Enough Is Enough, Or "Basta Ya" As My Neighbours Would Say
I referred last time to important things happening in Spanish politics at the moment. The interesting thing to me is that these things parallel attitudes to politics and politicians in the UK. The similarities between the two countries are quite striking. For many years power has passed back and forth between two major parties, Conservative and Labour in the UK, Partido Popular and PSOE in Spain, on the right and left respectively. Increasingly, disillusion with politics has been growing in both countries. The main accusation levelled against politicians is that they are out of touch with the needs and concerns of the citizens, and care little for the voters except at election time.In both countries these ‘facts’ were accepted with a large helping of resignation. And then corruption reared its head. This came as something of a shock to the British who had long laboured under the delusion that corruption was not a British custom. The expenses scandal, which revealed just how much many MPs had been milking the system to their own financial benefit changed all that, and spawned a wave of revulsion and distrust of politicians and all things political. In Spain corruption had long been accepted as endemic and people paid little heed unless affected personally. That is now changing as day after day the true extent of it comes to light. Recently it emerged that more than eighty politicians had been using ‘tarjetas negras (black cards) issued to them by the bank, Caja Madrid but kept secret, for everything from weekly groceries to high value luxury items. No repayments were ever sought of this expenditure which amounted to more than fifteen million euros, and when Caja Madrid was absorbed into Bankia, the service continued. This came on the heels of the discovery that a past official of the Partido Popular had maintained a secret slush fund from which payments were made to favoured senior party members. And most recently, the Guardian reported on 27th October that 51 politicians, public officials and business leaders across Spain had been arrested as part of an investigation into a corrupt network involving the awarding of contracts to a value of over €250 million. This is the latest wave of arrests; no one expects it to be the last. In the UK and in Spain, 2015 will see a general election, in which a significant question will be whether two party politics will prove to be a thing of the past. UKIP is the main focus in Britain, though results for both the Greens and the Lib Dems will be viewed with interest. In Spain, interest is in two young parties - UPyD which was formed seven years ago, and Podemos (We Can), which appeared on the scene officially in January of this year but already has more than 250 thousand members, and which won five of Spain’s allocation of 54 seats in the European Union elections in May, against UPyD’s four seats. A point of difference between Britain and Spain is that neither of these parties is drawn from the right, unlike UKIP, which may now be widening its appeal, but clearly has rightwing roots.Because they point the possible way to a new engagement of the public with the whole business of representative politics that might also have application to Britain,I'll look at these parties in a bit more detail next time.