Thursday, September 29, 2011


Since Sunday the Leader of the Opposition and GSLP, Fabian Picardo, has been at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. I caught up with him on Tuesday evening as his stay drew to a close and took the opportunity to ask him about his impressions and whether his objectives had been fulfilled.
David Eade: How deep are the traditional links between the GSLP and Labour Party in the UK?
Fabian Picardo: Very deep indeed and also warm and positive with the real Labour Party, if I may call it that.  The GSLP constitution is modelled on the constitution of the Labour Party and we hold ourselves to account annual at our own party AGM which is a mini-conference. 
David Eade: This is the first time you have attended the Labour Party Conference as leader of the GSLP. What were your objectives and expectations on arrival?
Fabian Picardo: Well to do two things.  The first is to ensure that I keep up the excellent work Joe has done in establishing and maintaining GSLP links not just with front bench spokespersons but also with rank and file members.  The second is to ensure that the wider Gibraltar agenda remains clear to those who are in official positions and that they understand what Gibraltar wants, needs and expects.
David Eade: Have those objectives been fulfilled and were your expectations met?
Fabian Picardo: Very much so.  The international liaison officers this year were well known to us (as we had campaigned together for Labour in European Parliamentary Elections). That meant we were working with close friends.  I was therefore able to meet with Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Party and with Douglas Alexander, who is Shadow Foreign Secretary, amongst others.  They were not at the Gibraltar Government reception, so being able to meet with them on Gibraltar issues was important.
David Eade: What was your single most important achievement at the conference?
Fabian Picardo: Clearly it was to keep the Gibraltar issue alive in minds of the people I met and that includes the Leader of the Party, something which cannot be underestimated.  Mr Miliband is the Leader of the Opposition and it is important that we constantly keep reminding him of the relevant Gibraltar issues.
David Eade: You met the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, talked to him about Gibraltar and heard his conference speech in the area reserved for international party leaders – what were your impressions of him and his leadership?
Fabian Picardo: I think Ed did an excellent job of putting across a message of social justice.  He expressed it in terms of "a new bargain", a little like the "new deal" which New Labour successfully did with young people in the late nineties.  I was impressed by his determination and by the themes he picked out in his speech.  I was also impressed by the fact that he remains a very approachable and down to earth personality despite his position at the head of the Labour Party in Britain and the 24 hour media onslaught he is under.  There is a lesson there for some here who see themselves as worthy of decorum and reverence.
David Eade: : What can the Labour Party teach the GSLP and the GSLP the Labour Party?
Fabian Picardo: Well the Labour Party teaches us that internal democracy is essential if you are going to have real political longevity.  That is the only way to ensure the members know the party is truly theirs and why they continue to support it through thick and thin.  We can teach Labour a thing or two about organisation, and I spent some time with Andy Burnham talking about our membership record computerisation, regular contact with members and the use of social media.  They were very interested in some of our data and the ideas we are rolling out in this campaign.
David Eade: Finally, since Tony Blair tried to bounce Gibraltar into joint sovereignty with Spain these have been difficult times for Labour’s relations with the people of the Rock, especially when it comes to the European elections. Do you have hopes that rift can be mended in the near future?
Fabian Picardo: I don't believe it was just Tony Blair who was the architect of Joint Sovereignty.  As ever with Blair he was the front man exquisitely executing the manoeuvres.  What I have tried to do, and I started doing this with Joe from my first attendance at the Conference, is tell all the relevant rank and file members, officers and front bench spokespersons that they have to rebuild the trust they enjoyed in Gibraltar.  I am determined that we should get to the bottom of what gave Labour ministers the idea that the hair-brained concept of Joint Sovereignty might get off the ground. Perhaps when we do that, we will see that the blame does not lie, or at least does not only lie, at Labour’s door. 


