“I can’t be in two places at once,” under-fire culture minister says

Wert responds to criticism of decision to shun Spanish cinema’s premier awards ceremony

Spanish Education José Ignacio Wert (center) with the British secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Vince Cable.
Spanish Education José Ignacio Wert (center) with the British secretary of state for business, innovation and skills Vince Cable.MINISTERIO DE EDUCACIÓN

José Ignacio Wert’s decision not to attend Sunday’s Goya Awards ceremony did not spare him the slings and arrows of a sector that blames the Culture and Education Minister for its lack of recent fortune. Javier Bardem summed up the feelings of Spanish cinema toward the under-fire Cabinet member: “He is the anti-culture minister,” the Oscar-winning actor said.

Wert is the first culture minister not to attend the Goyas since their inception in 1987. The ramifications of his decision are uncertain, but it is unlikely the relationship between Wert and Spanish cinema will enjoy a Hollywood ending. That he announced his decision just three days before the gala was not received well, and in view of his position as the least-rated member of the government by voters, the whole affair could cost Wert a heavy political price.

The Socialists have certainly grasped the moment, calling for the minister’s immediate resignation. “I don’t know if he didn’t go because of arrogance or cowardice; but what is certain is that wasn’t an agenda problem,” said the Socialist number two, Elena Valenciano, who asked Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy ensure that “this is the final insult that Spanish culture will receive on his part.”

Wert had argued that he was unable to attend Sunday night’s awards because he had an early morning meeting with his British counterpart, Vince Cable, on Monday in London. However, a spokesman for the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills confirmed to EL PAÍS that the request for the meeting had come from Wert’s office just 11 days before the Goyas, on January 29.

“I can’t be in two places at once,” Wert insisted on Monday after his tête á tête with Cable. “I respect the critics, but nobody in the world of cinema can say that I have not been available when asked for.”

Sources from Wert’s ministry stated that his absence on Sunday was perfectly rational given “the importance” of the meeting with Cable, whose remit also includes higher education.

“The United Kingdom has several universities that are among the best in the world, and the Spanish government is going to carry out a reform of the universities in due course,” the department said.

As well as his meeting with Cable, Wert was welcomed at the London of School of Economics. The minister few to London on Sunday night and was expected back in Spain on Tuesday.

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