Monday, February 1, 2010


Politicians are so often caught out by open microphones letting the world known their private thoughts that by now you would have thought their number one rule would be ‘check the mike’. Apparently that is not so as Esperanza Aguirre, the Partido Popular president of the Madrid regional government can testify.

On Friday she was sitting alongside her number two Ignacio González at a meeting of mayors in Becerril de la Sierra. She commented to him about the situation at the Caja Madrid savings bank – where politicians play a leading role at board level. It is not entirely clear who Aguirre was talking about but she called a former counsellor with the bank a “hijo puta” – “son of a whore”.

Such a term may sound shocking to Anglo-Saxon ears but of course it is common parlance in Spanish albeit insulting. Aguirre would not be drawn as to who she was speaking about and safe in the knowledge that we didn’t know she told the daily newspaper “El Mundo” she was sure “he” was “a saint and his mother as well.”

However she did move quickly to reassure the media that had recorded her words that it was not Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, the mayor of Madrid. Although both are key members of the Partido Popular, in the region’s politics, they are fierce rivals with the Caja Madrid having been a recent battleground.

Premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Mariano Rajoy the leader of the opposition, former premier José María Aznar and the former president of Congress Federico Trillo have all fallen victim to the open microphone in recent years.

However none more so than socialist José Bono. In November 2008 when president of Congress he called some fellow members of parliament “hijos de puta”. His most famous gaff came in January 2004 when he was president of Castilla-La Mancha. A microphone caught him in a private conversation when he called the then British ‘New Labour’ premier, Tony Blair, “un gilipollas” or “dick head”, although I have heard more profane translations.

I suspect many members of Britain’s ‘Old Labour’ would have been nodding enthusiastically in agreement with Bono’s words.

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