Sánchez's not so Modest Proposal

In a bid to prevent the fourth election in Spain in as many years, the acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and his party, PSOE (the Spanish Socialist party), recently released 370 policy statements under their Open Proposal for a Commun Progresive Programme. Their aim was to bridge the gap between the PSOE and Unidas Podemos (Spain’s other major left wing party). Since then Ciudadanos (a centre right party in favour of liberalism), has announced a plan to abstain from a vote with Partido Popular (a conservative right wing Christian party) which had previously prevented Sánchez from governing but failed to achieve the necessary support from the Partido Popular. Unless an arrangement is reached by 23rd September, it is back to the polls for Spain, and the policies of the PSOE will almost certainly be part of any ensuing negotiations.

The PSOE manage to say a lot (i.e. enough to make 370 statements) without saying much, achieved thanks in part to their repetition of policies, for example their plan to end forest fires (numbers 45, 272, 277 and 287). It’s easy to say you support a cause when it costs you nothing. The proposal was primarily meant for Podemos and so PSOE know that they can throw in support for any cause without being held to it by the general public. 

The PSOE claim to care about women as seen by their attempts at inclusive language, for example ‘ciudadanas y ciudadanos’ (367). The term ciudadanos already refers to all citizens but the PSOE also use the redundant term ciudadanas to both include women and pander to them but, unfortunately for the PSOE, actions speak louder than words. While they are in favour of condescending female quotas (219), surely it would be better to have policies that work for all regardless of gender rather than pushing policies that only work for some, and retrospectively trying to bridge the gaps (e.g. 40). 

The party claims to want to help solve the problem of Spain’s infamously high unemployment rates yet only puts forward policies that are likely to worsen it. They plan to increase workers’ rights (by implementing restrictive firing laws) but fail to see that the problem with Spain’s labour market is demand side, so these policies are not helping anyone. These policies manage to make employing workers less appealing to firms. Their policies aimed at improving working conditions are great for those already in employment - and yet do nothing to reduce unemployment, as the problem lies not in making work attractive for unemployed people but rather finding them work to do. The proposal of a higher ‘interprofessional minimum wage’ (13) will fail to reduce unemployment, as it is those at the lower end of the income spectrum who will become more expensive to employers - hurting the poorest rather than boosting their incomes. What’s more, the PSOE are trying to cut down on temporary contracts (44). This will deter employers from hiring new workers as it will be harder to fire them and harder to assess their value to the firm before hiring them long term - one of those ‘well-meaning,’ virtuous policies which actually hurts the unemployed rather than protecting workers. The plan to ease unemployment by creating jobs in the public sector (42) is only a superficial solution. 

The party appear sheepish in their refusal to amend the constitution to allow for independence referenda - a decision which is tactically appealing but morally wrong. When discussing Catalonia, PSOE want to start the ‘dialogue’ between the Spanish government and the Catalan government (350) - an empty promise. From a liberal standpoint, it is clear that the Catalan people should have the right to a referendum whether or not independence is, in one’s opinion, ‘right’ for the region. The PSOE have no real interest in entertaining the debate. 

And yet the PSOE didn’t shy away from certain topics, for example, calling for the EU to recognise the State of Palestine, saying that they will work to promote this (348). Or, indeed, wanting to exhume Franco’s body and converting the Valle de los Caídos into a public space. 

Perhaps the boldest policy proposal is the party’s desire to legalise and offer euthanasia on the current National Health System. Given that Spain is often praised for being at the forefront of healthcare (due to its score of 92/100 in the Healthcare Access and Quality Index), maybe Britain should take note of ideas like this. Although it does read a little oddly, especially for a party that is often opposed to individuals having the right to their body. A key example of the PSOE denying women the right to their bodies is their opposition to surrogacy (75). After all, why should we allow women autonomy?! The party labels all surrogacy (paid and unpaid) as degrading - irrespective of personal choice. Their aim to ban surrogacy is hypocritical given their policy of assisting women with reproductive difficulties (74). 

Another way in which the PSOE want to deny women autonomy is by abolishing prostitution (69). Although they claim to support/empower women, they pass judgement on their choices - choices which are surely none of the government’s business. They will also make the poorest women less safe.

They talk about wanting to boost the Spanish farming industry and wanting to boost production while also wanting to reduce the use of chemicals (272). How can you increase crop yield and be anti chemicals? If you want to increase crop yield, it makes sense to allow the use of regulated fertilisers and pesticides. 

Many of the policies lack depth, such as the plan to limit the length of a police officer’s career, in order to prevent corruption (244). The policy may help the PSOE as they are seen to do something but simply limiting the length of a police officer’s career isn’t not going to solve the issue. Those who are particularly motivated to cheat the system will just find new ways of doing so.

Spain is being put through the wringer by a man who prioritises his political success (i.e. getting more votes in a subsequent election) by refusing any deal (even with the politically similar party Podemos) over working to provide a government reflective of Spain’s previous election.