that she will end up with plenty of time to practice her swing on what may come to be seen as her only significant legacy; the numerous golf courses spread around the region as part of the construction bubble. That's if poor visibility doesn't prevent play.