“This is how you win a party conference”

Rubalcaba makes an unusual gesture on the floor of parliament

Rubalcaba jokes with Rosa Díez in Congress.
Rubalcaba jokes with Rosa Díez in Congress.ULY MARTÍN

Rosa Díez, the UpyD spokeswoman in Congress, explained that the above words were what accompanied Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba’s unusual gesture on the floor of parliament on Tuesday.

Rubalcaba, freshly elected secretary general of the Socialist Party, lent his wisdom to Díez, who was beaten to the job in 2000 by former Prime Minister José Rodríguez Zapatero, in front of the opposition benches the PSOE now occupies.

“We were having a joke,” Rubalcaba said. It was a day of surrealism in Congress, with plenty of politicians wearing their boots on the other foot as the parties convened for the first session of prime minister’s questions since last November’s general elections.

José Blanco, until recently the all-powerful Socialist government spokesman, was seen talking with reporters and unattended by his former flock of advisors, a rare sight according to one veteran politician.

The most sought-out member was undoubtedly Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, who answered questions about governmment policy and expressed her surprise that her principal adversary for sessions to come, the Socialist spokeswoman Soraya Rodríguez, was not in attendance.

This also led to mirth on a light-hearted day before the serious business of straightening Spain’s keeling economic ship unfolds. “Have you seen Soraya?” asked one deputy. “Which one, the Eurovision girl?” quipped another.

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