The chief minister, Peter Caruana, has stated that if he is re-elected for one more term, in all likelihood, it will be his last. He has already been in the post of chief minister for four consecutive terms, no mean achievement. If he makes it one more time he will surpass the success of the ‘Father of the Modern Gibraltar’, Sir Joshua Hassan.
He may argue and no doubt others will on his behalf that this will be his swan song. Give him another mandate then he will be happy to go off, dust down his legal wig and give judges a hard time till he retires. What this of course ignores is that Peter Caruana is an intelligent and ambitious man, a person who has a clear vision of where he wants Gibraltar to go – and he will not be satisfied till he has achieved that objective. Hence his final term could be the most dangerous for Gibraltar for what is equally certain is that the Rock isn’t where he wants it to be.
I am sure I am not alone amongst the journalists who spoke up for Gibraltar at the time of the Blair/Aznar campaign to bounce the Rock in to joint-sovereignty who found themselves targeted in suspicious ways. I was not against joint sovereignty any more than I am against an Andorran solution because quite simply I believe it is solely for Gibraltarians to decide their future status. I therefore campaigned for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination as a basic human right – a belief I hold and speak out for to this day.
I am equally sure that I was not the only journalist to receive phone calls or messages from UK sources suggesting the chief minister had led London and Madrid to believe he could deliver a joint sovereignty deal...and then gone back on his word. Mischief or the truth? I have no idea. However as far as I am aware Caruana has never explained to the people of Gibraltar his apparent conversion on the road to Madrid.
Since I have been writing for Panorama he has told students in Algeciras that he had reached a deal with the Partido Popular before Aznar’s defeat on a Córdoba – Tripartite Accord. Which is curious as it was only months after he had given Aznar a bloody nose in the November 2002 referendum. Also my man who treads the corridors of power in Madrid has never seen any evidence of such a deal, and he’s looked.
We then have the chief minister speaking in Spain on more than one occasion of an Andorra type solution for Gibraltar. Indeed between now and when he eventually leaves office is that the future he seeks for the Rock? I have no personal objection to it but the people of Gibraltar may.
One Panorama reader has no doubts. He wrote to me thus: “Andorra is the end game for Mr Caruana. If we look at the PP politicians during the last Aznar term, Pique and Palacios are out of politics. Acebes is still around and he was Ministerio del Interior from 2000-2004 and Rajoy was then number 2 and will be number one soon. The minister involved was either Acebes or Rajoy. It could not have been anyone else.”
What is curious and offensive at least to that Gibraltarian is to learn your chief minister has been talking to the Partido Popular and pushing Andorra and you only know because it was first reported in Spain. He has never engaged the people of Gibraltar on these issues and it is the very future of the Rock that is at stake. Prescriptions, play grounds, free buses are all well and good but Gibraltar’s future is surely paramount.
So when I hear new whispers this time from Spain that there are done deals or deals in the offing on joint sovereignty and the waters once Gibraltar has been to the polls and Caruana returned with the PP installed in Madrid – are they true or false? I have no idea.
Yet the fact I am writing this article at all about a chief minister of Gibraltar or that a reader doubts his leader is to me incredible. Have there ever been any doubts over where Joe Bossano, Fabian Picardo or Dr Joseph Garcia stand on this issue? None.
If Peter Caruana wants the trust of the people of Gibraltar on the fundamental issue of their future he has to answer some searching questions. Might I respectfully suggest that perhaps Thursday and Friday in parliament would be a good place to start.