Edward Anderson writes that the differing types of protests seen in Madrid this past fortnight highlight the new divisions in Spanish politics, and in particular the efforts of 'new right' party Vox to garner wider support.

Over the last two weeks in Madrid, we´ve been treated to two very different kinds of protests which are telling us a lot about the difference between the diverging directions of Spanish politics.

On one hand, we had Solidaridad (The Vox front group and supposed trade union) marching in the streets on Sunday 19th September over the huge increase in energy prices, an issue that is spreading to every part of the European political landscape. The demo, led by Vox leader Santiago Abascal, was dominated by an older demographic and people who are mostly of working age with the usual calls for Catalan separatists to be jailed and denunciations of other trade unions, there was a clear attempt to claim the issue of higher energy prices and cost of living questions and bring it under the Vox mantle.

Meanwhile, on Friday the 24th September the streets were filled from Callao and marched all the way through Madrid for a climate ´protest´, looking more like a jovial parade. At this protest, it appeared to be populated by people who´d managed to get a day of school or college than the older demographic of people walking with Abascal, whilst the protest was so peaceful and good natured that I was almost nostalgic for when someone at the Vox/Solidaridad march threatened to report me to the police for taking photos of a public march… in a public street.

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All joking aside, the marches are largely pieces of political performance for all involved but it does show us something quite revealing about the growing political trends and breakdowns. It would not be unfair to say that the reason so many young people were attracted to a climate march is because they don´t have to pay bills. But equally, the environmental impact seen in places such as Toledo where homes and houses were completely washed away means it is more salient in Spanish politics than before, even in the midst of an economic crisis.

It is another example of modern progressive politics almost completely retreating from the economic space. Almost all progressive campaigns now centre on identity, social and cultural positions. Anything but the main reason the old left existed for, the weight of your wallet at the end of the month.

Of more interest is the pivot by Vox, a party that has largely been a cultural conservative backlash but combined with the typical ultra-liberal economic positions, to honing in on what used to be the old space of mainstream politics – cost of living. Now, this may just be a convenient chance to bash PSOE and Vox is still more of a cultural vanguard party than anything else but if it does represent a shift into more bread and butter politics, then it could have sizeable implications moving forward.

It seems clear that Vox, like every ´new right´ or ´nativist´ party who want to have the incompatible position of being cultural conservatives with economic liberalism, have hit their ceiling. That ceiling is 15 per cent. There might be many people who prefer Vox´s cultural offer but bluntly, cannot afford to vote for Vox economically. The attempt by Vox to focus more on the financial concerns of those who may be more predisposed to vote for them could have crucial implications for the increasing ´polarisation´ of right wing politics. More importantly for Vox, it may bring them to a position where they can gain that crucial three to  four per cent more in the polls that would make them the effective kingmakers of Spanish politics and hold a base where other parties such as Cuidadanos have risen and fallen just as fast.

The national election is two years away but the biggest test before then is the Andalusian regional election, where a culturally conservative but economically impoverished electorate are most likely to be found. Vox have a year to perfect the formula before November 2022 but if they manage it, Spain could very well be on its way to a ´big 3´national political scene.

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