Spain's Socialists say sorry on YouTube for mishandling economy

Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 00:00

In an unprecedented move, Spanish Socialists have used a YouTube video to apologise for their party’s handling of the economy when in power under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

In the 3½-minute video, several grassroots members of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) tell the camera why they regret the performance of the Zapatero government, particularly its tail-end. “We didn’t acknowledge the economic crisis in time, or the scale of it,” says one.

Spain’s crisis hit soon after Zapatero won re-election, in 2008. Despite a soaring unemployment rate and a ballooning deficit, the prime minister and his cabinet played down the country’s economic woes.

A party member details in the video the administration’s sudden U-turn in economic policy of 2010, when it introduced a raft of austerity measures, including public sector wage cuts and a pensions freeze.

“With those cuts we betrayed our voters and our ideas,” he says. “It’s important to say sorry for things we have done wrong,” says another.

Mr Zapatero did not run in the 2011 election, when his party was soundly beaten by the conservative Partido Popular (PP) of Mariano Rajoy.

Legacy

None of those featured in the new video was in the Zapatero administration.

But the legacy of the former prime minister’s tenure has severely hindered his party since it was voted out of office.

The PSOE still trails the beleaguered Mr Rajoy’s PP in opinion polls.

In October, the Socialists suffered humiliating defeats in regional elections in the Basque Country and Galicia. And on Sunday they lost ground in Catalonia.

One of their biggest problems is that many of those now at the top of the party were key figures in the Zapatero government, including current leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

Although the YouTube apology is unusual, it is not the Socialists’ first such move.

Earlier this month the party posted on Twitter that it was sorry for failing to tackle Spain’s home repossession crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people evicted for failing to pay their mortgages.

Columnist Pedro de Hoyos welcomed the recent displays of contrition, but said they were not enough.

“The Socialist militants have done the right thing in saying sorry,” he wrote on the SigloXXI.comwebsite. “I hope the PP do so as well one day.

“But above all, those who should show their regret are the professional politicians who, from various positions in the Socialist Party, have kept the party ranks closed, and not made a single criticism.”