Those of us who observe politics in Gibraltar have been waiting for the battle between chief minister Peter Caruana and opposition leader Fabian Picardo to spring to life. Not the phoney war that is a politician’s daily routine but the real thing where blood is drawn, wounds are patched up and the knock out blow can end or set the tone for a would-be leaders future.
Whilst we waited for the off the village that is Gibraltar was already whispering about the various claims made against Fabian Picardo. They were not secret, but not spoken about in the open either. They were known before he was elected leader of the GSLP and hence head honcho of the opposition coalition in Parliament. Indeed he alluded to them here in my article on political corruption.
One question that has to be asked is if the GSLP and more specifically Joe Bossano knew of these allegations, which they did, why did they unanimously acclaim Picardo as their new leader? There had been rumours that Bossano was considering having one more go, not because he was worried by his right hand man’s suitability to be leader and potentially chief minister, but because with the polls in the GSLP’s favour he fancied one more battle. The fact that he didn’t, given he knew what was coming, suggests that Bossano and in turn the GSLP have total faith in their new leader.
Both the chief minister and Fabian Picardo are successful lawyers, peas from similar legal eagle pods albeit picked off different vines. Therefore the battle of claims and counterclaims is in a sense for the purists but does impact on all of Gibraltar’s voters as one of those involved will be the next chief minister.
Which brings me to the timing. Picardo made his opening remarks dragging in Caruana on GBC’s Viewpoint. He may have simply responded to a question or maybe he had deliberately decided to have the battle now and get it over and done with before the election campaign starts. In response the chief minister has answered with a shower of blows. Both Picardo and Caruana now have a major problem.
I have no doubt that Picardo needed to move this issue from whispers to out in the open. That he has certainly done although I have to say it is not the way I would have gone about it. His suitability to be chief minister, not on political issues but based on his career as a lawyer, is now a matter of public debate. Picardo’s way forward is simple; he has to win that debate by refuting the accusations and assuring voters of his good standing.
However the situation facing the chief minister is more complicated. Having made the counter allegations (which were the prime allegations all along) he must make them stick. Furthermore he must answer convincingly any unsavoury claims about his own legal career be they true or false. His biggest gamble is the timing. If he has delivered a knock out blow then Picardo is down and out. However if his shower of blows are those of a punch drunk chief minister, as the opposition claim, he is truly on the ropes. Timing in a boxing match is everything. Timing the knock-out blow. If I had been in his corner I would have shouted in his ear. It remains to be seen whether Caruana has won a knock-out or is down and out on the political canvas.
Voters want an election to be fought on the issues not on personalities. However it is legitimate either for a politician or indeed the media to question a candidate’s suitability for the office to which they aspire on political, business or personal issues. The key is the debate must be on facts and not slurs – the latter like mud having the habit of sticking to the thrower.
Ding! Ding! Seconds away round two! Be prepared it could go the full distance.