WE always knew that the Socialists would struggle to take Madrid from the Popular Party (PP) in elections this spring.
Historically the opposition party’s biggest obstacle in the capital has been the once-untouchable Tomás Gómez – leader of the Madrid Socialists (PSM).
But now PSOE secretary-general Pedro Sánchez has done what former PM José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and ex-Congress boss Jose Bono fail to do: he has literally kicked Gómez out onto the street. But at what cost?
Gómez was mayor of the satellite city of Parla from 1999 to 2008, before finding a way to regional power. Born in the Netherlands to Spanish immigrants, the 46-year-old master politician built a loyal following in the capital over the years.
The night Gomez was knocked from his pedestal, his supporters threatened to burn down the PSOE national headquarters.
This unruly outburst – filled with murmurs of mutiny from PSM members – is a huge deal for Sánchez, just seven months into his national leadership.
The Socialist bigwigs suspect that Gómez is entrenched deep in an ongoing investigation into favouritism and overruns relating to a tram project in Parla.
Gómez has not been officially targeted in the inquiry and even made a case in his own defence at a closed-door party pow-wow. Obviously, his arguments were not convincing…
Cornered by outraged citizens over partisan corruption, pressured by the up-and-coming leftist Podemos – gaining strength in opinion polls – Sánchez decided to take a gamble and remove Gómez before the anti-corruption squad closed in.
It was also fine timing, coming just weeks before the premiership race in the Socialist stronghold of Andalusia. The regional election will be the national barometer for Podemos.
But the Socialists are in crisis in Madrid – many won’t vote or will cast a protest ballot in favour of Podemos.
No doubt it was a tough decision for Sánchez, one that has put Cheshire-cat smirks within the PP ranks.