The chief minister got it in the neck last week from the Opposition for having apologised to the people of Algeciras over the effects of the fire. I have no problem with that apology per se but understand the anger over the lack of saying sorry to the people of the Rock and the wider battles or lack of them over compensation.
If we put aside the politics of the bay we have spread around its shores two major ports, a bunkering operation, a refinery, numerous heavy industries and a chronic lack of sewage facilities to EU standards. You do not have to be a wise man or woman to see that is a toxic mix which on occasions will explode.
I never thought the day would come when I would agree with the PP leader in Andalucía, Javier Arenas, but his suggestion that there should be a Gibraltar – Campo accord to deal with emergencies makes sense. Indeed a protocol should exist where not only is there a sharing of emergency response assets but the need for running to the EU or courts for recompense is redundant because there is an agreed route to compensation.
I am now going to change tack slightly and look at the chief minister’s motives for saying “mea culpa” to the people of Algeciras. Many people would argue that when a politician says something you should take it with a pinch of salt. When you are in election mode, which Gibraltar is, then the pinch should be a bucket.
The problem for both voters and journalists is that in this election scenario you have to look beyond the obvious meaning. Hence the decision by the chief minister to say sorry to Algeciras as the new Partido Popular mayor takes office may be part of a different agenda. This certainly could be so as the new mayor is José Ignacio Landaluce who as the Cádiz PP MP hardly ever has a good word to say about Gibraltar or indeed Mr Caruana.
So how does the chief minister seek to play it in the run up to polling day? He could opt for a quiet and peaceful bay. He may want to make peace with those who say he is an environmental terrorist. Not only is the PP now in power in Algeciras but if he is re-elected chances are there will also be a Rajoy administration in Madrid and an Arenas government in Sevilla during his next term.
So what would the PP like to hear from Mr Caruana? Holding his hands up for the fire is a start? Has he signalled he is willing to give way on the Rock’s waters once he is back in office if the Guardia Civil patrols sail elsewhere till polling day? The chief minister has always said he could work with the PP so has there been a private handshake on a sovereignty deal, an Andorra deal, once the pesky Gibraltar voters have been dealt with? Who knows?
On the other hand now the political street fighter Joe Bossano has exited from the centre stage does the chief minister fancy such a role for himself? Will he shout “come on, show us what you’ve got!” and “You and whose army” to Arenas, Rajoy and the PP? Will he fight them on the beaches and in the waters of the bay? Maybe he will, maybe he will wrap himself in the Gibraltar flag to polling day.
So yes I understand the Opposition being angry that the chief minister has given an apology to Algeciras when none was forthcoming to Gibraltar. Yet Gibraltarians must ask themselves was this weakness by Caruana or part of his bigger political game?