Madrid, the city that wouldn't lock down

The Spanish capital wasn’t Florida. Some restrictions remained, including a curfew, neighborhood-based controls on movement, and a mask mandate, strangely even outdoors. I recall often walking through uncrowded streets with a mask on, only to remove it to eat once seated in a busy restaurant. Though locals sometimes described dodging targeted lockdowns, Spaniards seemed less resistant to masking than most. It was rare to see someone outside with an uncovered face, and plenty continued to wear masks after the mandate was narrowed to apply indoors only.

Europeans may have a lower standard of “pandemic freedom” than Americans, but the lockdown-fatigued public rewarded Ms. Díaz Ayuso’s People’s Party during regional elections in May. She campaigned on the simple slogan “freedom”—previously “communism or freedom”—and it worked. The party doubled its share of the electorate from two years earlier, finishing with a million votes more than its nearest competitor.

Such electoral success has made Ms. Díaz Ayuso the most prominent conservative politician in Spain and prompted speculation about her as a potential challenger to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, a Socialist. The Spanish press has reported on tensions between her and her party’s national leader, Pablo Casado, but she has denied interest beyond her current job. At the end of the interview she jokes, “As soon as I finish here, I’m going back to being a journalist.”