How Sánchez appealed to the heart to save his face — and his wife’s

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Good morning, happy Friday. Today, our Madrid bureau chief explains how Spain’s prime minister has opened his heart in an attempt to defuse his political crisis, and we have a report from Venice on the city’s new €5 entry fee.

Have a good weekend.

All’s fair in love and war?

Spain is in ferment over love and mudslinging, as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez reflects on whether he should resign over rightwing attacks on his wife, writes Barney Jopson.

Context: The Spanish premier, one of Europe’s most senior Socialist politicians, is considering his future after a campaign against him culminated in the opening of a preliminary corruption investigation into his wife this week. He said he would announce his next steps on Monday.

But his expression of amor in a letter to the country has already generated much chatter as he claims to be a victim of a “harassment” operation spanning politics, the media and the judiciary.

“Often we forget that politicians are people too,” he wrote. “And I am not ashamed to say that I am a man deeply in love with my wife, who is powerless against the mud they sling at her day after day.”

A thunder-faced Sánchez appeared in parliament early on Wednesday after learning of the preliminary investigation a judge had opened into his wife, Begoña Gómez, before he retreated to pen the three-and-a-half page note.

“I know that Begoña is being accused not because she has done something illegal — they know this isn’t the case — but because she is my wife,” Sánchez wrote.

A judge opened the case into Gómez on the back of a complaint from Manos Limpias, a campaign group with far-right links, which had thrown together a string of press clippings about Sánchez’s wife, accusing her of influence peddling.

Sánchez described all the supposed wrongdoing as “non-existent”. A public prosecutor yesterday filed an appeal to dismiss the case, and Manos Limpias — which translates as Clean Hands — conceded that it did not know if all the news stories were true.

Sánchez’s allies have urged him to stay in power, and a former Socialist prime minister even joined the paeans to the heart. “There is nothing in life like your love for your partner,” said José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. “That overrides even ideology.”

The internet has weighed in too, with people using AI tools to turn Sánchez’s letter into love ballads.

The opposition People’s party (PP), however, remained in attack mode.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the PP head of the Madrid regional government, accused Sánchez of creating a power vacuum. She said he had zero respect for institutions, zero professionalism and “zero love for Spain”.

Chart du jour: Integrating

Chart showing that immigrants tend to provide a fiscal boost to Anglophone countries, but are net recipients of government spending across much of Europe

Immigrants and their offspring in Anglophone countries tend to be more skilled, have better jobs and often out-earn the native-born, while those in continental Europe fare worse, writes John Burn-Murdoch.

Tickets, please

Venice has been likened by some of its disgruntled residents to a theme park, converted into a playground for visiting tourists, but devoid of services needed for daily life, writes Amy Kazmin.

To combat overcrowding, daytrippers now have to pay €5 to visit the city, which is currently hosting the Biennale. But residents say this only reinforces its Disneyfication.

Context: Venice, a Unesco World Heritage site known for its art and architecture, has been hollowed by mass tourism. Short-term visitors outnumber long-term residents: more than 20mn people last year visited the city centre, where the residential population is less than 50,000.

The “entry tax” is intended to restore balance between tourists and residents, and was first rolled out as a pilot project yesterday, a public holiday commemorating Italy’s liberation from fascism.

Visitors are supposed to pay online ahead of their trip, and roving inspectors will randomly check for proof of payment or of overnight reservations — which already include a city tax. Signs around the railway station and other key points remind visitors of the need to pay.

The ticket will be needed on 29 peak travel days this year, and rolled out full-time next year.

But unhappy residents are sceptical that the fee will bring any real respite from the tourist masses, and several hundred locals gathered to protest yesterday.

One carried a banner reading: “No to ticket for Vene-land.”

What to watch today

  1. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson hosts his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen.

  2. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte meets Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

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