Gibraltar is a democracy and hence the PDP’s voice must be heard.
Of course every political party likes to steal a lead on its rivals and in major democracies they employ spin merchants and media spokespeople to ensure their voice is heard louder than their rivals. That is all part of the party game but what is not disputed is any party’s right to the airwaves or the print press.
For that reason anybody and everybody in Gibraltar who believes in democracy – be they GSD, GSLP, Liberal or non-aligned – should stand up for the right of the PDP to be able to get its message across.
I will not disagree with the GBC’s stance on giving airtime to Fabian Picardo and the GSLP in its Viewpoint programme. It was an audience winner for a variety of reasons. So when the GBC’s CEO Allen King said: “Joe Bossano stood down as GSLP party leader after more than 30 years, and there is great interest in the community as to what the change in the GSLP leadership will mean. By any standards, this is a major news story” it is hard not to agree with him.
The PDP is led by a former GSD deputy chief minister, Keith Azopardi, and should be up to the political game. Being an unelected party doesn’t help its media cause. So when it demands equal airtime with the GSLP to get its policies across it knows that is not going to happen. Instead it has to ensure that it feeds the GBC and others with “major news stories” then fight to have them aired or printed. If they are not then the party needs to speak out as it has done so in this case which, of course, creates just such a major news story.
However a general election will be soon upon us and the game will change. Mr King has stated: “every party will be given fair and impartial coverage”. The PDP has to ensure that is the case and they are not shunted aside because they are not currently an elected party.
In the 2010 UK general election the Labour, Conservative and Liberal leaders all took part in the televised debates because it was possible that any one of those parties could win the election. However party political broadcasts were also allocated to UKIP, the Greens, the English Democrats – whoever they may be, even the racist BNP plus all the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland regional parties. That is what freedom of speech is all about.
When the Gibraltar general election is declared if the PDP is putting up the same number of candidates as the GSD, GSLP-Liberal coalition – in other words it is a potential party of government - then it should be given an equal hearing and fully share in any debates or discussions.
The important thing is for the PDP to ensure it has that commitment from Mr King now because “every party will be given fair and impartial coverage” does not necessarily equate with “will be given equal airtime and the right to participate on an equal basis in all debates or party political broadcasts”. If that is in the least doubt then the time to argue the point and make a “major news story” is now not then.
There are many who fear for democracy in Gibraltar and the old saying is he who pays the piper plays the tune. GBC is funded by the government but the GBC has to ensure it speaks at all times - but especially at election time - for the people and not its paymaster, the party of power. For whilst the chief minister signs the cheque it is the people of Gibraltar who pay the bill including PDP supporters.