Sunday, February 14, 2016

When Mariano Met Pedro

Oh how the sports pages love it when Arsene Wenger fails to shake the hand of Jose Mourinho / Sir Alex Ferguson / Sam Allardyce (choose as applicable). Come on, Arsene, stop arsin' about and shake the bloke's hand. It's only a game after all. Football is, and some might disagree, not that important in the general scheme of living. It might be better were football managers to become prime ministers or presidents, but with one notable exception, this is unlikely to ever transpire. There is, though, Pep Guardiola, the footballing world's champion of Catalonian independence. One day Pep will be president. The man walks on water as it is, apparently, so why not?

The general scheme of things means that politicians are raised to greater levels of significance than mere to-become managers (head coaches or whatever) of Manchester City. Accordingly, a Wenger-like snub of the hand acquires a correspondingly greater level of significance. Mariano Rajoy, being a good patriot and former member of the Alianza Popular, the party hewn from the wreckage of Francoism, is naturally enough a Real Madrid supporter: Real Madrid, Spain's national team. The good patriot thus delivered an Arsene avoidance. For when Mazza met Pedro, in the full glare of the media, Pedro offered his hand, Mazza sold him a dummy and assertively buttoned up his suit jacket.

Body language gurus would have been salivating. Rajoy was defiantly shielding himself in that brief buttoning act and announcing that he was still the man. Pedro's reaction, a frustrated tap of a thigh and a grim countenance, spoke of being absolutely bloody furious. Not only had he been snubbed, the world had captured the non-accepted hand for all time: Sánchez was being humiliated.

This preposterous lack of respect from Rajoy must surely mark the final moment, the final moment of his ever less likely retention of the presidency. If the meeting between the two had been intended to be the occasion for the good patriot to extend the hand of fraternal Spanishness and to walk hand-in-hand to a promised land (replete with Catalonia) in the pursuit of national salvation (minus Podemos), then it failed utterly. What was Rajoy thinking? Has he stopped thinking? Is he so totally blind to realities that he seriously believes he can remain president? Seemingly, he does. When the two actually started talking, this was the Rajoy red line. It was Margaret Thatcher, Paris, 1990. Mariano fighting on, when all the evidence tells him to quit.

But even worse was what it told us of the speciousness of the dialogue and consensus narrative that has been blurted out of every politician's mouth since Podemos became more than a mere irritant. Consensus? When they can't even shake hands? Rajoy, rather than acting in a grand statesman-like fashion and in, as he would insist, the interests of the country above all, provided Sánchez with all the ammunition and justification (if he did really need it) to phone The Hairy One and propose marriage. Rajoy has been criticised for his irresponsibility in having not put himself before parliament and sought investiture, but now his irresponsibility was greater still.

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