So last month Fabian Picardo’s name finally went in to the hat and as no other candidate has come forward he will be the new leader of the GSLP – and potentially Gibraltar’s next chief minister. I wish him well. However Picardo knows that as only the GSLP’s second leader in its history his work has only just begun.
Let us look at the challenges that face him. When I interviewed Fabian Picardo recently he told me he would have preferred an election rather than a coronation and in that he was 100 per cent right.
I think a contest was desirable on two counts. It would have allowed the members of the party to discuss the issues and test the candidates who wish to follow in the large footsteps of Joe Bossano – then vote for their preferred choice. It would also have meant that whoever won the contest and hence led the GSLP into the election would have already proved him or herself a winner. That is not to be so Fabian Picardo goes forward to the GSLP AGM where Joe Bossano will hand over the leadership to his hardworking and worthy successor.
I would have liked to have seen Fabian Picardo have had at least a year at the helm before the general election. Time has really run out for the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, to put the fly in the GSLP ointment by going to the polls whilst Bossano is still leader.
It now remains to be seen whether he does the socialist party another favour by delaying the poll till the new leader has had time to bed in. The omens seem good. I asked a GSD activist who has the ear of the chief minister and he told me: “Personally, I would say go in October and do the four years. But I really think he would still win the election if he called it sooner.”
He continued. “Winning an election is about trust – who do you trust with your future and the future of your children? Peter Caruana has been at the helm for around 15 years. Has he made major mistakes that have made me lose sleep at night with worry? I cannot say I have lost any sleep and I am the worrying type! Despite the politics, I feel the majority of people will think the same way when it comes to polling day. Also, whatever his opponents may say about the way he sometimes comes across (they call it ‘arrogance’) he truly is a religious, caring, and a good person. These qualities are rare for any person, let alone a politician.”
Hmm it appears Picardo has a tougher challenge than I thought. Removing a four-term chief minister is one thing, beating the GSD’s answer to Mother Teresa is quite another.
I don’t think anybody has ever likened Joe Bossano to Mother Teresa but the GSLP will forever be linked with him and quite rightly so. Now Fabian Picardo is to succeed Joe Boss it is important he presents his version of the GSLP both to the party members and to the electorate. The reasons for this are also two-fold. First he has to nail the accusations that will be made that he is no more than Bossano’s puppet. Secondly he has to be able to engage with those who would not support Bossano’s GSLP for love or money but are open to being swayed into supporting what would now be Picardo’s party. Of course the trick here is for Bossano to still deliver his traditional following because without it victory over the GSD is not possible.
If Picardo goes on to win the general election, he still has a long road ahead but I suspect that like many potentially successful politicians he sees the role of leading the people of the Rock as his destiny. With Joseph Garcia at his side Picardo would give Gibraltarians an exciting and new-style open government where the people are citizens and not subjects.
Yet he knows also knows he has some unfinished business. In my recent article on political corruption in Gibraltar I alluded to malicious slurs being cast against Picardo and indeed in his quote to me Fabian stated: “As in every aspect of life in Gibraltar, there are rumours rife of corruption all the time. Nothing has ever been proved against anyone to date. I give people the benefit of the doubt – even my political opponents (although they are rarely as kind to me).”
These slurs against Picardo are politically motivated vicious whispers but in a small community like Gibraltar they are heard in every quarter and especially amongst those he needs to gain support from.
I should stress these slurs have nothing to do with politics or indeed Gibraltar but his role as a lawyer in a wider word where he unwittingly encountered an allegedly deceitful client. There is not the slightest doubt of his innocence – do you imagine Bossano would step aside for him if there was or he would have gone unchallenged as leader? However in this age when perception is all –Picardo has not only declare he is whiter than white but show the voters he is so too.
There is a consolation in his being targeted in such an ugly manner. Obviously his political opponents are very frightened of a Picardo – Garcia led coalition – a potential blast of fresh air blowing away a stale four-term government. Further more: when a party or its supporters abandon policy in favour of poison you know they are very scared indeed.
(Photograph of Fabian Picardo courtesy of Panorama)