February 15th, 2022

Sánchez says the PP is the same as Vox. Ayuso in Madrid says she is clear she would never do a deal with the left. What does Casado want to be?

In his speech on Tuesday evening, Popular Party leader Pablo Casado spitefully called Santiago Abascal and Vox, his political brothers on the Spanish right, who had spent the election campaign with the slogan "sow" [the seeds, fields, countryside], as destructive "bitter fruit", "the seed of populism and radicalism" that seek only to sink the system and worsen "all" the conflicts and problems they find along the way. "They are always making trouble", he said: "they are born for that".

Yesterday, the PP, in the words of its secretary general, Teodoro García Egea, refused to accept the result of the elections in Castilla y León and the obvious choice of governing from the right with Vox, who had been very direct with that idea on Sunday night. The PSOE, on the left, said it was not going to support a PP government "stained by corruption". Did Casado want to be right-wing with Vox or a liberal European centrist?

February 14th, 2022

The Popular Party tried to keep moving forward on Monday with the version of events it had thought would happen before it called the regional elections: governing by itself in Castilla y León. Vox and the PSOE should abstain to allow that to happen. Both Vox and the PSOE rejected that path outright this morning. Vox wants their man, García-Gallardo, to become the Deputy First Minister and for their election manifesto and ideology to be taken into account. The socialists want to watch the fun on the right.

In several media interviews, PP secretary general Teodoro García Egea found it difficult to accept the reality that the PP has not won enough seats to govern alone, to execute that grand vision they had outlined for themselves a few weeks ago. They are going to have to depend on one or the other.

“If someone wanted the Popular Party to govern alone", said García-Gallardo (Vox): "they should have voted for the Popular Party [...] I'm not going to gift my votes to anyone”. And a few minutes later, in case anyone had missed it, he added: “They should lose all hope of us just giving them our votes. We are not going to facilitate their government in exchange for anything. That has to be clear”. PSOE federal executive committee spokesman Felipe Sicilia said what was happening to the PP was the PP's fault: “Mr. Casado's failure is now being exploited in this case by Vox”, and that "we are not going to support a government stained by corruption".

February 13th, 2022

Ciudadanos and Podemos almost disappear in ballot that leaves regional parliament more divided than ever. Provincial parties do well.

Share of seats in the regional parliament in Castilla y León
Share of seats in the regional parliament in Castilla y León

The Popular Party has managed to improve its result by two seats in the regional parliament in Castilla y León but has lost 60,000 votes and o.04 percentage points of support. Instead of having Ciudadanos in its regional government, like before Christmas, with their 12 seats, now Alfonso Fernández Mañueco will have to reach an agreement with Juan García Gallardo, of Vox, who has improved from one to 13 seats thanks to the early elections called by the PP. “This guy Juan Garcia-Gallardo looks like a Deputy First Minister to me!”, shouted Santiago Abascal during his appearance. They have already demanded a good seat at the top table but Mañueco didn’t mention them in his own appearance. He wants to govern “of all and for all”. He doesn’t have that many options.

Only seven or eight years after starting to grow in Spanish politics, Podemos and Ciudadanos have almost disappeared. Both parties that not very long ago were “revolutionary”, each in its own way, are left with just one seat each in the regional parliament, following along in the wake of their national parties. Voters want less far-left and less liberal centre. The national leaders of both parties should accept their part of the responsibility for the regional results. Unión del Pueblo Leonés, Soria Ya and For Ávila have all had a good night, with seven seats in total for the three provincial parties, all focused on more local issues.

February 7th, 2022

Newsletter: If the polls are right, Casado will finally have to decide if he can govern with Vox and what that means for the PP at the national level.

Bonus: podcast here with Rupert Cocke on Castilla y León elections and Vox vs. PP

While the world's athletes compete in the Winter Games in China and the West looks worriedly towards Ukraine and the build up of Russian troops on the border, now with an open threat from the President of the United States to "put an end" to the German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should Putin invade, Spanish politicians are watching the regional elections in Castilla y León this Sunday.

I say the politicians because today we have discovered that there are large numbers of people in Castilla y León who are not. According to the pre-election CIS survey, 60% of them are not really paying attention to election campaign news and 40% of them are even doubting over whether or not to go and vote. With all the effort and shouting the parties put in to the show in town squares and on Twitter.

