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.