Spain is turning into the new Greece, and Mariano Rajoy has himself to blame

The Telegraph

Spain has taken another confident stride to becoming the next Greece, a status long predicted for the country in some quarters.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy attends a parliamentary Q&A session on June 13, 2012 in Madrid, Spain

Spain’s Mariano Rajoy hopes his fifth austerity package will stem the escalating financial and political crisis Photo: Getty Images

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9:32PM BST 26 Sep 2012

When the economic situation is bad (the country’s GDP estimates fell again on Wednesday) there’s nothing like a dose of political mismanagement to give things a good hard shove towards the same abyss that Athens disappeared into sometime in the middle of last year.

It’s only September but the scenes from Madrid in recent days prompted me to revisit the annual predictions in which we indulge every January. At the start of the year, as we looked forward to another 12 months of experimental eurozone economics, not to mention politics, with renewed austerity measures and another euro treaty, this column said: “None of this has been tested at the ballot box and I predict a year of popular political protest across the eurozone, some of which will turn violent, prompting shocking scenes as governments use force to regain order.”

You can’t let a gun off slowly, but Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has been openly flirting with the idea of seeking a bail-out from the European Central Bank in recent days but only if capital market investors forced Spain into it by sending yields on Spanish government debt higher.

In the land of bull fighting, he has waved the proverbial red rag. Lo and behold, Spanish bond yields duly shot up again on Wednesday to 6pc, pricing Spain out of the markets and forcing him closer to going cap in hand to Frankfurt, assuming the ECB bail-out is actually real as opposed to an empty promise. This, in turn, will undermine his political credibility at home which the riots in Madrid and secession fever in Catalonia reveal is already suffering.

It reminds me of John Major’s government in 1992 and a determined Norman Lamont giving George Soros any excuse to bet against the pound and test just how determined the Treasury really was about defending sterling.

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