January 27th, 2022

Newsletter: And what is the point in 2022 of election debates with half the parties people might want to vote for missing?

The official regional election campaign in Castilla y León begins tomorrow. All the parties have already been on their media campaigns for several days. They have multiplied the intensity of their social media messaging by ten. Candidates appear around every TV corner, if possible with cows or sheep or horses in the background, so that people know they are rural types, and can be trusted in the countryside with tractors and mud. Even if they are dressed up like a winter-collection catalogue. I don't know what the people who live in cities in Castilla y León must think, or if the country narrative up there is strong enough to win them over anyway.

Rufián (Esquerrfa) launches his "interview" show on YouTube a while ago now. Errejón (Más País) started a Twitch channel. Now Pablo Iglesias (Podemos) wants to become a "crticial journalist" to keep attacking the right from the left with a podcast and Twitter. The PSOE has joined Twitch. Vox, as well as enjoying makeing epic campaign videos, with epic music and cinema-like slow-motion shots that turn any street in Spain into a scene out of Gladiator, is going to launch a "programme" on Sunday with rural chats. They are going to call it "Sileneced Spain". It will be on their YouTube channel. Abascal, cows and countryside.

Are there any voters left anywhere in Spain that see, or try to see, all the propaganda parties pump out on all of their media channels every day of an election campaign? I doubt the answer is yes. So in that case, who are the parties talking to all the time? Do they think a random tweet or video clip will be enough to convince the odd swing voter? Or that the soundbites from their candidates on the lunchtime news, cows in the background, will do the job? And what is the point in 2022, in this tsunami-like, very immediate media environment, of holding election debates with half of the parties people might want to vote for this year left out because four years ago they didn't win enough seats to get their own group in parliament?

January 25th, 2022

Newsletter: Is sending some more weapons to Kiev or troops to neighbouring countries going to be the right path if Putin invades?

Allied efforts to try to present a united, principled front on the Ukraine crisis appeared to waver today. European and NATO messaging attempted to calm growing apprehension. US, British, Australian and Canadian goverments made warnings about the situation or took steps with their embassies in Kiev that suggested a Russian attack was more imminent.

Borrell (EU) said it was about diplomacy. Solana (ex NATO) called for everyone to calm down a bit. Robles (Defence Minister, Spain) said that while this was all worrying it was not dramatic. Macron (France) and Scholz (Germany) spoke of the economic price Putin would have to pay after he invaded Ukraine. Afterwards. Ex post facto.

If President Biden's "minor incursion" slip at the press conference last week was interpreted as a green light for Putin to invade, today there were arguably two more. Stoltenberg (NATO) told CNN that NATO would not be sending combat troops to Ukraine. Psaki (White House) said: "There is no intention or interest or desire by the President to send troops to Ukraine".

January 24th, 2022

Newsletter: Parties want to talk about cows and tractors and the countryside but Covid and the Ukraine crisis with Russia demand political attention.

Unless an unexpected black swan appears, the main news stories for the next two or three weeks in Spain are going to be the regional elections in Castilla y León, the international crisis with NATO and the EU against Russia in Ukraine, and the ongoing, seemingly never-ending Covid pandemic. How will each party react and position itself, with its own voter target segment in mind and the image they want to try to present? Events often force reactions, whether politicians like it or not.

The official compaign for the regional elections does not begin until Saturday, but obviously parties have started to take up their positions and, despite, their best efforts to maintain messaging and narrative discipline, the stories have already begun to cross paths. So far, there has been a marked rural focus to events, but now even Vox has had to adopt a position on the Ukraine crisis. Castilla y León is Spain which is Europe and NATO and so we can't have politicians who don't have an opinion on that complex whole that is our world in 2022.

With so very many Covid cases generated since the start of December, with 14-day incidence rates in to the several thousand per 100,000 people in multiple age groups across the country, even if the peak of this wave were to happen over the next few days, the backlog of cases will take at least another long couple of months to manage back down, just like last year. Will the management of the pandemic become one of the most debated issues of the campaign? How angry or fed up are voters at this point? Will there be problems because of the antivaxxers and the debate that might provoke?

