What's your policy?

Friday, 29 September 2023, 17:29


Wednesday's investiture debate highlighted something very weird about modern Spanish politics, something that has become so familiar that it's hardly ever commented on: no one has any policies. Politicians hardly ever talk about how they are running or propose to run the country if in power.

If there are any deputies on either the left or right in Congress who do have policies, they've learned to keep quiet about them. Why? Because policies are no longer the focal point of political discourse in Spain. 'Policy' has become a dirty, embarrassing word. It's now more important to have an extensive repertoire of personal insults on which to draw when abusing your opposite number. Either that or a position on Catalan independence, the only issue on which national politicians are required to opine these days.

Alberto Feijóo after his speech in congress.
Alberto Feijóo after his speech in congress. SUR

Of course we all know, broadly speaking, what the main parties stand for. We know what basic values and ideologies they represent and where they sit on the political spectrum. But the function of a political party, whether in government or opposition, isn't to statically represent an ideology. It is to actively govern or oppose governmental strategy, to identify problems and propose or enact solutions to them, to respond to the concerns of the electorate and to adjust foreign policy in the light of international developments. Imagine the embarrassed silence that would descend on the room if you said that in one of Pedro Sánchez's cabinet meetings.

None of those issues were discussed in Wednesday's parliamentary session. In fact they haven't been debated in Congress for some time, certainly not since Sánchez lost his mandate on July 23rd. Given that his left- wing coalition is desperately trying to retain power, and that Alberto Feijóo's Conservatives are equally determined to block its path, you might have expected some discussion of actual policies over the last couple of months. You would have been disappointed.

If you were an alien and landed in Spain today, you'd quickly form the impression that there is only one issue that anyone cares about: Catalan secession. Feijóo was forty minutes into his 100-minute speech before he mentioned an actual policy, and even then it was a proposed law to deal with "constitutional disloyalty" - i.e. illegal independence referendums. Oscar Puente, who bizarrely spoke for the PSOE instead of Sánchez, resorted to lambasting the PP as a whole, claiming that it had reduced the whole procedure to a 'farce'. The intellectual level of the entire session was conspicuously low.

When acting labour minister Yolanda Díaz unveiled a new left-wing group called Sumar last summer, she said she wanted to end the polarised, insult-led "politics of confrontation" in Spain. Now THAT's a policy - one which, if implemented, would lead to the actual discussion of many others.

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