Gonzalez survives racking by the party inquisitor

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The Independent Online
CHANTS of 'Fe-li-pe, Fe-li-pe' told part of the story. As the Socialist Party of the Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, closed its convention, the clenched fists of a significant minority told the other.

The good news for Mr Gonzalez was that the convention ended with the party executive no longer split down the middle. The bad news was that it remained split, albeit with Mr Gonzalez's less hardline faction in numerical control.

Mr Gonzalez looked glad it was all over as the 888 delegates launched into the Internationale to close the party's first convention since 1990. He did not sing or raise his fist as he used to: he is no longer that kind of socialist.

The man who turned the convention into torture for the Prime Minister, his former bosom friend and still party deputy secretary-general, Alfonso Guerra, belted it out with left fist held high and clenched, as did his supporters. Everyone left claiming to be satisfied after a convention that virtually ignored the party's most pressing problems, notably plunging public trust and possible defeat in regional and European elections in June.

Although Mr Gonzalez referred in his closing speech to an 'extraordinary renovation of ideas', the convention's time was devoted almost entirely to psychological war between the Prime Minister and the hardline Mr Guerra for control of the party executive. In the end, with the help of a few conjuring tricks such as expanding the executive from 31 to 36 members, Mr Gonzalez's 'renovators' won by more than two to one.

Mr Guerra, however, retained his post as deputy leader, kept several of his supporters in key positions and ended up with 10 of the executive places, compared to about half of the previous leadership.

In a powerful off-the-cuff speech Mr Gonzalez appealed for party unity and an end to 'labels' such as 'renovators' or 'Guerristas'.

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