January 22nd, 2022

Newsletter: Before the Russian tanks have crossed the border, the left-wing coalition government is already split on the matter. On the right, Vox's Abscal is denouncing a globalist plot against Spain.

The Ukraine crisis catches Spain in the run up to the regional elections in Castilla y León on February 13. This weekend, Western leaders seem to be taking the Russian invasion as a given, now imminent. More weapons are arriving in Ukraine or nearby countries. The US has ordered the evacuation of its Embassy in Kiev from Monday. The UK has told Brits not to travel around the country unless it's essential. Germany, on the other hand, is blocking the defence of Ukraine, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, by stopping Estonia sending arms to Kiev because the arms originally came from Germany.

This is the first international crisis of 2022 that requires a response and political positioning in Spain, like the crises with Morocco in the Spanish North African city of Ceuta in May or with the Western retreat from Afghanistan in August. The coalition government is already split: whilst the socialist half has ordered the deployment of Spanish warships, and perhaps fighters, to the area, the communist half is signing manifestos against the war and denouncing NATO.

"Europe does not have the slightest interest in a military confrontation on European soil with a state that has nuclear weapons", said Pablo Iglesias", now supposedly a "criticial journalist", at a Podemos event for those regional elections. Catalan separatists, who support the government in parliament, are also against participation. Would these first cracks in the coalition lead to its break up at some point, were the conflict and the ideological discrepancies to continue over time?

November 16th, 2021

The provincial court judge in Huelva, Florentino Ruiz Yamuza, today published his order with the arguments for throwing all journalists out of the entire Laura Luelmo murder trial. All the parties asked him to do it, he asked the jury and then of course argued that the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court, the Spanish Constitution, the Judicial Power Act, the Jury Act, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Statute of the Victim all backed him up.

The precedent is set, whether or not other judges copy the Yamuza format in future trials. If they were to do so, we would not have any news in Spain about trials for the most serious crimes because it could always be argued, as they have done today in Huelva, that the memory or dignity of the victim or their relatives will be affected.

The parties affected by the total closure, in this case broader society via the media, are not parties to the trial and cannot therefore present any formal appeal or letter to the court to petition the judge to reconsider or reverse his course.

In the trial for the murder of Gabriel Cruz in Almería two years ago, the same regional high court organised things quite well faced with a similar request from the family for the entire trial to be held behind closed doors. The judge then did not consult with the jury and decided by herslf to restrict access to some of the witness statements from the parents and relatives and also the forensic testimony.

November 15th, 2021

Another public authority in Spain, in this case judicial and not political, decided on Monday that it is best to close everything off to journalists and that society should neither see nor know anything about what is happening inside. Instead of regional governments and hospitals during the Covid pandemic, or the Ministry of Defense and what happened this summer with the mission to Afghanistan, today it was a judge at the Provincial Court in Huelva (Andalusia).

After the family's lawyer requested it all happen behind closed doors, the defendant's lawyer, the regional government's lawyer and even the Public Prosecutor's Office all said they thought that was a good idea and the judge let the jury think about it for all of 10 minutes, at the same time as they were told to choose their foreman, before ordering the trial closed. What were the lay jurors supposed to decide, when all of the lawyers in the room said that was what they wanted and the judge did not object?

Nothing shall be known about a trial for murder, the most serious crime of them all. At this hour late on Monday evening, what happened there today and what is going to happen there tomorrow is a news black hole. We do not even know if the jury's decision was unanimous, if the judge just accepted it as it was, or what his justifications were. The explanation is supposedly coming tomorrow in a court document.

Neither will we be able to find out anything about what the witnesses, both ordinary citizens and Civil Guard or Police officers, say, or what they did or didn't do during the investigation until the defendant was arrested, or anything about the row that took place at the time between the Civil Guard and forensic scientists about the time of the time of death of the victim and everything that information might lead to.

November 4th, 2021

Spain is one of three European countries trying to acquire Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the United States, Janes reports. The other two are Greece and the Czech Republic.

Janes reports Spain wants 50 of the super fighters, 25 x F-35As to replace ageing F-18s and another 25 x F-35Bs to replace its existing Harrier jump jets. First delivery would begin in 2027.

