When politics reached new heights of absurdity in the UK last autumn, with Liz Truss's 44-day stint as the country's shortest-serving prime minister, the Spanish government wasted no time in sticking the boot in.
At a parliamentary session in early October, a delighted Pedro Sánchez held up a copy of “The Economist” with Truss and her equally ephemeral Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on the front cover, urging Popular Party (PP) ministers to consult with their British counterparts on how “not to run a country”.
If that jibe at the Conservatives under Truss seemed somewhat - shall we say? - hypocritical at the time, it's even more so now, as the Socialist-led coalition yet again finds itself battling internally rather than with the opposition. In fact the PSOE is now collaborating with the opposition and turning against its supposed colleagues on the left. The latest rupture came not only on the eve of International Women's Day (savage irony!), but also two months before municipal elections that will serve as a litmus test for December's general election.
How to run a country, indeed.
In this week's congressional vote on whether to reform the government's “Only-Yes-Means-Yes” law - effectual from last October, with the unforeseen consequence that prison terms for many sexual offenders were automatically reduced - the Socialists were supported by the PP and Vox and bitterly opposed by their junior partner, Podemos, which sees the tweak as a betrayal of feminist principles.
The Socialists, meanwhile, see their left wing partner as idealistic and naive: “We're sick of [...] boring speeches from Unidas Podemos... Cut the hyperbole and let's talk solutions”, said an exasperated PSOE minister.
One of the things Sánchez found so amusing last autumn was Truss and Kwarteng's rapid U-turn over tax cuts. Announced with great confidence by Truss at a speech in early October, the proposed cut to the top rate of income tax provoked such a backlash from the Conservatives, the Bank of England and the markets that, within a couple of weeks, she'd scrapped the measure and fired Kwarteng.
Yes, it's risible when a government introduces a flagship piece of legislation with tremendous fanfare, only to withdraw or alter it almost immediately, thus admitting that it wasn't such a great idea in the first place (although it has to be said that the original reform of Spain's sexual assault law, which now accords consent a central role, was overdue).
Yes, it's damaging to a country's international reputation when its government is divided against itself and unable to agree on its most important initiatives.
British prime minister Rishi Sunak should take a copy of any Spanish magazine with a photo of Sánchez on its front cover into the next PMQs.
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