By Gideon Rachman
The idea that Jean-Claude Juncker should become the next head of the European Commission evokes a strange, irrational rage in the British. I know because I share that rage. There is something about Mr Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg – his smugness, his federalism, his unfunny jokes – that provokes the British.
The abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain, in favour of his son, Felipe, Prince of Asturias, has been on the cards for some time. The image of the king took a big knock when it emerged he was hunting elephants in Botswana at the height of a financial crisis that was costing millions of jobs, and not long after a speech in which he called for “exemplary behaviour” from Spaniards. The monarchy as a whole was damaged when the king’s son-in-law was charged with embezzlement, in a convoluted saga that has sucked in one of the royal princesses, the Infanta Cristina.
King Juan Carlos, through most of his 39-year reign a popular figure in Spain, Europe and Latin America, also showed himself aware of the wider decay and discredit affecting Spain’s institutions, from a politicised judiciary to a parliament that appears to be losing the ability to represent its more and more jaundiced electors. Although the king’s health has improved of late, he is now 76 and has had eight operations in the past four years.