“I’m going to work”. It is 5:00 p.m. on Thursday when Pedro Sánchez gets on the plane that will take him back to Madrid from Vilna, where he has finished the tour of the Baltic countries, and informs his team that he will travel in the room reserved for the president or the head of the Status on Airbus 310 of the Air Force. It is more than likely that in the almost four hours that the flight lasted, he made the decision to activate the government crisis that he would report on Saturday, which just a few hours earlier had reiterated to journalists that it was not a priority. Among those who always bet that he would do it in July and not in autumn, there were those who in recent days doubted that it would be the case due to the tight international agenda that the president had ahead of him.
The keys to the new Government of Pedro Sánchez
After 9 pm it arrives at La Moncloa. By then, the PSOE had already canceled an act that it had planned and announced on Saturday to present the conclusions of the framework presentation of the 40th Federal Congress under the unofficial pretext that the president arrived tired. Ferraz replaced it with a membership campaign to be presented by the Secretary for Organization, José Luis Ábalos, and which was also finally canceled.
In the following 24 hours Sánchez revolutionized the coalition with a broad remodeling in which he had been working for weeks, after the failure of the PSOE in the Madrid elections of the 4M and the wear that the polls reflected as a result of the pardons to the leaders of the you process. On this occasion, the socialist leader has not shared all the information or with his closest collaborators. At that moment, no one in their hard core has all the data of what is going to happen, which makes some of them doubt about the scope that the first great government crisis may have. “No one has had all the information,” says a member of his team.
On Friday at the last minute, Sánchez tells his plans – although not in full – to Félix Bolaños and lets him fall that he will be the replacement for Carmen Calvo as Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory. In the environment of the vice president they maintain that she knew the decision before and that she still has a pending conversation with the president, but in her department they were working on this week’s agenda. Bolaños, still in his capacity as Secretary General of the Presidency, then activated all the machinery. The new strongman of the Government has to prepare the new structure and the decrees of dismissal and appointment of the ministers, including his own.
Sánchez also picks up the phone that afternoon to inform some collaborators of the upcoming remodeling, including Vice President Yolanda Díaz, and begins to call the new ministers. Isabel Rodríguez called her that afternoon to offer her the spokesperson and the Territorial Policy portfolio, reports Alicia aviles. The mayor of Puertollano accepted the challenge immediately, although in her environment they fear the wear and tear that continuous exposure and a portfolio as complex as that of Territorial Policy in full swing of the Catalan agenda may bring. It was not until the next morning that Miquel Iceta learned that his brief stint in that department had ended and that he would now be responsible for Culture and Sports.
Early on Saturday, Sánchez sends some messages to his collaborators to inform them that the time has come. “The dance begins,” he told them. The plan was for Cadena SER to announce the remodeling of the Government at 10 a.m., but the chain was anticipated, so the phones began to smoke, especially that of the president, who spends all morning calling to report appointments and ceases.
Minutes after the news broke, at 10:02, the PSOE announced the cancellation of the Ábalos act that was to be held an hour later in Ferraz. The still Minister of Transport, Urban Agenda and Mobility goes to Moncloa and the president conveys his departure from the Government. Also his end as secretary of Organization of the party. A blow that I did not expect. Ábalos, according to sources close to him, will decide in the next few days if he continues in that position until October, which is when the 40th Federal Congress will have to ratify the new leadership, or leave it immediately.
That same morning Sánchez transferred Óscar López who will be his new chief of staff. The CEO of Paradores was in Riaza with his family spending the weekend, although he was already forewarned that his future could be in La Moncloa because he had been surveyed about it for weeks. His predecessor, Iván Redondo, had plans in Extremadura for the same day that he had to cancel in the morning.
The president also contacted Diana Morant this Saturday morning. “See you on Monday,” he told the new Minister of Science and Innovation. In his case, the offer to succeed Pedro Duque arrived on Monday and they held a brief meeting in Moncloa for no more than half an hour. The mayor of Gandía, who this Sunday has given the baton of command, accepted immediately, reports Lucas Marco.
Uribes doing jogging and Escrivá playing golf in the midst of a crisis
José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes received several calls from the presidency that caught him making jogging and without a mobile phone. Returning to his home, he saw several missed calls and once he managed to contact La Moncloa, the head of Culture and Sports traveled to the presidential campus, where Sánchez thanked him for the services provided during this year and a half.
The president tried to personally communicate his decision to all the outgoing ministers, but in several cases it proved impossible and he had to fire them over the phone. This was the case of Arancha González Laya, who was in the Basque Country for the weekend. It was one of those that sounded to leave, but in the Ministry they had doubts that it would happen to prevent Morocco from scoring somewhat in their favor due to the migratory crisis that the neighboring country forced due to the reception of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Galli.
Juan Carlos Campo was in Cádiz when he received the call from the president. In Justice they did not expect him to be one of the fallen just after the pardons and after spending just 18 months in office, even less than his predecessor, Dolores Delgado. Isabel Celaá, who was a spokesperson in the first stage of the Government, also said goodbye by phone, because she was in Bilbao for family reasons. Sánchez did not inform him that Pilar Alegría would be his successor at the head of Education and Vocational Training.
“The best news is that there is no news. We continue.”
As the calls follow, Moncloa starts a trickle of leaks with the changes, in a strategy identical to that of the other two occasions in which Sánchez has formed a Government, after the motion of censure in 2018 and in the January inauguration of 2020. When it ends, it communicates to the king the new composition of the Executive. It is 13:08 when the Secretary of State for Communication reports that the president is in Zarzuela. The ministers who remain, including José Luis Escrivá, caught playing golf by the crisis, breathe a sigh of relief. Also the head of Industry, Reyes Maroto, who had been in all the pools of possible outgoing. Maroto sent a message to his collaborators, who were awaiting the changes, in which he said: “The best news is that there is no news. We continue.”
The president appears in the press room, to which he did not summon the journalists, after 3 pm, to coincide once again with the start of the news. “From today the Government of Recovery begins,” he sentenced in his address to the Spanish.
Between ten in the morning, when the scope of the cabinet remodeling was known, and three in the afternoon, when the President of the Government appeared, there was five hours of long silence in the WhatsApp group shared by all members of the federal leadership of the PSOE, in which no one dared to put a single message. Afterwards, congratulations and praise for the new cabinet followed and the outgoing, among whom was José Luis Ábalos, were fired with effusive expressions of gratitude. Ábalos still does not answer calls and does not respond to messages. Not so Calvo, who has let his fellow party members know that he is “serene and eager to retire for a season to his home in Cabra, in Córdoba.”