Pilar Alegría (La Zaida, Zaragoza, 44 years old), Minister of Education for the past year, is now taking on the responsibility of being the face and voice of the PSOE’s executive for this next and crucial electoral phase. She ran out of vacation this summer too, but on August 13, she faces the challenge of convincing her 450 neighbors as a town crier.
Questions: Why doesn’t the governor explain the reason and the meaning of this transformation he has made in the PSOE?
Answer: Well I think so. There have always been moments of upheaval in all political parties, and the upheaval is now due on the one hand to the fact that a political course is coming to an end and on the other hand to the fact that we are facing a new stage, a new era that will take until 2023, which is an election year. What is sought is to continue to reactivate the party, in particular and to seek this reconnection with the citizenry at a difficult time. We cannot forget what we have been through since the beginning of the legislature, dealing with difficult situations, and now, with this turning point, a political course in which there have been important milestones has come to an end – the NATO summit, the nation-state debate – and now we need to face that march and give it more to focus on in this election year.
P But shouldn’t the president explain the reasons to his party’s electoral committee?
R The important statements that the President has to make are the ones that really matter to people on the street about what the government is doing to deal with the situation that we’ve had since the pandemic and now with the war and before above all experience the project you have in the future, because here we are also thinking about re-approving the new state budgets. Or how we approach the EU Council Presidency in the next semester of 2023. So we also have projects for the future. What the President needs to focus on, and not just the President, but the entire administration and the entire party, is explaining the answers or solutions that this administration is putting on the table to protect the working middle class at this very difficult time.
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P If one recognizes today that these changes burden the government and give it more weight, why weren’t they made a year ago, or even nine months ago at the 40th PSOE Congress in Valencia?
R These decisions do not suit me. I’ve been a minister for a year and now as spokesperson for the executive branch, which suits me to bring more intensity to the education of what we’re doing.
P In this sense, what can you do differently than before?
R First of all, I would like to acknowledge and thank the work of my predecessors, because being the spokesman for a ruling party is not without its difficulties. It’s like a relay race and each person has their own way of being and communicating. What I discussed with the President is to convey a clear message, close to people’s real problems, and to cultivate empathy in a process of active listening.
P With that in mind, don’t you think that on many occasions President Pedro Sánchez is too involved in the La Moncloa bubble, in official files, in international summits and that he rarely appears on the streets, in gas stations or in supermarkets?
R From the moment he entered this difficult legislature, the President has shown his willingness to roll up his sleeves and face problems head-on, which is expected of a leader. And yes, the NATO summit was a success for the government and the country, but last week it was ablaze and will continue to be, along with many citizens who have seen their lives, their homes and their best interests during these weeks have important belongings.
P In the Federal Committee, the President spoke out in favor of “giving everything, stepping on the gas and going out and winning every election in 2023” without any self-criticism. How you do that?
R I think that the PSOE usually has a lot of self-criticism, but now that it’s important to recognize mistakes, it’s more important to bring realism to what’s happening. And in the face of a legislative period with pandemics, natural disasters and the war in Ukraine, our stance is to seek realistic solutions. Incidentally, something very different from what happened here in the last crisis, which was experienced in 2008, or what would happen if Mr. Feijóo and the PP were in government. What we have noticed in these three months of Feijóo’s leadership on the right is that he is Mariano Rajoy’s cousin, but even more vague in ignorance of much content. Feijóo’s only empathy is with the privileged. He is outraged by the bank tax. He writes checks for the rich while voting against worker protections.
P What duties has the President delegated to his Executive Branch for this election year?
R The PSOE knows how to win elections. We have shown it throughout history and it is true that there are now many, particularly the right and their orators, who believe all is won. You are wrong. We go out to win. We know how to win and we want to win too. Let no one think that the PSOE will lower its arms. I will say one thing: when the PSOE is united and in shape, we have shown for many years that we are unstoppable.
P Will cabinet members join local candidates in May 2023?
R I do not know.
P I say that because the primary calendar has been opened and the regional ones aren’t that far away. What do you wish for your future? Why are many pointing to him as a replacement for Javier Lambán in Aragón?
R In Aragon we have a socialist president who won the last elections of 2019 and as we approved in the Federal Committee, in the areas where we have presidents they should not go through primary elections. We will have a candidate who will be the current President. And my future is my present, Minister of Education and one of the voices of my party.
P But can you say no to a president when he offers a job?
R based. You have to listen to it and you can talk.
P Is governing with the maximalisms and noise that Podemos often creates difficult and could cost them votes, or will it be inevitable in any case?
R It is a first coalition government with two parties with different tendencies, but for me it is not really the debate or the disagreements that may arise and we should indeed reduce the intensity of their decibels. The main thing is the result. Since we’ve been in power, we’ve passed more than 150 laws, many of which are absolutely fundamental: labor reform, minimum wage, minimum living wage, vocational training law. And here the governments that gave a clear signal of absolute instability were all those that emerged from the coalitions of PP, Ciudadanos and Vox, none of which ended the legislature.
P Does it bother you that Bildu not only supports social projects in Congress, such as the Democratic Memory Law?
R What bothers, annoys and annoys me the most is that the PP has never got behind the wheel and has not supported any proposal by this government in Parliament.
P But zu Bildu, do you care if they support a measure if it is good for the outcome?
R I am aware of the fragmentation we have in Parliament and that when we pass a law we need to seek support and backing from those who represent Spanish citizens in this Chamber.
P Will schoolchildren in Catalonia one day have 25% of their lessons in Spanish?
R If we refer specifically to the 25% penalty, the government has very clearly complied with the penalties in this country, and even more so when it comes to definitive penalties, they are mandatory. I would also like to say that we must also treat the decisions of the judiciary with great respect, and in this case the power lies with the Supreme Court of Catalonia and we respect the deadlines and times. And on the other hand, I consider the partisan use of language, especially by the right and the PP, to be a deep and serious mistake. And the most important thing is that the Education Law reflects very well that the children in all the co-official language communities, from Galicia, Euskadi, Catalonia, the Valencian Community to the Balearic Islands, when they complete their compulsory education and their basic education, they will be proficient in both languages .
P Is it constitutional to award scholarships to families with an income of more than 100,000 euros?
R It logically breaks with the redistribution principle. Also, I wouldn’t call it a stipend, I would call it a check, a check for the rich or for people who don’t need it to pay for their kids’ college tuition. This is not Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s proposal, but that of the PP. Topping up or expanding scholarships to people who earn around 6,000 or 7,000 euros net per month is far from reality.
P Will this government and this team end the legislature? I say this because some are speculating that there could be another adjustment for the regional and local elections in May.
R The vocation is yes. The teams don’t depend on me, but what will end this administration is the legislature.
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