The best speakers of the Congress

Even on the suffocating June afternoons, the chronicles of the 19th century tell us, the stands of Congress were packed with men and women, dressed up and sweaty, to listen to Emilio Castelar. In the Parliament of the 21st century, the stands are never full and 20-second pills are extracted from the speeches for social networks. “We have gone from the class struggle to the struggle of phrases,” a socialist minister ironized last Tuesday, at the annual awards ceremony of the Association of Parliamentary Journalists (APP); among them, the one that the deputies most aspire to: the Castelar for the best speaker. The one for 2021 has been won by Íñigo Errejón, ahead of Gabriel Rufián, Inés Arrimadas and Miquel Iceta.

Among the most veterans of the Congress, the lament for the absence of great speakers is frequent. After all, it is a Chamber of rookies, in which – as the president, Meritxell Batet, recalled on Tuesday – 220 of the 350 deputies were released three years ago. “It is true that there are no longer those speakers with brilliant prose who adorned themselves with quotes,” says Anabel Díez, president of the APP and a connoisseur of Congress like few others after three decades covering parliamentary information for EL PAÍS. “Now, especially after the arrival of the new policy, other things are valued more, such as the blows of effect or the speed in replying to the adversary. The bad thing is that sometimes excessive colloquialism is incurred for the old palace of the Cortes”.

Decades ago it was forbidden to read speeches in Parliament. Today almost everyone goes out with their chop and that is why journalists value those who dispense with papers, such as the four that the informants selected for Castelar finalists, three of them a product of the new policy (Errejón, Arrimadas and Rufián) and one more classic, the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta. These have been some of his most remembered recent interventions:

Errejón: obligatory brevity. Errejón has to manage with his limited time – three or four minutes most of the time – and his speech when receiving the Castelar award was just as concise, with a final reflection: “There is a lot of talk about oratory schools, but The main thing is that you believe what you are saying.” With that force of conviction, the leader of Más País started, in February 2021, an infrequent applause from the socialist benches and United We Can. Errejón thus concluded his reply to an inflamed speech against immigration by Vox deputy Rocío de Meer:

“At a time when solidarity is most needed, shouldering the shoulder, cooperating, it turns out that some spoiled gentlemen come to stir up hatred against those who are having a worse time (…) You, Mrs. De Meer, insulted many popular neighborhoods of our country calling them multicultural dunghills. To me, after listening to it, it is clear to me that, no matter how many millions your grandparents bequeathed you, no matter how many houses they left you as an inheritance, no matter how many compound surnames, you are a moral dunghill.”

Another Ruffian. The ERC spokesperson is no longer the terrible child that came to Congress. Without completely losing his tweeting style – he won the deputy 2.0 award – even on the right they recognize his qualities on the rostrum. Last March he got a lot of echo with this intervention before Pedro Sánchez:

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“On the left nobody understands us, we don’t know how to explain ourselves, we talk about issues that nobody is interested in. It’s hard, hey, it’s hard! Do you know what interests people? That electricity has risen 80% in the last year, that butane has risen 33% and that gasoline has risen 30%. Ladies and gentlemen of the left, I am also fed up and I include myself. We have to stop being military exclusively on morality and we have to start being military on utility”.

Effective snuggles. “It’s not brilliant, but it’s effective,” a socialist rival says of the Ciudadanos leader. He shines a lot when his objective is bipartisanship, as in the Budget debate of November 2021, in his reply to the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero:

“You would have made the same speech that Mr. Casado has made if they governed and Mr. Casado would have made the same speech that you would have made if they governed. Because they have been doing the same thing for 40 years! Do you know, Spanish citizens and ladies and gentlemen, that in 40 years the PSOE has always presented an amendment to the totality of the PP budgets and that in 40 years the PP has always presented an amendment to the totality of the PSOE budgets? Why do they do this theater?

Iceta’s mood. The Minister of Culture is not a deputy and is lavished less in Congress since he left the Ministry of Territorial Policy. Even so, he has left his mark in debates such as one with Rufián in February 2021. The ERC spokesman declared himself very honored to face a politician with such experience as Iceta: “I went to school and you were at the lectern of an institution” , Told him. Iceta retorted him with one of his favorite weapons, self-irony: “I’ve been here for a long time, yes, I tell my friends that I have a certain vocation for eternity.”

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