Comic tour of Madrid's underworld shames elite

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The Independent Online

Home to packed art galleries, top-flight football clubs and a prime minister who punches above his political weight, Madrid has become ever more successful at marketing itself as a modern European capital, showcasing the best of Spain's heritage and culture.

But with a general election looming on 14 March - at which Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's centre-right Popular Party (PP) is increasingly looking to be a shoo-in for a third consecutive term - a top comic has begun offering tours that seek to challenge that polished image.

Leo Bassi, who is well known in Spain for his provocative stage and television appearances, is taking journalists and would-be voters on coach trips to see "the worst of Madrid", a string of less than illustrious sights tarred by political scandals, allegations of graft and the country's fascist past.

Bassi, who is the grandson of Jimmy Wheeler, the British vaudeville star, said: "The idea is to take people where no one has taken them before, visiting Madrid's aesthetic horrors, and its social and ecological disasters, and recalling the assault on historical memory and the democratic system."

The "Bassibus", which will run every weekend between now and election day, made its first call on Sunday at the Valle de los Caidos, a mausoleum that honours General Franco, the former dictator, and is supported with the aid of state funds almost three decades after his death. Bassi tells tourists that it has "no place in a modern and democratic Europe".

With less than two months to go until election day, the PP - now led by Mr Aznar's hand-picked successor, Mariano Rajoy - is leading the opposition Socialists by a margin of between two and 11 points in the polls.