The embattled Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy decided to take his unique brand of leadership onto the international stage last week, with what can only be described as interesting results.
His first port of call was the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, where he urged Britain to restart talks on Gibraltar under the bilateral Brussels process. That would mean excluding the overseas enclave from the negotiations, something the British government has repeatedly confirmed it will never do and which the people of Gibraltar are completely opposed to.
Rajoy also joined forces with his Argentinean counterpart Cristina Kirshner to call for an end to the British occupation of both Gibraltar and the Malvinas / Falklands.
After somehow managing not to fluff his lines at the UN podium, Rajoy made the short trip to the Bloomberg studios for a 25-minute interview with Sarah Eisen. The Spanish premier and his team of advisors had expected nothing but soft questions about Spain’s recent “economic miracle.” Bloomberg is a business broadcaster, their thinking went, so what else could it possibly be interested in?
But as often tends to happen with Rajoy’s government, things did not go according to plan. In the closing stages of the interview, Rajoy was suddenly caught in his tracks when the focus shifed to his party’s “alleged” (ha! only kidding) role in the Bárcenas campaign funding scandal and its destruction of vital evidence relating to the criminal case.
[Below is a clip of the juiciest part of the interview. It should provide some insight into the caliber of leadership we have here in Spain, as well as give some idea why a slim majority of Catalans — not to mention a growing number of Madrileños, Gallegos, Asturianos, Valencianos, Andaluces… — want to declare independence from the Spanish state].
Clearly under pressure, Rajoy denied that there’d ever been any illegal campaign funding in his party, in the process directly contradicting what senior members of his own government have already admitted under oath in court.
He also stated that he had absolutely no knowledge of the destruction of files on Barcenas’ laptops, despite the fact that, just a month ago, the story was splashed across the front pages of almost all the nation’s newspapers. Even when an incredulous Eisen repeated the question, Rajoy stuck to his guns: he knew nothing about his party’s tampering with evidence, from which one can draw one of only two possible conclusions: either Rajoy is the most uninformed person in Spain (unlikely, yet still a disturbing possibility) or he’s one of the least competent liars to have ever held national office.
Either way, he should do the decent thing and walk. Almost anyone else in his position would. But not Super Mariano, who, together with his coterie of sycophantic ministers, is determined to hold onto power as long as humanly possible and at literally any cost — including, it seems, the complete obliteration of what remains of Spain’s international reputation.
In fact, when Rajoy’s political team realised that Eisen had crossed the red line by asking their gaffe-prone boss about Bárcenas — something no Spanish journalist has been allowed to do since the scandal broke eight long months ago — they went into panic mode, begging the broadcaster not to publish the footage.
Thankfully, Bloomberg holds no allegiance to Spain or its government of thieves and liars. Citing reasons of “journalistic integrity”, it refused to bow to pressure and released the interview in all its gory detail.
The damage was almost immediate. As the video went viral both in Spain and abroad, yet another nail was driven into the Rajoy government’s coffin. Not that anything will likely happen as a consequence — at least not anytime soon. Most people in Spain seem to have grown wearily accustomed to a grim future of economic decline and malgovernance, while Spain’s second party, the PSOE, seems dead-set on avoiding another general election so soon after its last crushing defeat.
In fact, the only realistic hope of change lies, ironically, in the hands of the Partido Popular itself. Should enough of the party’s grandees decide that enough is enough, that Rajoy has finally become too much of a liability, an internal party coup may well occur. Unfortunately, the result would likely be an even more reactionary, neo-liberal and polarising government, led no doubt by regular Bilderberg attendee Esperanza Aguirre, a far more astute and dangerous politician than Rajoy could ever dream of being.
In the meantime, Rajoy’s administration is once again back in damage-limitation mode. In the wake of the latest humiliation, his advisers will no doubt resolve to never arrange an interview for their boss with the international press.
As for Rajoy’s current location, rumours are that he’s in Kazakhstan, on a mission to strengthen Spain’s economic ties with the fly-blown central Asian dictatorship notorious for shooting strikers, burning the offices of opposition parties and killing their leaders. Oh, and lest we forget, it is also one of Tony Blair’s biggest corporate clients!
What better place to redeem one’s reputation?