I recall that when Francina Armengol was given the keys to the presidential suite at the Council of Majorca in 2007, she was going to usher in a new way of doing things. Her door, she said, would always be open, by which she didn’t mean that the general public could just wander in off the street and have a good old nosey around. Rather, Francina was all for doing things differently; she was an open and communicative president and not the one from whom she had taken over (now residing at his majesty’s pleasure). Eight years later, we find Francina in pole position (if not actually first in the polls) to become Bauzá’s successor, and so she has been reflecting on ... the need for a new way of doing things. These new ways come in eight-year cycles, it would appear. “Another way of doing politics is possible,“ she informed a gathering of PSOE-ites in Valencia. “Through dialogue rather than imposition.” “Through participation and ...” At this point, lights will have gone on in the minds of the fellow PSOE-ites. Participation. Now, where have we been hearing about this? Suddenly, everyone’s talking about participation, and they have to thank (and/or fear) Pablo Iglesias for doing so. Yes, there is a new and participative way of doing things, and someone had beaten Francina to the idea by several months. Her version, whatever it might in fact be, is political catch-up blended with ample dollops of opportunism. What are Podemos good at? Participation. Right, we’ll have some of that for ourselves. And, blow me, only a few days later, PSOE in Calvia were unveiling their own participative re-invention. Under the slogan - “have you got a moment” - they’ve come up with a mobile app through which residents can answer three questions, such as “what is it that most concerns you about Calvia?” A multiple choice gives various options for answering - corruption, safety, taxes, tourism, etc. More than this, they are planning on having “participative budgets”, so that the folk of Calvia can decide where money goes for certain things. This isn’t as revolutionary as it might sound, as they already do this in little old Algaida, where the council is PSOE-controlled and which is the home town of Francina’s predecessor as leader of PSOE, her good chum and former president of the Balearics, Francesc Antich. So, it’s been Algaida which has been the source of inspiration for Francina; has it? Possibly, but new ways of doing things haven’t simply shifted towards citizen decisions as to how 300 grand are spent; new ways have emerged because things have been turned on their head. And Francina knows full well by whom and why she has to get the participation craze as well. As Little Eva might have sung (but didn’t): “Everybody’s doing a brand new political dance now. Come on, baby, do The Participation”.
The PSOE ship is sinking
If Francina believes there is a new way of doing things, the rest of PSOE needs to find out what it is, and find out pretty damn quick. The good ship upon which dashing Felipe González once sailed has been hurled against the rocks of recent economic history and more recent usurping by someone even more dashing and vaguely piratical. Holed below the surface, it is sinking, and opinion polls continue to show that it is not about to right itself and venture forth once more on some grand political adventure. The latest national poll by CIS (Centre for Sociological Research) shows an almost 2% fall in PSOE support. It is at such times that every good man must come to the aid of someone else’s party and so the PP’s spokesperson in Congress, Rafael Hernando, has stated that there is concern within his party at the fragmentation of the left and at the continuing fall of PSOE. “The PP has always believed in the centrality of PSOE and its part in all the history of democracy”, which admittedly isn’t a very long history but is long enough to have the PP pining for the good old days. Why would Hernando be voicing his concern and so his implicit support for PSOE? Probably because he’s more worried about Podemos than PSOE, but while he was displaying benevolence, another Hernando (Antonio), who is PSOE’s spokesperson in Congress, was not reciprocating. He wasn’t having any of the poll’s results, suggesting there was something fishy about them. Rather than the PP fearing Podemos more, it was PSOE that was its greater fear and the poll fitted very nicely with a PP strategy of undermining PSOE. Suspicions that Hernando (Antonio) had about the poll may have something to do with the fact that CIS is an “autonomous agency” dependent upon as opposed to independent of the ministry of the presidency, which is headed by Rajoy’s number two, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. But if it, CIS, was somehow cooking the numbers, might it not also give the PP a better rating? Moreover, why would CIS be revealing that PSOE’s leader, Pedro Sánchez, is rated more highly than Rajoy? There is a hint of paranoia in what Hernando (Antonio) had to say.
Mr. Purse and a host of dictators
Let's be clear, both the PP and PSOE are scared witless by Podemos and so neither will have been delighted by the scenes in Madrid with a hundred thousand people rammed into the Puerta del Sol after their “march of change” to hear that they were not there to dream but to make their dreams come true (these words being Pablo Iglesias’s); dreams coming true will mean winning at election time. Much though leading figures within the PP and PSOE might feel better if they could unleash a full-frontal, name-calling assault on Pablo Iglesias, they would stop short of calling him Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Castro and Pol Pot. Manos Limpias, on the other hand, have no such qualms. This very right-wing “union” is the one that has brought the prosecution against Princess Cristina and it has now filed two lawsuits directed at Iglesias (in which he is compared to the above) and at another leading Podemos light, Juan Carlos Monedero. Among the charges are ones related to Monedero’s time as an adviser to Central and South American governments, including Venezuela’s, and the money he received (425,000 euros). But while the never-publicity-shy Manos Limpias have made much of their lawsuits, investigations into Monedero had already been initiated by the Hacienda, and last week Monedero accepted that he owed money to the Hacienda for work that had been paid for three months before Podemos was formed. Oh dear, these tax matters, they’re never straightforward, not even for a Podemos politician and one whose name translates as Mr. Purse.