Miquel Iceta, from ideologue to minister of the federal cause

After renouncing the objective of presiding over Catalonia, he will be responsible for channelling the dialogue on behalf of the State

3 min
The first secretary of the PSC and new Minister of Territorial Policy, Miquel Iceta

BarcelonaThose close to Miquel Iceta (Barcelona, 1960) say he had been feeling discouraged for months. After forty years of struggling through the ups and downs of politics, the Independence bid and the lack of direction of a divided government, as well as the degradation of the institutions that he often attributes to the pro-independence movement, he was close to exhaustion, but also to the frustration of not having managed to build an alternative that was sufficiently attractive in the eyes of the Catalans. "The day he detects that a person can do it better, he will leave", repeated a leader very close to him in recent years. And he has done so. By giving Salvador Illa the chance to preside over the Generalitat, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) leader renounces one of his personal objectives and, in the medium term, failitates transition in the party. In exchange, he received a ticket for Madrid to become a minister, one of the few roles that, despite always being among the favourites, he is yet play. Regardless of its official title (Territorial Policy and Civil Service), he will be the Catalonia Minister, and his objective, dialogue

Despite his well-known media profile, that of the politician who dances to the beat of Queen, it is only six years ago that he came to the limelight with his Don't stop me now routine in his first campaign as a socialist candidate. Most of his career, in fact, has been spent behind the scenes, as a strategist in the shadow of a party in which he has served since its founding (1978). And it is precisely in the Spanish government where, after a brief four-year stint as a councillor in Cornellà de Llobregat (1987-1991), he began to move in the gears of power. Until 1995 he was director of the analysis department of Felipe González's government. Soon his great oratory skills would be discovered: stylish but incisive, ironic and, in any case, skilful in parliamentary debate. A true politician and with the ability to retort to opponents, whether he was in Congress (1996-1999) or in the Catalan parliament, where he landed in 1999 shortly after becoming the first politician in the State to openly declare his homosexuality.

The renovation Sanchez was looking for

Despite preaching prudence, a certain boldness has marked his steps in recent years. Especially in July 2014, when he volunteered to take over from Pere Navarro in the PSC, then a party devastated by the break-up and which ha plummeted the polls. And he rescued it, strengthened it and lit the fuse so that the socialist brand could once again rise, a task that internally is appreciated like few others. That is why not even Illa, his squire in the leadership since 2016, questioned whether he could repeat as a candidate until he resigned. And yet the post minister, which some socialist sources interpret as a reward from Pedro Sánchez for Iceta - to whom he owes his unconditional support when the PSOE old guard toppled him - is for others not only a way to improve results in Catalonia but also to renew the PSC.

There is uncertainty whether JxCat and ERC will continue to govern in Catalonia after 14 February, but the PSC assumes that Iceta will form part of the meetings between Catalan and Spanish governments that have to find a solution to the conflict with the State. Iceta has pro-Catalan credentials, defended the Statue of autonomy and is the ideologue behind the "third way", which - with more or less enthusiasm - the PSOE has adopted over the last few years. He has gone from defending self-determination to justifying the application of direct rule. He was the first now, three years ago, to speak of pardons for prisoners and received a warning from the Spanish Socialist Party, but Sánchez has maintained him as an adviser to understand the Catalan case and now it is he who defends the measure of grace. Also, as a result of the pandemic, the Spanish government has adopted its ideal of federal co-governance, claimed by the Spanish president himself when he announced his appointment. Two successes at the outset for a minister who does not mince his words and has no problem admitting that, intentions aside, the reform of the Constitution is going to be a long time coming.