By Tim Montgomerie
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8.30pm Alberto Nardelli tweets: 10 years ago about half of the countries that now make up EU27 had left-wing governments. Today, only Austria, Denmark & Cyprus do. The lesson: People can't afford left-wing policies in tough times.
Exit polls suggest the Spanish Conservatives have ended eight incredibly expensive years of socialist rule. The Popular Party led by Mariano Rajoy (pictured) is on course to win at least 180 of the 350 seats in Spain's lower house. Rajoy's Partido Popular has probably won 43% of the popular vote against the Socialist Party's 30%. Bloomberg notes that this is the fifth government to lose power because of economic woes across Europe. Governments have also been replaced in italy and Greece by dictat and in Ireland and Portugal by election.
The Popular Party is expected to embark on a Tory-inspired austerity regime. The PP's Migel Arias told the BBC that Spain has "been living as a very rich country." "People," he said, "are used to a very high level of public services and it takes time to them to acknowledge the realisation that we now are a poor country, that we have lots of debts and in order to pay them back we must reduce public expenditure and then we must recover the confidence of the markets."
James Forsyth at The Spectator hopes that Rajoy will be an ally of Cameron in his ambition to liberalise Europe's economies and repatriate powers. Earlier today, however, on this blog Ben Harris-Quinney noted that UK Tories have invested little in developing a good relationship with the PP "despite widespread predictions across Europe for several years that the Partido Popular would be successful". Ben wrote:
"The Conservative Party still has friends and allies in Spain that have great respect for the UK, but that respect must be reciprocated and advanced at the most senior level of our government if progress is to be made and if real change in Europe is to begin in Spain."
The other big development, of course, is that bearded conservatives now have one of their kind running a country. Hurra!