Thursday, February 24, 2011


When I started Gibraltar watching there was only one Feetham on the block. No not Danny but his father Michael. Yes I am that old! It was 1992 and Michael Feetham who had been a founder member of the GSLP was a government minister departing from office when Joe Bossano’s party swept back in to power in that year’s election with over seventy per cent of the vote. Those were the days, Joe!
Since then Danny has burst on to the scene. The bright young lawyer, who was a member of New Labour in the UK returned to the Rock, joined the GSLP of old Labour Joe Bossano where the sparks soon started to fly. After stomping out of the GSLP because Joe wouldn’t stand aside (and has yet still to do so) he formed the Labour Party. When that got nowhere at the 2003 elections he threw in his lot with Caruana, first as his bag carried (was it carpet I wonder?), and then after the last election as a minister in the GSD government.
As the next election approaches we have still to be assured that the chief minister intends to seek re-election for a fifth term. However it has to be said I have seen no sign that he won’t. At some stage in the future he will step aside and Danny Feetham has been tipped by many to take the leadership of the GSD. There is only one fly in that ointment – Danny is a socialist through and through, it is his birthright, and hence that puts him at odds with his own party. His arrival caused much disruption, his crowning as king could split the party asunder.
There is another factor in the Danny Feetham mix; it is personal and not political. Last year he suffered a horrific knife attack that nearly cost him his life. The scars are on his body but the emotional injuries inflicted on him and his family will also remain forever. The fact this heinous crime was committed before his children leaves me lost for the words to describe my feelings on the matter. There are rumours that Danny might stand aside at the next election. He would be a loss to the Gibraltar political scene but who could blame him if he decided enough was enough. As a skilled still-young lawyer, with minister of justice on his CV, his legal future is very lucrative indeed.
Whether Danny goes or stays I would still turn the spotlight on his brother Nigel. In the days of the Labour Party, when Danny as now holds the Feetham centre stage, I wrote several articles predicting Nigel was the one to watch. Might I yet be proved right? He would I suspect deny any such ambitions but whilst he has stayed in the background he has followed Danny from the GSLP to Labour to the GSD. A highly talented legal eagle too – he has also made his mark in the Rock’s public life, not least with his posting to the Financial Services Commission.
So let me just say this. When Caruana welcomed David Miliband to the Rock Hotel to meet with Moratinos in 2009 I was in the media pack. A British journalist standing next to me declared as Miliband shook hands with the chief minister – there is Britain’s next prime minister! Well he was totally wrong on that score.
When I attended the Fabian Society Conference in January it was addressed by the new Labour Leader. He was a Miliband, not the charismatic David but the backroom strategist Ed. Had you asked Ed in 2009 did he foresee becoming the next leader of the Labour Party he would have probably given you the same answer as Nigel would now for the GSD.
It would take a braver man than me to say that history will not repeat itself. It may well be that a Feetham will be a future chief minister, not Danny, but Nigel.
Let’s wait and see!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Whatever Gibraltarians may think of the Spanish Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jiménez – or Trini to her friends – she isn’t from Mars. Indeed she is a Malagueño from Vélez-Málaga. So we can be pretty sure she knows where Gibraltar is and all about the Campo de Gibraltar too.
Equally it would appear that José Ignacio Landaluce is from another planet to us. Although he is the MP for Cádiz and wannabee mayor of Algeciras for the Partido Popular in May he is not a local lad. He was born in Logroño and before you rush off to find your atlas I can tell you, if you don’t know, it is in La Rioja in the northern part of Spain.
Why am I telling you all this? Well Landaluce has been giving some advice to the Spanish Foreign Minister before she heads off for today’s meeting with her British counterpart, William Hague.
Cheekily he has advised Trini to take a photograph of Gibraltar with her so that she can see – and no doubt tell Hague – that the Rock also has a surrounding area – the Campo de Gibraltar.
Landaluce went on to say that it is a pity the minister did not visit the Campo de Gibraltar before jetting off to London. Had she done so the boy from Logroño tells the Vélez-Málaga lass she could have seen at first hand the reality of the region and the relations that exist between both territories.
Expansionist Gibraltar – expansionist Caruana
Just in case Jiménez was unsure of how to conduct herself in London the Cádiz MP tells the minister she should have “the firm intention and the conviction that she is representing Spain and the interests of the Spaniards in the face of the expansionist pretentions of Gibraltar.
Whilst Landaluce says the Partido Popular is all for talking with Britain on themes that can benefit both sides of the border she is not to give way on the issue of Gibraltar’s waters – which are Spanish!
Finally, the would-be mayor assured us that there is a priority in relations between Spain and United Kingdom concerning Gibraltar “is not other than understanding, but not at any price and much less if the decisions that can be taken only favour the British colony and the expansionist tendencies of its Chief Minister, Peter Caruana”.
So I asked Senator José Carracao, who has special responsibility in PSOE for relations with Gibraltar, what he thought about Landaluce’s words. He told me: “Landaluce once again displays himself as a demagogue with resulting insults. Of course the minister knows perfectly well the Campo de Gibraltar and its parliamentary representatives.”
I suspect the good senator would have vented his spleen further on Landaluce but he cut off as he was on an aircraft about to take off. To where? Is he to be a fly on the wall at the Foreign Office when Jiménez and Hague meet?
