Felipe and the sister thing
It is Christmas Eve 2015. The Spanish nation turns its attention from stuffing the turkey with truffles and from popping the cava. It’s the most anticipated television event of the year. What is he going to say? He is King Felipe, though one might not totally dismiss the possibility that he will by next year be the grandeur-delusional “pequeño Nicolás”. Assuming that the little twerp hasn’t ascended to the throne and that Felipe is delivering the annual Christmas message, he has to deal with the sister thing. The anticipation is therefore immense.
Felipe’s message this Christmas Eve made no direct reference to Cristina, but it was a message notable for its absence of preliminary warm-up of the small-talking variety. It went straight in on corruption. The number one theme. It was a bold and strong message. “We need a profound regeneration of our collective life. And in so doing, the fight against corruption is an essential objective.”
The message needed to be strong. Part of the job description that came with the succession was to be able to handle the sister thing. The old king, sadly discredited, could no longer credibly contend with the daughter thing. Awkward and embarrassing it must be for Felipe, but the nation comes first. He knows that, even if he didn’t explicitly place nation above immediate family.
But what might the message next year contain? By then Cristina should know her fate, though there are surely several twists to follow the decision of Judge Castro to put her on trial. The judge, in delivering his “auto” - his judicial declaration, ruled out appeal and the application of the so-called Botín doctrine. He may yet find himself challenged on both counts. Botín, named after Emilio Botín, the former president of Santander Bank who died in September, refers to a case brought against Botín that was ruled inadmissible by the Supreme Court because the prosecution was led not by a state prosecutor but by a private, unaggrieved third party. As Pedro Horrach, the state anti-corruption prosecutor, has said that he believes Cristina does not have a case to answer, the prosecution lies essentially with a third party, namely the right-wing “union” Manos Limpias, an organisation which constantly seeks to fight corruption but which, as implied by alleged links to Francoism, is no friend of the royal family.
In a different case, however, the Supreme Court has ruled that an unaggrieved third party can be the sole accuser. The Atutxa Doctrine refers to the case brought against the former president of the Basque Country, Juan María Atutxa, alleged to have had links to ETA. Despite this apparent contradiction, might the Cristina prosecution be bumped up to the Supreme Court? Castro would say no, and in delivering his “auto” he laid down a gauntlet. For there to now be a challenge citing Botín or for there to be any attempt to accuse Castro of having exceeded his powers (which was what happened to the celebrated investigating judge Baltasar Garzón) would be highly dangerous for Spain’s reputation and indeed for Spain’s society with its “serious social concern”, as noted by Felipe.
Who knows what twists there might yet be and so what type of message Felipe has to deliver on Christmas Eve 2015. And who knows what Cristina might do next. Were she and Iñaki discussing divorce during the family Christmas in Switzerland? Was she giving serious consideration to renouncing her right of succession? (As sixth in line her chances of ascending to the crown would be as unlikely and as implausible as the current sixth in line to the British monarchy, Princess Beatrice of York.) Did she watch her brother’s message? What did she think? It could not have been a happy Christmas in the Urdangarin household.
The errors of education
We aren’t treated to a Felipe-style Christmas address by friend of the royal couple, José Ramón Bauzá. There is no setting with a poinsettia trembling at the prospect of what he might say or photos of the happy Balearic ruling administration that have been hurriedly Photoshopped in order to reveal who is in and who is out of the cabinet this week. Instead, the president delivers his message to the faithful at the annual Partido Popular dinner.
Suitably primed with some finest Majorcan reserva and with instructions to display maximum support, the faithful will clap along with anything, even when Joserra admits to errors. Admits to errors! What can these possibly be? Well, one (or several) has been made in the name of education. Not that the president clearly identified the error (errors). “There are things that until now have not gone as well as we needed and wanted them to.” No prizes for guessing what he might have been referring to. But errors or no errors, “better ways have to be found to meet the objective”; this objective being trilingual teaching.
There was no reference to what some might kindly call simply an error by education minister Núria Riera over the appointment of the teacher from Minorca that has caused such a colossal fuss. The opposition has kept up the pressure on Núria, rejecting a promise that there will now be greater openness and transparency in appointments and secondments as being too little, too late. Without admitting as such, Núria has, by making this promise, implicitly accepted the accusation of cronyism in pressing for the teacher - who is a PE teacher without classroom experience - to become a faculty advisor in the ministry, when it has been widely reported that his appointment was at the request of Xisca Ramis, who wanted him for her PP mayoral campaign team in Lloseta.
Núria continues to offer no explanation about this affair. “I have nothing more to say.” She hasn’t actually said a lot. Nor has she offered any explanation as to how the original document referring to the teacher’s appointment has somehow managed to disappear. It’s all very sad for Núria. The year had been so bright for her. She had been ushered in to the ministry with a wave of goodwill while her predecessor, Joana Camps, was receiving a wave of goodbye followed by a massive expulsion of the air of sighs of relief. Instead, the year is ending badly, and she can wave her own goodbye to the chance of succeeding Bauzá.
One photo said a lot the other day. It was one in which Núria was receiving a steely glare in the eyes from Antonio “Nipper” Gómez, the terrier-like vice-president and all-round Bauzá enforcer. Make your promise of greater openness, Núria, he might well have been saying, and keep your head down. Or else. Or else the photos will need further Photoshopping.