Podemos has done up its top button. Now it needs to put on a tie

20 Dec 2015


Jeremy Corbyn has, since being elected Leader of the Opposition, found it difficult to reconcile his radical politics with the wider desires of the general public. Corbyn has been reluctant to disassociate himself from perceived radicals such as the Stop the War Coalition (just as Podemos have with the likes of Syriza and President of Ecuador Raffael Correa), has refused to engage in what he views as outmoded traditions, and has been forced to relent to party pressure on a number of issues, such as a free vote on Syria bombing. The veteran socialist has repeatedly been asked to compromise on his ideological convictions, and he has had great difficult in doing so.


Podemos needs to better prepare itself for opposition, by answering the difficult questions that Corbyn has struggled with. Four years of a PP and Ciudadanos government poses a tremendous opportunity for Podemos to become Spain’s second party. However, in order to do so, they need to develop their approach, without losing the impassioned support that they’ve already acquired.



Forgiveness presents a unique opportunity for Podemos


The party has already embarked on this journey by abandoning two of the more radical proposals from its European elections manifesto, as well as reassessing a debating system which gives the same worth to a proposal from one individual member as one from a "circle" of 30 or 50 people.


There’s no doubt that the party will find it difficult to refine its message without losing its existing support. However, it is possible for Podemos to do so without becoming part of ‘la casta’ (the establishment). It is not a contradiction in terms. The party needs to consolidate its central tenets – its anti-corruption, anti-austerity, pro-democracy ideology – whilst phasing out its less popular traits, which include a muddled hierarchy, as well as suspicious ties to other parties abroad.


Sure, it’s very noble to recognise other politicians with similar ambitions, but there’s no benefit in repeatedly allying yourself with unpopular and suspicious leaders and parties. Podemos need to respond unequivocally to a question that Corbyn is struggling with: do you want to be a party of permanent opposition or one of leadership?


Podemos can satisfy disaffected voters, whilst also appealing to a wider, less radical audience, if only it does away with the frippery. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and his allies have won support for their powerful, fiery rhetoric. However, they now need to prove that they are more than radical protestors.


Iglesias once said that "Heaven is not taken by consensus, it is taken by assault". Yet, to become Spain's chief political party, Podemos will be required to do more than win over those whose despise the establishment, and neither is it plausible to take government by "assault". Politics is and always will be a practice of compromise. It’s time for Podemos to convert the fantastic into the realistic, and match impassioned rhetoric with actionable policies.


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