I don’t have a lot of lords in my little black book but I have in recent weeks added one. He is Lord Maurice Glasman who the popular media would have it is one of Ed Miliband’s gurus if not indeed guru-in-chief.
By trade he is a reader in political theory at the Metropolitan University and was the driving force behind London Citizens. However he was recently unexpectedly elevated from Maurice Glasman to Lord Glasman of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill.
I met him outside the Hard Day’s Night Hotel in Liverpool where he is stationed for the Labour Party Conference. We sat sipping coffee opposite the entrance to the street that housed the famous Cavern Club, a venue where many of my teenage idols performed as well of course The Beatles.
As we talked his mobile buzzed and Maurice ignored the link with a curious outside world. It was the media anxious for an interview or a quote which could perhaps be misquoted or twisted. The good lord was adamant he was saying nothing that could be misinterpreted before his political master, or perhaps pupil, Ed Miliband gave his speech on Tuesday afternoon - so the calls went unanswered.
Maurice Glasman is Jewish and talks of the role strong women played in his upbringing such as his mother and teachers. Here we come to the first link with Gibraltar for one of those women teachers was the daughter of Sir Joshua Hassan who left the imprint of a firm hand on the young lord.
Glasman is most associated with the Blue Labour movement. This is the creed of faith, flag and family which others have described as history, hearth and heritage along with roots, reciprocity and relationships. Blue Labour has been described as a blend of patriotism, conservatism and aversion to worship of the market – a critique of New Labour and its arid modernism.
However there is much in the Blue Labour manifesto that would resonate with socialists in Gibraltar. One of the key areas is migration where Glasman accused New Labour about lying over the extent of immigration. He has sympathy for Iain Duncan Smith’s controversial demand for British jobs for British workers which Gibraltarians both with jobs and unemployed might well grasp. He has stated: “The people who live here are the highest priority. We’ve got to listen and be with them.”
Interestingly Lord Glasman is very supportive of Gibraltar and is working on a number of projects that could have a positive impact on the Rock. One involves Spain and a campaign against that country’s fishing practices which are very much of interest to Gibraltarians who see illegal nets destroying the local sea beds, stripping them of fish stocks and killing dolphins.
It remains to be seen what final influence Lord Glasman and Blue Labour will have on Ed Miliband and the wider Labour Party as it seeks a new philosophy for opposition and government. However Gibraltar could well benefit from this shift in Labour Party policy which would bring it a staunch ally in its wish to remain British, ensure the right of Gibraltarians to self-determine their own future and offer a strong alliance against the claims of Spain. Most importantly Lord Glasman understands the rift that occurred between socialists in Gibraltar and Labour in Britain over the joint sovereignty issue and believes this boil needs to be lanced as a matter of priority.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


As I have written here in the past about my desire for Gibraltar and La Línea to co-operate it would be rather churlish of me to criticise the chief minister when he proposes just that. However there is co-operation and co-operation and I wonder if he hasn’t crossed a dangerous line.

Let us go back to September 7 when the chief minister visited the mayor of La Línea, Gemma Araujo. He proposed that a logistical centre be created in the border town on land adjacent to the airport terminal which between them would handle freight traffic.

Not surprisingly La Plataforma de la Zona Franca has expressed its satisfaction over Gibraltar’s plans. In a press statement the action group stated: “We understand that the town has as main objective to create employment, so that proposals like this not only would have an impact on La Línea, but in the Campo de Gibraltar”

There are over 300 members of the Zona Franca action group and they have offered their support and collaboration with La Línea town hall to bring this project to fruition. Their statement went on to offer: “to work with the town hall in the creation of a forum of dialogue with all the political groups and where we can search for qualified staff to carry out this project” which it says it has been demanding since the action group was first formed.

Naturally this group wants to see a Zona Franca created in which the logistics centre would be located and it expects Gibraltar to use its benefits. It surmises that the chief minister has made the offer because whilst the new airport terminal occupies a lot of land the Rock lacks the additional space for a logistics centre.

So we get the gist of how this project is viewed from the Spanish side. However if such a project were to proceed there are a number of important questions that need to be asked.

If the action group envisages numerous jobs being created and is talking of searching for the qualified staff it follows it expects them to be found in La Línea and the Campo de Gibraltar. If that is the case will Gibraltarians be excluded from working in the logistics centre? Surely if Gibraltar’s airport is to create jobs then the first people to be offered them should be Gibraltarians.

Again if the logistics centre is located in La Línea and Gibraltarians do work there they will in effect be employed in Spain. Hence their social security and tax will be paid to Madrid and they will be governed by Spanish employment law and not Gibraltarian. What effects will that have on their pension rights and other benefits on the Rock?

There is another area of concern and that involves sovereignty. It was always proposed that there would be a Spanish part of the terminal in La Línea which would house customs and immigration officials. Hence travellers going from the airport directly in to Spain could use this facility rather than run the gauntlet of crossing through the current border post.

