25-05-2020Bibi

Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Ciudadanos, is married to Xavier Cima. A loving union, it is in one regard an unusual union. Xavier quit frontline politics at the time when his party, Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya, was dissolved. This, in 2016, was when he and Inés married.

The CDC used to be the big cheese of Catalonia politics, the product of Jordi Pujol's ambitions for a Catalan nationalist party with independence tendencies. These are ambitions that Inés and the Cs reject, the founding of the Cs in 2006 having owed a great deal to this rejection. Despite this, and proving the principle of opposites attracting (political opposites, that is), Inés and Xavi said 'yes, I will' four years ago. On Thursday, she gave birth to their first child, a boy named Álex.

Symbolically, the boy might have been named Pedro. For in her arms, Inés now held the immediate future of the Spanish government. Absent, for obvious reasons, from the recriminatory state of alarm extension debate, Inés was nevertheless fully apprised of the union - unions - that enabled Pedro Sánchez to secure the extension; she and Sánchez had, after all, struck an agreement. Xavi, who was probably keeping mum (so to speak) in not wishing to add stress to the occasion of the imminent arrival, would doubtless have been recalling his CDC birthright, which - via unions of its own - ended up as JxCat, Junts per Catalunya, the leader of which is a well-known former president of Catalonia who is currently in exile in Belgium, Carles Puigdemont.

JxCat was one of the parties which said no to the extension. Its spokesperson, Laura Borràs, spoke in Congress of the confusion generated by the government's "marketing", describing the Sánchez notion of "co-governance" with regional governments as a "full-blown oxymoron", given that Madrid intended to maintain single command - centralised powers, therefore. Borràs flatly rejected the pact between Sánchez and Inés. For JxCat, the Cs are a dark force in Catalonia, the region of the party's birth. Xavi would have had his fingers in his ears - "I can't hear you, I can't hear you" - pretending that none of this was actually going on in Congress.

For the Spanish people, regularly praised to the hilt by the prime minister for their efforts over the past few weeks, the debate and the subsequent vote was about issues fundamental to the state of alarm, such as the restoration of freedom of movement. But the debate and the vote had almost ceased to be about the state of alarm. It was all about horse-trading in order to secure an extension, but there was what will have to follow in a post-Covid political environment. And the omens were far from rosy.

The Partido Popular, cast alongside Vox as libertarian chancers, were adamant in insisting that the state of alarm ceases. At the moment of the happy event for the happy Cs-CDC couple, the PP chose to let Inés know that she had been naive in agreeing a pact with Sánchez. Immediately the pact was made, he went behind the backs of the Cs and came up with something on labour reform with EH Bildu, "the inheritors of ETA", as one-time PP prime minister José María Aznar was to note.

For the PP, the pact on labour reform will bring forth the wrath of Brussels and threaten aid to Spain, but the government then seemed to moderate what this reform will actually entail. Moderated or not, Sánchez had sought and found support from a Basque party with far greater independence demands than the PNV Basque Nationalist Party which had given direct support to the state of alarm extension by voting for it rather than abstaining (which was the agreement with EH Bildu).

So, Sánchez was striking deals that appeared to be politically contradictory, not least to the ERC Esquerra Republicana Catalunya, who had facilitated the investiture of Sánchez and now observed him choosing the Cs as a partner and not them. For the ERC, the Cs aren't just the dark force that JxCat perceive - they are the devil's work. The new born might have been called Damien; the omens certainly weren't rosy.

Or was the baby the product of the "Frankenstein government"? This is how it has been described - an entity cobbled together from disparate elements in forming a Heath Robinson contraption of government with misfiring parts and lack of utility.

The desperate negotiations to secure the extension were symptomatic of a government with built-in weakness and which going forward faces the monumental challenge of reconstruction. But with various parties having had noses put out of joint, one has to wonder if the government will be in any fit condition to do so. There was once a time when Sánchez and the Cs could have come to an agreement for coalition, at a time before the Cs so spectacularly imploded and managed the seemingly impossible of losing 47 out of 57 Congress seats. There wouldn't have been the weakness there now is, as there could have been a small majority. But Sánchez held off and ended up with the Frankenstein together with Podemos and minor parties holding the thing together. He has now needed to turn to the Cs while, in the view of the PP, turning his back on them.

Inés and Xavi were probably right not to have called the baby Pedro.

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