The landing of Alberto Núñez Feijóo in Madrid stirred up the tenants of the Moncloa. It did not take long for the man who had presided over the Xunta de Galicia for thirteen years to change the air in the Casado polls. The mere replacement of the previous leader of the PP meant a sudden swerve in the polls that had been punishing his bloodless war with Ayuso and the popular ones took back the flight after devouring Ciudadanos to become the first force and surpass the PSOE in voting intention. A scenario that was consolidated with the overwhelming absolute majority obtained in the elections in Andalusia, a traditional socialist fiefdom.
That Andalusian disaster, after the bad result in Madrid, set off all the alarms in Pedro Sánchez's team. The feeling in Ferraz is that they were late in fighting Juanma Moreno, a political profile that is very similar to that of Núñez Feijóo, and that this slowness made it possible for the Andalusians to see an image of moderation and good management that they now intend to counteract in time with Galician politician. The campaign of fear of Vox, far from harming it, concentrated the vote even more on the PP, which had already erased Ciudadanos, its coalition partners, from the map.
Sánchez made changes in the party but especially in the speech about the leader of the opposition, who despite his role as a moderate, keeps the Judiciary blocked and even voted against the energy saving decree despite including measures that he himself PP had claimed. This week, during the face-to-face meeting between Sánchez and Feijóo in the Senate, the Prime Minister gave another twist. He worked hard in the task of dismantling that halo of a statesman, serene and with management experience that surrounds the public image of the opposition leader, the gasoline of the one baptized as the 'Feijóo effect'. Sánchez spared no time, disqualifications or a newspaper library to confront his adversary, in an attempt to show that despite his good words, Feijóo is not such a good manager, nor is he so moderate, nor is he prepared to be an alternative government.
"Is it insolvency or is it bad faith?" He asked him up to twelve times after breaking down, one by one, errors - some of them large - made by the former president of the Xunta in recent months. “In March, he said that the Government of Spain was lining up, when the bulk of the income from those taxes went to the Autonomous Communities. Is that insolvency or bad faith? In April he proposed a deduction for investments that had already been approved. Insolvency or bad faith? He has said that the Government cannot raise pensions due to the spending rule when pensions do not fall under the spending rule. Insolvency or bad faith? ”, He exposed. In total, and after an initial speech in which he detailed the economic situation resulting from the war in Ukraine, the Prime Minister spent 47 minutes responding to the opposition leader.
After that barrage of 47 minutes in the Upper House, the PSOE was quick to assess: “Mr. Feijóo does not have the political stature to govern one of the great economies of the European Union such as Spain. His vision is that of minimal politics and not that of a strong and solid leader who is capable of negotiating achievements in the international arena that benefit Spanish citizens. A year and a half before the general elections, the PP has not yet found a leadership capable of debating with Pedro Sánchez in the same register. While the President of the Government has the country in his head, Mr. Feijóo has not yet overcome leaving Galicia to land in Madrid”. The strategy to "unmask" the opposition leader accelerates to 16 months of the general elections and in Moncloa they predict that the 'Feijóo effect' will dissolve like a sugar cube as time goes by and that the road until the end of 2023 "will be it will be long”.
The Socialists believe that it will not take long for Feijóo to realize that the national arena is very different from the oil raft in which he sailed until now, with a comfortable absolute majority in Galicia because Madrid is, on the other hand, a much more hostile territory. Moncloa's strategy is to take advantage of any opportunity to expose the opposition leader. Some of Sánchez's trusted leaders still have the 2009 campaign in Galicia fresh, where Óscar López and Antonio Hernando acted as advisers to José Blanco and tried to get the PSdeG to come out and respond to the serious accusations that the newcomer Feijóo launched against the Xunta, at that time governed by PSOE and BNG. Despite the attempts of Blanco and his team, the Galician socialists tried to exploit the presidential image of the then regional leader, Emilio Pérez Touriño, while Feijóo and the PP went down to the mud almost every day.
After that PP campaign, which included very serious political accusations and even personal attacks against leaders of the Xunta Government, Feijóo seized power, which he would not leave until 2002, to move to the highest office on Génova Street. That experience has not been forgotten in Sánchez's environment, hence the socialist spokesmen usually dedicate several minutes of their interventions to poke Feijóo to the point of vindicating even his predecessor, Pablo Casado. The president himself has even said that the change in the PP has been for the worse in terms of their relationship. “In this legislature, with Casado and Feijóo, neither with the pandemic nor now with the war, have I had any kind of help,” the president complained in an interview on Cadena SER, in which he accused the former Galician president of being "quite docile with those interests that put him at the head of the PP." That is the strong message that starred in the first act of the campaign with which Sánchez intends to bring the Government closer to the people and also with which he concluded his speech in the Senate: “Mr. Feijóo, you are going to fail as Mr. Casado failed. You may act with insolvency or bad faith, but you don't forget who put you in, which was the big energy corporations”, he told her.