However a logistics centre in Spain is something rather different. To operate effectively presumably there has to be open access between the centre, the airport proper and aircraft carrying freight. When freight goes from an aircraft to the centre or visa versa it will cross a sovereign border. In theory the staff transporting the goods or others simply going to and fro therefore should pass through immigration and customs each time because otherwise they are treating the airport and the logistics area as one sovereign area which it is not. So whose sovereignty will prevail, Gibraltar’s or Spain’s or is the airport to be the first location where joint sovereignty becomes a reality.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


There is a theory that if you have to make a complaint it is stronger coming from somebody within an organisation than an outsider. Hence with the current chaos at the Spanish border involving vehicles and motorbikes leaving the Rock a protest from Gibraltar will probably be met with a shrug of the shoulders from Zapatero or Trini, especially as the chief minister has just insinuated she is a liar.
Conversely if the protests come from Spaniards, especially those largely living in the town of La Línea, then the government in Madrid is more likely to take note. After all a general election is fast approaching and PSOE needs every vote it can get.
Of course it comes as no surprise that No.6 has been silent on this issue – but then that is the norm for the Caruana administration when it comes to taking Spain to task. No doubt the chief minister is up to his armpits in the urine to be found in the housing estate lifts and is wondering why all those who have been given accommodation in his new prize developments haven’t all pledged to vote GSD. A real head scratcher that one.
In the meantime the misery at the border continues and whilst No 6 says nowt the Asociación de Trabajadores Españoles en Gibraltar has plenty to say on the matter. Their spokesperson J J Uceda has been in touch to reveal they have denounced the situation both to the Spanish Government’s sub-delegate in the Campo de Gibraltar and also to the PSOE MP Salvador de la Encina.
J J says the protest is both on the part of the Spanish workers in Gibraltar and also all the other visitors to the Rock who have to cross the La Línea frontier. It comes to something when Gibraltarians living in Spain and workers on the Rock have to rely on ASCTEG to protect their interests and rights because the chief minister of Gibraltar will not.
Señor Uceda says the situation is so bad that many Spanish workers have simply abandoned their motorbikes in Gibraltar and walked across the border as they do not want to spend hours trying to get home. He also points out that the Guardia Civil are only operating one channel for cars and another for motorbikes when under the Córdoba Accords there are meant to be three lanes in and three lanes out. J J is to be congratulated on keeping a copy of the Córdoba document to hand because seemingly everybody else has ditched theirs so it may now have acquired collector value.
Of course the airport is Gibraltarian and hence its safety is a matter for the MoD and the Rock’s government. As work progresses painfully slowly on the terminal, which if it is to be used as a backdrop for Caruana’s election photos means the polls will be God knows when, it is left to J J to point to the safety aspects caused by the traffic tailbacks. If an aircraft has to make an emergency landing at the Rock it could well be that cars, motorbikes or indeed pedestrians are strung out along the width of its runway without any chance of scrabbling to safety.
It comes better from Spaniards to point out to the powers that be in Madrid that they are operating a third world frontier at La Línea and whilst it brings inconvenience to Gibraltarians, Lineneses, Britons and other nationals alike – the sole shame belongs to Spain. ASCTEG also points out that some 4,000 badly needed jobs are provided on the Rock for Spaniards yet they have to suffer the indignity of being treated like cattle by the Guardia Civil.
I stand corrected. Cattle would be treated far better because they have action groups to take up their cause. Those who cross the border have to thank ASCTEG for speaking out. Sadly for Gibraltarians, when it comes to defending their interests before Spain, the chief minister and his government are simply not fit for the purpose.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


