The words of Alberto Núñez Feijóo on Friday calling Pablo Casado to “serenity” in the face of the strategy of tension have had a profound impact on the PP. The message or advice, depending on how you look at it, from the Galician president to the leader of the PP in a joint act is shared by many leaders. Feijóo is in some way the guardian of the common sense of the PP, and the only one who dares – now Isabel Díaz Ayuso also does – to say to the leader from time to time: not there.
His wake-up call has been celebrated in a PP that has plunged into confusion at the changing strategy of Casado. A senior member of its national executive committee sums it up like this: “Married says one thing and the opposite. We are all dumbfounded, he has pissed off hard and soft, and you have to be very skilled at that. In South America, last week, he pissed off the hardliners by proposing the grand coalition to the PSOE, when now it is not time, and this week he has pissed off the moderates with all that overactive artillery. The conflict with Ayuso has him very off-center. We all agree with Feijóo’s message asking him for serenity ”.
The leader of the PP has regained prominence this week after almost four months of conflict with the president of Madrid in which he only achieved an impact in the media due to his clash with Ayuso. However, he has achieved this by surrendering himself to the harshest and most aggressive style, with three episodes of his opposition strategy that are discussed even within his own party. On Wednesday, Casado resorted to foul language in parliament – with the “What the hell has to happen for you to assume any responsibility?” who snapped at the president, Pedro Sánchez—, and accused the PSOE of obstructing the investigation into different cases of sexual abuse of minors, mentioned in a hodgepodge in his speech at the control session in connection with the case of the pro-independence harassment of the Catalan boy from Canet de Mar (Barcelona). That same day, he also ordered the party to undertake a total and frontal attack against the first vice president, Nadia Calviño, due to a tense private conversation that both had held precisely because of the tone of their speech in Parliament.
The leaders of the first rank of the PP received a call from Genoa in which they were summoned to make statements and tweet against the first vice president. “The instruction was to go all for it,” say some of those who received the order. “Attack her,” they were told. The atmosphere became more heated when the national spokesman and mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez Almeida, assured journalists that the Minister of Economy had told him privately that his boss was “unbalanced.” Several leaders of the PP reveal their discomfort at the management of this episode and at the decision of the indiscriminate attack against the vice president. “Almeida cannot make public some of Calviño’s private statements. It is nonsense. That kind of politics leads nowhere ”, laments one. “If we know that the objective is Sánchez, what is the point of getting involved with a woman who happens to be one of the best valued in the Government? For a private conversation! ”, Reproaches another member of the executive.
The language and tone of Casado in Parliament have not gone down well with the moderate sector of the PP either. After the popular leader’s speech in Congress, José María Lassalle, Secretary of State with Mariano Rajoy, warned on Cadena SER that “intellectual degradation begins with words and ends with ideas.” In Lassalle’s opinion, “Casado is dragged by the fear of losing control of some bases that are shaking and turning more and more to the right,” says the academic in conversation with EL PAÍS. The radicalization of the sociological and media bases of the right advances by “contagion from Vox”, analyzes the conservative intellectual, who has been asking his former party for months to fight against this process. “The German example shows how to prevent your electorate from becoming contaminated even at the risk of losing elections. It is better to preserve democracy ”, he reflects.
The leader’s team argues that Casado is limited to bringing the discontent of the citizens to Congress. “On Wednesday Casado expressed the satiety of a majority of Spaniards with the attitude of a Sánchez who does nothing but repeat the mantras of recovery without assuming a single responsibility for the real problems that beset the country,” explains a close collaborator. The PP moderates consider, on the other hand, that it is not about riding on the back of anger, but about offering answers. José Luis Ayllón, Rajoy’s former chief of staff, opines: “When you are building an alternative, you don’t have to excite the anger any more, but explain to the pissed off that things could change if they voted for a party that acted differently.”
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The problem for many in the PP is not only the abandonment of moderation, but that the party walks with a lurching strategy. Casado’s piston rise against the government this week is inconsistent with the line he deployed the previous week, on his Latin American tour, when he wore the moderate leader’s suit. There he charged against populism and came to propose a great coalition to the PSOE in case of winning the next general elections. “It’s incomprehensible. Those of us inside the ship do not know whether to go to port or starboard ”, admits an active leader. A relevant regional leader asks the leader for “a long-term, stability policy”, and not “action-reaction” as in the last 10 days. “Rajoy could be criticized for many things, but he was reliable. Pablo has to find his place ”, he analyzes.
Most of the sources consulted believe that Casado may be showing a state of nervousness as a result of his internal conflict with Ayuso. The cold war that confronts the leader with the Madrid baroness has acquired a new dimension this week, because it has jumped from the organic to the ideological clash, with a confrontation over the management policies of the pandemic. The polls already show wear and tear due to this crisis, which has no signs of a short-term solution. As long as that does not change, many of the PP think, the leader will be subjected to excessive tension that makes it difficult for him to focus on his opposition work. To the point that the moral authority of the PP —Feijóo— has come to ask him in public for peace and quiet.