Of course Hague needs no introduction to Gibraltar as he visited the Rock in 2009. Wonder when the last time Landaluce was there?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I am sure Gibraltar’s chief minister, Peter Caruana, has been called many things in his political life both to his face, behind his back and in print. However it is probably the first time he has been told he’s just a mayor. Who say’s so? Well the mayor of La Línea, Alejandro Sánchez, that’s who. He should of course know what being a mayor is all about but his actions suggest he has little idea of anything.
The media had been summoned to a press conference to be held by the mayor on Tuesday morning at which he would impart his views on various topics of the day. The main part of his speech related to hitting at the PSOE opposition for its assessment of the municipality’s finances.
Now as it widely known La Línea is bankrupt. It cannot pay its municipal workers. The infrastructure is in a mess and there is sewage running through the streets and on to the beaches. So having to defend the indefensible is impossible but Sánchez loves to attempt to climb unreachable peaks.
It is a well used tactic of governments and dictators over the centuries that if they are facing unpopularity at home they start a war with their neighbours. Of course La Línea’s neighbour is Gibraltar so Sánchez couldn’t resist firing off a volley.
After telling us negotiations are going well with the Spanish airport authority AENA over the land for the airport terminal and that the toll could yet be a reality – in your dreams Mr Mayor, in your dreams – he decided to have a dig at Madrid and Caruana.
The official town hall press release puts in thus: “Con respecto a Gibraltar, se ha lamentado de la política desarrollada por el actual Gobierno de la Nación ‘que ha dado categoría de jefe de Estado a un señor como Caruana, que no es más que el alcalde de Gibraltar’.”
So let’s look at some of the responsibilities of Gibraltar and compare them with La Línea to ascertain which is municipal and which is gubernatorial.
Gibraltar is responsible for its all its finances, raises its own taxes whereas La Línea apart from local charges should receive monthly payments from Madrid except these are frozen because of its huge debts to the tax and social security agencies.
Gibraltar runs a government with its own ministries whereas La Línea is a municipal operation with the power and telecommunications to its offices frequently cut off because the bills aren’t paid.
Gibraltar is responsible for its own infrastructure and building projects. La Línea’s local infrastructure is a mess and major projects are funded by the Andalucía or Spanish governments.
Gibraltar generates its own electricity (don’t laugh!), provides its own water and sewage. Its telecoms companies are responsible for phone and internet connections. La Línea is reliant on Spanish companies for all such services and water, sewage is passed to the association of town halls as the municipality can’t pay its historic bills to the providers.
Gibraltar has its own army regiment, police service, ambulances and fire brigade. La Línea has no army except a verbal one, the police forces are State organizations except the town hall force. As the town hall still owes the Red Cross a huge amount of cash it closed down in its 100 th year and the fire brigade falls under the Cádiz consortium but La Línea has been threatened with expulsion on numerous occasions because it hasn’t paid its subscriptions.
Gibraltar runs its own airport and transport system. Any cross border involvement with the airport is through the AENA and La Línea’s transport connections are a disgrace.
Gibraltar has a very low jobless rate whilst at least 10,000 people in La Línea are officially on the dole but the real figure is far higher. Gibraltar is responsible for its own employment matters. In La Línea it falls to Madrid and Andalucía with the town hall doing nothing to help those in need.
Of course I could go on and on – adding that’s whilst the people of La Línea are Spanish and part of Spain the people of Gibraltar are Gibraltarian, and hence a nation.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Last week the Tory MEP for Gibraltar and the South West of England, Ashley Fox, let it be known he’d asked the European Commission to look at the pollution levels coming from the CEPSA refinery on the bay at San Roque.
The move came as rumours emerged the refinery has doubled its output over the last 12 months. This apparently has led concerned residents to contact the MEP because they are worried CEPSA may have boosted output at the expense of its environmental standards.
Fox says he has asked the Commission whether the refinery is complying with its operating licence from 2007 which clearly lays out its environmental obligations. He has further requested that if the refinery is found to be in breach of its environmental obligations that the Commission takes steps to ensure that the pollution does not harm both local Spanish and Gibraltarian residents.
So what does CEPSA have to say about all this?
Spokesperson, Amalia Puigdengolas Rosas, told me: “CEPSA has not increased its production in the year 2010. It has increased the arrival of crude which is then sent in smaller tankers to the refinery at Palos de la Frontera but the production has been the same as in other years.”
So is CEPSA keeping its environmental obligations?
Amalia Puigdengolas Rosas said: “CEPSA accounts to the Autorización Ambiental Integrada (AAI) which comes under the Andalucía government and each year it publishes the environmental declaration which is carried out on all aspects of the refinery. This document is certified by AENOR and the declaration for 2010 is published in March.”
Of course it is this same AAI report endorsed by the international standards body AENOR that the European Commission will study as well as receiving the same reply as I did on production levels.
It has to be said refining is never a clean industry. Those of us who live in the bay zone know all too well the CEPSA refinery at San Roque has been dirty in the past but millions of euros have been spent on installing the latest technology to clean up its emissions to meet European standards. Whether CEPSA has met its environmental obligations will be revealed in March.
It is a pity that rather than trying to grab a headline Ashley Fox MEP didn’t do a bit more research and talk to CEPSA directly. The serious point here is that there are enough concerns about the heavy industry in the bay and legitimate reasons to demand action and hold enquiries. This issue would appear not to be one of them. By crying “Wolf!” these legitimate complaints are diluted.
Or perhaps I should have said crying “Fox!”