Defense News reported a Spanish procurement official as stating the F-35 is one of two options on the table, the other being the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The article does not mention a price, but looking at other countries' procurement costs over the past few years, $80-120 million each seems to be the ballpark, which would put the Spanish contract at somewhere between $4-6 billion, plus whatever the bombs, missiles, infrastructure, spare parts, fuel and training cost.

November 2nd, 2021

Spanish farmers have warned agriculture production costs are skyrocketing and want "urgent" help from the national and regional governments to stop producers being crushed by wholesale buyers trying to keep prices in supermarkets down.

COAG says the "brutal" rise in price will lead to "significant production cuts in the Spanish countryside".

The farming organistion says electricity prices are up 300%, fertilizers up 100%, diesel up 40-60%, plastics up 50%, water up 30% and animal feeds up 25%.

They estimate the cost of bringing a truck of fertilizer online in a field has gone up from €4,000 last year to €8,000-10,000 now.

October 17th, 2021

We chat about his recent article "Dismantling the narrative that Spain is a fascist state". Spain, Franco, the Transition, Zapatero, Catalan separtism, the evolution of media, politics, technology, the economy and the rise of Vox.

Dismantling the narrative that Spain is a fascist state:

October 12th, 2021
Readers used crypto to guarantee some real-world reporting
Readers used crypto to guarantee some real-world reporting
  1. Let's see if I can explain this without getting lost in the technicalities of bitcoin, about which I understood almost nothing until this week. It was on a mental list of global issues I would one day understand better.
  2. Not going to get into the huge systemic economic, social and political debates around bitcoin today, which will be fascinating to watch and report on over the next few years.
  3. A week ago, Twitter announced it was introducing "tips" on people's profiles and that one of the options was going to be...bitcoin, with two bitcoin options: standard bitcoin and something called lightning bitcoin.
  4. For standard bitcoin, Twitter lets you put a bitcoin "address" in a new profile field. To "tip" someone (send them some bitcoin, or bits of bitcoin, called "satoshis"), you copy and paste that address into your bitcoin "wallet" (but the easiest thing seems to be to scan a QR code on your phone)
  5. There are several possibilities for a bitcoin "wallet". I installed an app on the phone called Muun. Why? Because Twitter boss @jack recommended it in a tweet. So it's probably not a terrible one.
  6. Another Jack, the boss of Strike, also mentioned Muun in his new video talking about the Twitter-Strike lightning bitcoin option, which so far is only available in the US and El Salvador.
  7. Why El Salvador? Because El Salvador has introduced bitcoin for everyone in the whole country, a new national payment system. The lightning version is about making bitcoin faster and the transactions cheaper.
  8. The lightning bitcoin thing on Twitter seems to be about Srike using bitcoin to let people send dollars or euros to each other. But if you don't live in the US or El Salvador, you don't need to worry about that for now.
  9. Some readers who understand bitcoin sent me a few bits of bitcoin ("satoshis") to test. It worked (of course it did, but it was new for new). The bits of bitcoin appeared in my "wallet" (the Muun app on my phone), along with a euro equivalent amount.
  10. So that was fun. The options for receiving bitcoin, for now, seem to be somebody copying pasting the address into their wallet, or me sending them a lightning bitcoin "invoice" first (another line of text or a QR code).
  11. Then I discovered a site called, @bitrefill, which promised to turn bitcoins, or bits of bitcoin, into Amazon vouchers that I could spend on journalism stuff. The first little test worked.
  12. Some other readers sent more satoshis. Quite a few more. One person sent nearly €200 worth, which was very cool, but I know nothing about who they are. Man? Woman? Age? Country? Language? Job? Identity? No idea. Nothing. Zero. Completely anonymous. [Thanks if it was you.]
  13. Let that sink in. A completely anonymous private reader decided to send along some virtual money to guarantee more and better public journalism for all, in the physical world, with a journalist you can recognise.
  14. Amazon tells me that the second batch of reporting objects bought with bitcoins from readers who have guaranteed this journalism is already on the way. For now, some cables, connectors, a light and a cage for the phone for the new live streams, a better tripod to hold it all up.
  15. But those new objects will actually really improve things next week when I go and do a first real mobile live stream for you (there will be a big envir