In a recent interview with El País the Spanish minister for foreign affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, spoke about the Tripartite Forum and why, for now, no meetings were scheduled.
Spain is in pre-election mode, as too is Gibraltar, and it is doubtful whether the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is keen to meet with Jiménez or indeed Caruana in the forum until after those polls have been held and the future governments of the two nations has been decided. This is particularly the case as the opinion polls in both consistently show a change of government is likely.
Jiménez’s reason for not attending the Tripartite Forum is much clearer. She insists the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, demands the sovereignty of Gibraltar’s waters be put on the table. She added that the forum was a good instrument but it was designed to tackle the questions that affect residents of both sides of the border but not sovereignty.
Pointedly Jiménez told El País: “...the chief minister of Gibraltar wants to bring to the forum questions on sovereignty and the jurisdiction of the waters around the Rock. The government is clear that these are affairs for only bilateral discussions between the UK and Spain, and therefore, we decided not to convene it.” Pressed by a journalist on Caruana and sovereignty – she stressed – “if Caruana insists on raising the sovereignty of waters – there will be no meeting of the Tripartite Forum.”
Well Jiménez may be many things but I have yet to hear her called a liar and nor am I aware of any official contradiction from London or Gibraltar of her comments.
Now let us move on to Tuesday’s press conference after the meeting between the chief minister and the mayor of La Línea, Gemma Araujo. Here I shall quote from the press release directly in Spanish: “Con referencia al Foro de Diálogo de Gibraltar, dejó patente el ministro principal que no es bueno plantear el fin del diálogo. “Cuando hay problemas es cuando no hay que abandonar, sino reforzar el diálogo y hallar puntos de colaboración para darle solución a los ciudadanos. Yo no quiero, ni en el Foro ni fuera de él, hablar de soberanía”.
So despite Jiménez insisting the chief minister demanded that “sovereignty” and “the waters issue” be on the table for discussion at the forum Caruana tells us: “Yo no quiero, ni en el Foro ni fuera de él, hablar de soberanía”.
However back in July 2009 Caruana was interviewed by Herrera on Onda Cero radio. He surprised the esteemed presenter by saying he was prepared to raise the sovereignty issue during the forum sessions. I presume he meant he was willing to discuss the future sovereignty of Gibraltar which of course fits in with his later statements in Spain in favour of an Andorra style solution, which to all effects is joint sovereignty.
So Caruana asks Spain to put sovereignty on the table, then is accused of causing the abandonment of the forum because he insists on discussing sovereignty but then in La Línea has the brass neck to tell the media and have us believe: “Yo no quiero, ni en el Foro ni fuera de él, hablar de soberanía”.
Hmmm. Caruana has previous when it comes to sovereignty. He comes from a “Palomo” background, it has yet to be determined whether he mislead Tony Blair and Jack Straw over Gibraltar’s willingness to opt for joint sovereignty in 2001 and 2002 which of course, if he did, fits in nicely with his promotion of an Andorra settlement in Spain but on which he says nothing in Gibraltar.
The problem for the chief minister is he believes truth is a branch of economics and hence is very economical with it. When he named me during his Budget speech in July, a rare honour for a mere hack, he accused me of having stated in an article in Panorama on June 22 that the GSD and his government had been party to misleading the UK over joint sovereignty in 2001 and 2002. It will come as no surprise to you to learn that whilst there were 771 words in the article I wrote no such thing. What I did suggest, and I am yet to be disproved, is that maybe he misled them not the GSD or his government.
The fact is because of his continuous wriggling on this issue Caruana cannot be trusted by the people of Gibraltar over their sovereignty. And if a Gibraltarian cannot be trusted on this keystone issue what can he or she be trusted on?

Thursday, September 1, 2011


If you are a non-Gibraltarian who visits the Rock you will be struck by the thriving, modern society that exists all around you. You would chat with a sophisticated people. You would assume that Gibraltarians enjoy the same basic human rights as their British counterparts, or indeed Spaniards across the border, but you would be wrong.
In many instances Gibraltarians are in a rights limbo. If they were in the UK those rights would be protected by law and they would have redress under a whole series of headings against government, officials and so on. That is not true on the Rock because if a Gibraltarian has a complaint it is addressed, quite rightly to the Gibraltar Government, and not that of Britain. However all too often their own government legally turns a deaf ear because few rights are enshrined in law.
If a Gibraltarian seeks justice he or she can’t go to the UK government either because it does not have jurisdiction here. Therefore the only route is to Europe where, in theory, their case has the right to be heard. Yet even that is fraught with problems because in Brussels the conclusion would more often than not be that as British Citizens the British Government should be held to account to sort it out, which of course, it can’t.
It was put to me recently that the chief minister, Peter Caruana, was far from pleased when Gibraltarians received the Euro vote and hence a voice in the European Parliament. I had never thought about it before because it seemed strange to me that the elected leader of the Gibraltarian people would not want them to enjoy the widest representation. On the other hand it meant they had a right to go directly to Brussels or the European Parliament on issues that the chief minister might consider only he should have control over. For some democratic leaders democracy is a bitter pill to swallow.
Marcus Killick, the chairman of the Financial Services Commission, recently called for an Ombudsman to represent customers in their relations with the financial sector. For non-Gibraltarians it is startling to learn that those who live on the Rock do not enjoy such a vital service that is considered the norm elsewhere in the EU – yet so far there is no indication the government will give a positive answer to Killick’s plea.
Indeed as the general election draws near the rights of Gibraltarians to have free access to these basic rights and open government will reach a crescendo. The problem for the GSD is the party has been in government for four terms and has paid scant regard to the fundamental rights of its people. Hence a cynic might say if Caruana suddenly takes on the guise of St Paul on the road to Damascus on these key issues his conversation will be on a par with the Syrian president’s claim to have discovered democracy – not worth the scroll it is written on.