THE current crop of insults traded in Spain’s national parliament, Los Cortes, included one from the Partido Popular (PP) spokesperson Cayetana Alvarez de Toledo the other day to the effect that the pony-tailed leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, ‘is the son of a terrorist’.
She was ordered by the Speaker of the house to withdraw the obvious slander but refused to do so.
Ex-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar later waded in telling reporters that she was right to make the point. However, thankfully, not all the PP sees this as a valid tactic, with another conservative leader, the current President of Galicia, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, saying that such attacks against a political opponent ‘are a grave error’.
But, as one political observer from the University of Barcelona puts it, ‘politics is not like football, with goals scored against the other side in the Cortes’. And we, the citizens, shouldn’t be behaving like fans as ‘our team’ scores an insult on the other side or be shouting simplistic slogans and wearing our party-colours: a game that even the media has joined with enthusiasm.
The story of the maligned Podemos leader’s father Javier, which paints him as a notorious political hit-man who once murdered a policeman, is ‘a bulo’, as they say in Spanish, an invention, or fake news, first put out by a Vox MEP called Hermann Tertsch.
And to make matters clear, Tertsch was subsequently ordered to pay €15,000 to Javier for his calumnies (plus a further €12,000 for slandering Pablo’s uncle into the bargain) back in 2016.
It turns out Pablo’s father was actually spending two months in prison for sharing political leaflets (commie propaganda if one prefers) at the time of the shooting in 1973.
However, this didn’t stop the MEP for Vox, an ex-journalist, to claim that Javier was part of the ‘FRAP communist terror group’ that murdered a policeman.
Pablo’s mother later published on Twitter that Alvarez de Toledo is ‘a fork-tongued tin-pot marquise’. History is silent on what she thinks of Tertsch.
Spain is once again in a period of political extreme. Nothing written here will change the views of most Spanish readers, who are very set in their ways, although some background is always a useful thing.
Here, we are looking at the fellow from Podemos, the wispy communist politician with the famous ponytail who is the second vice-president of Spain and – keeping it close to home – is married to fellow Podemos MP Irene Montero, 32, the current Minister for Equality.
If anyone is well-versed in his subject, it is Pablo. He took Law and Political Science at university and has a PhD and several other distinctions.
He later became a lecturer at Madrid’s respected Complutense University in political science. He formed Podemos in late 2013, born out of the anti-corruption movement, and the next year became an MEP for the party. He speaks Italian and English and is certainly one of the brightest men in Spanish politics.
There’s no doubt that his ideas come from his background (‘Pablo Iglesias’ is the name of the historic founder of both the PSOE in 1879 and the UGT general workers union nine years later).
Pablo’s grandfather Manuel was a socialist politician who was imprisoned and sentenced to death, later commuted to 30 years (although he finally only served four) following the Spanish Civil War.
He died in 1988. His great-uncle (also slandered by Tertsch) was an air-force captain executed by the Nationalists in 1939 and lies in an unmarked grave.
His father Javier is a retired work inspector, who himself studied law at Complutense and Modern History at the University of Zaragoza.
Like many students, indeed many sensible Spaniards, he was an anti-Franco activist in his day (there were lots of them as might be supposed) and spent six weeks in prison for ‘pamphleteering’ in the spring of 1973 against the former dictator.
As his son recently explained, for the Franco dictatorship, he was considered ‘a criminal’… and ‘so he still is by the PP spokesperson 50 years later’.
Javier, who must now sue ‘La Marquesa’, as Alvarez de Toledo is known, is not keen on the idea claiming that it will be the taxpayer who foots the bill as ‘politicians are exempt’ in paying for lawyers in cases of slander.
Which brings us to Pablo who, while his party nearly got to power in 2016 on an anti-corruption ticket, is anathema to a swathe of Spanish voters.
He is seen as a dangerous communist and regularly accused of being in the pay of Nicolas Maduro from Venezuela.
Critics claim he wants – for some improbable reason – to bring his ‘Bolivarian revolution’ to Spain.
This is despite many of his own party being disillusioned with his apparent shift to the right, coming as he bought a country home in a swanky part of Madrid, which was bought with two mortgages.
The right, when not chipping away at the national government, claims that ‘the corrosivity in politics is due to Podemos’, and the right-wing ABC newspaper recently ran not one but two articles with the peculiar accusation that it is precisely Pablo Iglesias who is plotting a coup d’état.
We hope he gets his father’s advice first.