It is clear that the PSOE has resumed the political course and has gone on the offensive against the head of the opposition: "The Government will always be on the side of the Spaniards and the people of this country," said the spokeswoman, Pilar Alegría, in an impromptu press conference a few days ago in Ferraz to reply to an act by the leader of the PP. It would be desirable, at this time of difficulty, for the PP to stop doing broad-brush politics and for the first time lend a hand" . "Feijóo showed us that he has become the true prophet of catastrophism," concluded Alegría, in line with what was said in the previous days by the coalition spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez.
On the other side of the coalition they are also fully aware that the polls are not blowing in their favor and that, therefore, a change of direction is necessary to reactivate the left-wing electorate and put an end to Feijóo's honeymoon with the polls. However, from inside the United We Can show doubts about whether or not the socialist strategy of head-on clash with the PP is the most appropriate in these times of inflation and of a citizenry once again terrified by the possibility of a new economic distress.
In Yolanda Díaz's team, where they strive at this start of the course to reduce the noise of the coalition avoiding any public clash with Sánchez and the PSOE, they disagree with the roadmap of their partners. They believe that investing energy in calling Feijóo a liar (on account of the CGPJ renewal agreement) or qualifying the PP as a “toxic opposition” or even “denier” only contributes to the noise. And in the noise, they maintain, whoever wins is always the right. If Sánchez's trusted team met Feijóo in that distant electoral campaign, Díaz confronted him for years in the Galician Parliament.
“No one is going to find me in the insult”, repeats Yolanda Díaz every time she is asked by the leader of the PP. The vice president knows Alberto Núñez Feijóo well and, in fact, both came to star in harsh confrontations in the Galician parliament at a time when he was president and she was spokesperson in the opposition. “He is a great political adversary, one of the best that the PP has”, the Galician politician came to say in an interview. To this day, and after the jump to the national politics of both, they continue to maintain a personal relationship of mutual respect and enough distrust that there is no certain communication between them, in contrast to the non-existent contact between the President of the Government and the leader of the opposition. Something that Diaz herself criticized in reference to the turn in foreign policy regarding the Sahara. "Democracy consists of talking to everyone and I do not share many things with Mr. Feijóo, but he deserves that the president explain to him what Spain is doing," she said in an interview in El País.
They do agree with the socialists in the cabinet of the also Labor Minister that one of the keys to unmasking the PP and Feijóo is to oppose economic and social measures and projects. “The PP has no proposals and that is what must be revealed. If we talk to them about government action and the plans we have to improve people's lives, they are portrayed because they have nothing to contribute”, they explain in Yolanda Díaz's team. "In the Senate it has been seen, they have no ideas for energy savings or for anything," they maintain.
This approach has also been evident in the political line marked by the second vice president at this start of the political course, in which she has called for a rise in wages in times of galloping inflation (lashing out harshly even against the employers) or has put on the table an agreement for the control of basic food prices that has been the protagonist of the public debate of the last week after his interview in elDiario.es. “It's about talking about people's problems. Inflation and the economic situation is the main problem of citizens according to the CIS. That is why we talk about wages and the prices of things where, by the way, the PP plan does not directly exist, ”they explain in the Ministry of Labor.
Until now, and in this it coincides with the strategy proposed by Sánchez in the Senate, the biggest confrontations between the leader of United We Can in the coalition and the former president of the Xunta usually always have to do with the detail of some specific measure. “The words of Mr. Feijóo seem an aberration to me,” said Yolanda Díaz after the leader of the popular accused the Government of making up the good employment data by turning temporary contracts into permanent discontinuous ones. “I am concerned that a man who has managed an autonomous community and who is a lawyer is unaware of a contract that has been in the legislation for 25 years. He is not prepared to govern, ”she settled.
The Executive's roadmap with respect to the opposition leader seems, in fact, complementary. Focus on tearing down the image of a moderate man, well versed in his country and with management experience. "In Spain they still don't know him very well, but I do know him," Yolanda Díaz usually claims. After the debate in the Senate, from the PSOE they advised Feijóo: “You should moderate his wishes because they can come true. He asked for a debate, expecting to be denied, and having to face it he arrived neither prepared nor ordered. Spain deserves a greater effort”, they conclude.