José Vicente Hernández Fernández (Madrid, 1958), better known as ‘Pepu’ Hernández, is leaving. It leaves a field, politics, to which it arrived completely virgin two years ago to give one of the most complicated battles of the Socialist Party, the Mayor of Madrid. Only two years after Pedro Sánchez chose him by surprise for the cartel of the capital, the former Basketball selector decides to retire and leaves all his positions: his act of councilor and the spokesperson for the municipal group, whose functions will now be assumed by the socialist councilor Mar Espinar.
Eduardo Ranz, the mayor of Fuenlabrada and Juan Lobato will compete for the leadership of the PSOE of Madrid
Beyond the impact of that announcement, Hernández has always felt strange in a world he does not know. In the electoral campaign, in televised debates and in opposition to José Luis Martínez-Almeida. In the municipal elections of 2019, he did not manage to overcome the drift of a party that had already lost the leadership of the left four years ago at the hands of Manuela Carmena. Eight councilors out of 57 was the worst result of the PSOE in the city council of the capital. Behind Más Madrid, the PP and Ciudadanos. The challenge was impossible for a newcomer to the Palacio de Cibeles faced with the daunting task of getting the socialist voters who supported Carmena back home. Those were the days when the almighty secretary general of the PSOE surprised his followers with media signings: a basketball coach, an astronaut for Science, like Pedro Duque, or even a television presenter, Màxim Huerta, for Culture.
Hernández had seduced basketball Spain – Sánchez and his past as a player in the Estudiantes quarry included – with that gold medal in the 2006 Eurobasket. One of those generations of athletes that the country will remember for decades and that was awarded with the Prince of Asturias. So the plan was to exploit that legacy in Madrid politics by putting a symbol of sport at the head of the PSOE. “Those values, what teamwork represents, are the values that I want for Spain and for my team, which is the PSOE,” Pedro Sánchez said of his old friend.
Long before, Hernández had praised the 15M movement, charged against cuts and criticized bipartisanship. “I don’t like absolute majorities of anyone.” Almeida himself reminded him during the electoral campaign of some words from the coach Hernández in 2008 when in a La Razón forum he said that he saw Rajoy with more “reflexes” to launch a triple in the last second.
During these years he has not been comfortable in the municipal group. He signed the Villa’s agreements with Almeida, like Más Madrid, when the worst of the pandemic was raging and he exercised a discreet opposition to Almeida, leading a group that was falling apart. His is the fourth resignation among Socialist councilors. For a time it sounded for the Higher Sports Council, which was first occupied by Irene Lozano, another of Pedro Sánchez’s personal bets, and recently by the leader of the party in Madrid, José Manuel Franco. He does not leave a great political legacy, but he does leave a seal, between colleagues and rivals, of a person who is open to dialogue and is close. Those who have shared a group with him have come out in a rush to thank him for his work.