In the space of almost eight months I have watched six investiture debates. At the sixth time of asking there was a result, if you can call forming a government with a minority just shy of forty per cent a result. At the sixth attempt, therefore, something finally gave. The mould was broken, although it had been cast differently for debates five and six. There was an alternative cast member. PSOE's Antonio Hernando had moved along one seat. By the sixth debate, two days after the fifth, there was an empty seat. Tearfully, Pedro Sánchez had decided it was best not to turn up. How things had changed. At the start of the eight months - for debates one and two - he would have been crowned, if only in his dreams.
The lachrymose Sánchez was the prelude to debate six. It might have overshadowed what was to follow, had it not been pre-destined for Mariano Rajoy to be reinstalled as prime minister. Debate six was the big noise in town. Sánchez was a weepy diversion, he insisting that he is not finished, that he will seek the recuperation of PSOE. If he does, it will be a tough ask. There's life still in the body socialist but it's in intensive care not knowing if it will emerge intact or be permanently fractured.
There were big noises and bigger noises. Several thousand had gathered to surround Congress. The protest was allowed. Not even Rajoy's wretched law could prevent it being given clearance. That law, the gagging one, was just one reason for the thousands to have gathered. Other reasons ... . Well, by now we all know the reasons, while the several thousands were having none of the carve-up by the "mafias" inside Congress. Alas for Cuidadanos, ten years young, it has been branded thus alongside the much older mafias of the PP and PSOE. It was politicians from the C's for whom the greatest jeers were reserved.
Inside Congress there were various bursts of big noise. Cheers, heckles, one of the biggest came at half-time, prior to the actual vote, when the stewards looked as if they might have been required to keep the factions apart. The PP's Rafael Hernando, who had upset Podemos so much during debate five with his four million dollar Venezuelan accusation, was in discussion with Iglesias and Errejón. Surprisingly, it didn't look as unfriendly as might have been expected.
There again, Iglesias came out of debate six with an enormous amount of credit. His speech obliterated all others. Its passion was exceptional. Iglesias is enormously impressive, and when he spoke about the need for a young and new Spain, one couldn't help but contrast the informality of Podemos (in their attire) and the stiffness of the suit-wearing ranks of the PP and indeed PSOE. What was most impressive was that he didn't resort to name-calling. His was a speech for the future, of a politician growing in stature. There may be differences within his party, but Iglesias and Podemos are not going away. Indeed, they will believe their role is ever more crucial now.
Although Iglesias and his Podemos colleagues were to applaud his intervention, the speech of the Catalonia Republican Left's Gabriel Rufián was deserving of none. It was not as if he didn't have valid points, but it was the language he used that set him well apart from Iglesias. This was the oafishness of a students' union activist not the discourse of a Congress politician. His walk to the lectern spoke volumes. He passed the ranks of the PP glowering and with the swagger of a football hooligan. At the end, he even argued with the referee - the president of the house (speaker), Ana Pastor - who switched off his mike because he had gone over time. Before doing so, though, he had reprimanded PSOE for their kowtowing to a "cacique", for their being traitors to socialism. They should be ashamed. Yes, he had valid points, but the delivery was odious. Antonio Hernando, scandalised, said that Rufián had spoken with "odio" - hate. Rufián had lived up to more than just his name. He was a disgrace.
It was a minor player who was to offer the strongest rebuke to Rufián. The diminutive Ana Oramas from the Canaries was not easy to understand - the accent is pronounced - but there was no mistaking her distaste for the disrespect Rufián had shown the house as well as PSOE. He shouldn't behave in such a juvenile way. There was big noise of applause.
And finally, when the voting was over and the result was announced, there was no big noise from PSOE. They didn't applaud Rajoy. He had won the day but there are many other days to come. He needs to show magnanimity, he needs to prove that he is capable of dialogue. If he can't, debates seven and eight might occur sooner than he would hope.
Index for October 2016
Agriculture and tourism - 11 October 2016
Airbnb and hoteliers - 1 October 2016
All-inclusives - 8 October 2015
Balearic government - 10 October 2016
Bullying - 21 October 2016
Caso Gürtel - 7 October 2016
Ecotourism and sustainability - 18 October 2016
Fornalutx and prettiest villages - 28 October 2016
Havaneres - 9 October 2016
Hiking and the history of excursions - 3 October 2016
Holiday prices - 5 October 2016, 29 October 2016
Imserso holidays - 15 October 2016
Land plans in Mallorca - 25 October 2016
Museum of Water - 6 October 2016
Pebre bord pepper - 23 October 2016
Pep v. Pepsi - 14 October 2016
PSOE crisis - 2 October 2016, 4 October 2016
Rajoy investiture - 19 October 2016, 31 October 2016
Rock music in Mallorca - 30 October 2016
Saturation, sustainability and employment - 22 October 2016, 26 October 2016
Spain's National Day - 13 October 2016
Theatres - 16 October 2016
Tourism minister for Spain - 20 October 2016. 24 October 2016
Tramuntana fairs - 12 October 2016
UFOs - 27 October 2016
Xelo Huertas in Rome - 17 October 2016