EX-REGIONAL president of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre has resigned from her post as head of the PP three days after armed police raided the party's national headquarters over suspicions of illegal financing.
Guardia Civil officers stormed into the head office of the PP on Madrid's C/ Génova on Thursday and seized files, searching former leader Beltrán Gutiérrez's desk.
“In the past few days, we've learnt of a great deal of news of unquestionable national significance relating to the PP in Madrid's regional government – this needs to be confirmed and put into perspective, but the seriousness of the information to hand leads me to present my resignation as chairwoman of the party,” Esperanza Aguirre said in an emergency press conference yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.
“From what I have been overseeing, I have to say that I am not aware of any illegal financing within the PP in Madrid; I have never even been a signatory to the PP's current account; have never signed a contract; have no debit or credit card; in short, I have never had any access to or control over the PP's finances – to this end, I have no direct responsibility for the actions which have apparently come to light recently.
“But the buck stops with me as chairwoman of the party, and I must now hold myself accountable and do the right thing.”
She covertly warned acting national president Mariano Rajoy and other national government level PP members about putting any desire for status and power before the common good, stating: “Right now, this is not the time for political party bias or seeking personal glory, but a time for sacrifice and concessions – we're in a very critical position at the moment, that of trying to form a government.”
Rajoy has not spoken publicly about Esperanza's resignation, but is said to be supportive of her decision.
“I called Rajoy and he didn't pick up. Next I sent him a message, which he replied with a, 'I understand you', and he called me later and we've been chatting,” Sra Aguirre reveals.
“As always, my conversation with Rajoy was totally friendly and the contents have no need to be revealed.”
Aguirre, in an interview 18 months ago, was asked what Rajoy was like to work with and answered, “oh, he's a sweetie.”
“My decision to leave is absolutely personal,” the now-ex PP leader insists, saying she was not afraid the party would be dissolved and an independent management committee brought in, as has happened in the Valencia region.
She stressed that initial reports were incorrect and that she had not made her decision to step down on Thursday, the day the PP department at Madrid city hall was investigated by the Guardia Civil, but on Saturday.
“I wanted to speak out publicly before the investigating commission on Friday first,” she explains.
During her press conference in the presence of the commission, the former regional president lamented: “Corruption is destroying us all.”
Sra Aguirre says she has nominated over 300 officials for their roles in her 30-year political career, and that 'only a couple have turned out to be corrupt'.
“I have never committed any illegality and there is nobody in Spain, nor in public opinion, nor anyone published anywhere, who believes I have – I had a manager, an accountant and a secretary-general whose role was to deal with financial issues whilst I took care of other things, and nothing money-related.
“From day one, I have never been involved in finances, because there have always been four people whose job it was to do that.
“I'm not sure I could have been mistaken there, because if that was the case, I would have made a mess of other important matters relating to the party and the government, too.”
Aguirre concludes that she is 'not guilty, but politically responsible'.
“I did nothing illegal, but I am ultimately responsible if illegalities were carried out within my party – so, like any Brit worth her salt, I prefer to do the decent thing and resign,” states Aguirre, who is not British at all but entirely Spanish.
She will continue in her role as PP spokeswoman for Madrid city hall, but will not be involved in the party's work at regional government level.