“How cool is this, my God!”
—She’s so stuffed that she doesn’t even realize what’s being deposited into her account.
A politician from the PP and another from Vox comment loudly, and separately, on what is happening before their eyes: the act of contrition by Mónica García, the leader of Más Madrid, who, grimace, gives a press conference in the Assembly of Madrid to recognize that it enjoys the thermal social bonus as a large family, and to negotiate as best it can the contradiction that it has requested the resignation of the regional vice president, Enrique Ossorio, for exactly the same thing. It is Thursday, and the politician who will try to oust Isabel Díaz Ayuso from power in the regional elections on May 28 explains that she was unaware that she was a recipient of aid that is automatically obtained when the electric social bonus is also granted. That the matter was managed by her husband. And that she admits her mistake: “I apologize.”
But his ordeal does not end there. First, the government remains in full control: although it tries to recover the initiative (“everything is easier when you are a cynic, you never have any ethical problem, because you are incapable of admitting a mistake and asking for forgiveness”, he says to the PP), his rivals exploit the situation. He spends part of the afternoon on the phone, up the hall, down the hall, in Parliament. And the next day he clears his agenda of events. Garcia has just had a bomb explode in the middle of the electoral campaign.
“This has been a shot in the foot, a Boomerang that has exploded in the face of Mónica García and Más Madrid”, summarizes the political scientist Pablo Simón. “If you take the concerns of the voters, there are particularly sensitive issues for the left, such as social benefits and the redistribution of wealth,” he explains. “When you incur in a scandal of this type, it erodes you in an issue in which you are supposed to be strong, in an issue that is fundamental to you,” he abounds. “This erosion occurs in terms of popularity, it gives a greater risk of demobilization, and affects in the short term the undecided among various leftist parties,” he details. “In the medium term, it does not have to mean a very profound structural change, but it does have an erosion that Más Madrid’s rivals will be continually remembering,” he says. And he predicts: “Who is going to play with it? The right on the side of hypocrisy, but also Podemos, because they compete for the same electorate, and they will be branded as incoherent, which can impact the undecided between the two formations.
Wednesday 15. García starts the day with an important call for his party, the presentation of the main lines of his campaign. It’s at 10:00. By then, the Ossorio scandal has already broken out: the number two de Díaz Ayuso is a beneficiary of the electric and thermal social bonus for being a member of a large family, and despite the fact that he earns 104,928.60 euros a year in salary and has assets of more than one million euros. Garcia doesn’t hesitate. He asks for his resignation forcefully. The problem arrives around 13.45.
“They have granted the electric social bonus,” a journalist begins her question to Ossorio during the press conference of the government council, which was held that day in Collado Villalba. “The funny thing is that Mónica García’s husband too,” she continues. “More Madrid has requested his resignation [la de Ossorio]”, Add. “I ask him if he thinks these are two cases that fit the concept of a vulnerable consumer.”
Díaz Ayuso, who listens to the question with his number two, she remains ojiplática. Osorio, too. And immediately, the telephone number of García’s press officer begins to burn. “Is it true that García also enjoys the controversy bonus?” the questions agree.
“We came from a rush from a presentation in which everything had gone very well, and suddenly this comes out: a slap in the face,” photographed a member of the opposition leader’s hard core.
Because there is “a continuous loop of calls”. Constant questions. But the press officer of the leader of Más Madrid knows nothing. And neither did she. She tries to locate her husband, who is the one who manages that matter, and is on an international trip, without panic. Thus, the leader of Más Madrid maintains the working lunch that she had with a journalist, her press officer and her campaign manager at the Tierra by Ezzential restaurant, a few steps from the Congress of Deputies. Then, García goes to pick up her daughter from school and returns home to wait for her son. Faced with the controversy, she is accompanied by the two members of her team with whom she has eaten, in addition to her campaign spokesman, Javier Padilla, and two other advisers.
The minutes pass while several of them eat loin, cheese and tomato sandwiches that they have bought in a nearby bar, “on the run”. They swallow it with some water. They think about what to do.
“We screwed up, how do we fix it, that’s where we start from,” explains one of the people who accompany García at that time. “From there, the essential thing was to have solid information to prepare a response without contradictions, truthful,” she continues. “That was flying over everything,” she adds. “And it went at full speed, we didn’t want to convey the feeling that we were hiding or burying our heads under the ground like an ostrich,” she describes. “Mónica was 100 million things away, and with the concern of clarifying the matter.”
By then, the leader of Más Madrid has already received messages worrying about her from Vice President Yolanda Díaz and the leader of Más País, Iñigo Errejón. And confirmation arrives: yes, her husband tells her, they charge the thermal bonus because it is automatically granted to all families receiving the electricity bonus.
Jug of cold water. And action-reaction. Garcia does not sit still. She issues a statement. And she gives an interview in prime time to Cadena SER: “I didn’t know (…) The first one surprised is me (…) I don’t make any excuses. I acknowledge the mistake. I don’t want to charge this. I do not need it. We have always defended an income criterion [para dar ayudas] I am going to study if there is any way to return it ”, he admits.
Thursday 16. The expectation is maximum in the Assembly of Madrid. “What has happened is a little candy for the PP’s discourse that Mónica is a hypocrite who lives in the Retirement while she says what she says,” says a politician used to analyzing the strategies of the parties with representation in the Chamber.
The PP tries to take advantage of the moment: “It is a horrible week for the left of the Community of Madrid”, celebrates Alfonso Serrano, the general secretary of the PP in Madrid, who with these 12 words reflects how different the impact of the bonus controversy is on the right and the left. Because it has been discovered that he is also a beneficiary of that help. And that he is also in the severely vulnerable category, to which he should not have agreed in application of the income criteria. But in the PP nobody believes that they should apologize. Neither he nor Ossorio.
García arrives soon at Parliament to review his speech in plenary, and the previous press conference. This takes place in the so-called flag zone, a few meters from the chamber, and attracts more spectators than ever. There are not only journalists. Vox and PP deputies listen. Even some advisor to Díaz Ayuso dedicates a few words to the situation in passing. Garcia doesn’t hear any of it. He is answering questions. Assuming a mistake. Apologizing. At the height of his Way of the Cross.
She is then interviewed in Red Hot, a program of La Sexta, to complete the tour of explanations that had begun the night before on the radio.
Friday the 17th. The next day, Friday, there is nothing on the official agenda of the leader of Más Madrid. Nor on Saturday. Not on Sunday. Desert. Rest time planned before the controversy, they say in their team. A breather to close an unexpected crisis.
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