The Catalan government has undergone its umpteenth political crisis this Wednesday, in this case as a result of the leak of the supposed draft of a de-escalation plan that goes beyond the measures announced by the Catalan executive itself on Tuesday and would allow, among other things, for restaurants to stay open until 9 pm (instead of 5 pm), for there to be no capacity limit on terraces (it was announced on Tuesday that maximum occupancy would be 30%) and for the permitted capacity for cultural facilities to also be expanded. What began in the early hours of Wednesday morning as one of the many leaks we are accustomed to from both Catalan government parties, to put the spotlight on a decision or put pressure on the other partner, led immediately to an authentic pitched battle of accusations. From the government, it moved to Parliament and from there the stream of press statements and declarations converted the matter into more of a fight between political rivals than a debate over whether or not the measures were appropriate.
It would be stupid at this time to offer calming words to a government which has become too easily accustomed to disputes during the current legislature; at the current juncture, it would hardly change this dynamic. But neither should one slip into exaggeration. Also on Wednesday, for example, we saw the El País newspaper lead its front page with a full-page headline that said: "Podemos challenges the PSOE to enter into a new pact with Bildu." Coalition governments, when discrepancies are great, tend to suffer from excellently poor health. But, on the other hand, their main advantage is that they respond to the will of the voters as expressed at the polls, and whether we like it or not this is the case in the governments of both Catalonia and Spain.
On this occasion, the usual problem of policy discrepancies has been amplified by an element that always has its proponents and detractors: media leaks or so-called "exclusives". Oh dear, the cursed leaks! What would journalists do without them? But most of all, what would politicians do if they couldn’t exploit them? How would they gain an advantage or curry favour if they didn't have relevant newsworthy material to exchange with a journalist? Because leaks, journalists and politicians go hand in hand, much more than it might seem, because everyone likes to be the first to publish a news story and no politician, or party, can resist it. To say otherwise may sound very reasonable but it avoids telling the whole truth. The moment in the movie Casablanca when French police prefect Louis Renault states, with all sincerity, "I'm shocked! Shocked to find out that gambling is going on in here," only to receive a pile of money from a croupier who explains: "Your winnings, sir” - that wouldn’t be a bad comparison if we are to talk about people who criticise media leaks. The film dates from 1942, but the scene could easily be current.
In these situations, and even more so in a coalition government like this one, or the one in Madrid, there are no good guys and bad guys. Everyone wants to win the battle of the narrative, which in the end is nothing more than combining information and communication in the right amounts. The problem does not come from leaks, but from the perverse dynamics so common in politics of trying to claim one's territory at any price, under the belief that hegemony is won by personal point-scoring. And that's an idea which has also been around for as long have people have walked upright.