Thursday, December 22, 2011


The orchestrated mourning continues. Crowds of surprisingly Asian looking Gibraltarians have been filmed on Main Street weeping and grieving openly at the news that the Supreme Leader, Peter Caruana, had been swept from power at the recent general election.

Office workers were filmed wailing en masse and crowds gathered outside a house in Irish Town as the GSD executive announced an extended mourning period.

The Supreme Sister had posted the pictures on her Facebook page of the mass displays of sorrow but international observers said they could not verify their authenticity especially as rickshaws had never been seen before on the Rock.

One expert on this troubled nation said the Supreme Leader was “a man who concentrated colossal power in his hands.” He has led Gibraltar since 1996. There are reports that people were imprisoned for life for not wearing a badge bearing his likeness at all times but nobody could be found on Main Street to confirm this story.

The country is impoverished with known debts of 500 million pounds. Commentators say it is George Orwell’s 1984 brought to life with TVs and radios only receiving the State broadcaster with other media surviving on government funding. Despite all this the Supreme Leader told the people before his downfall that they lived in the “happiest nation on earth.”

A recent visitor to Gibraltar stated: “The country has a grandiose capital city with a number of enormous monuments.” It is believed he was referring to the new airport terminal which the new government is considering closing as there are few flights yet it forms a major drain on the economy. One seasoned observer believes one of the enormous monuments was a giant man called Joe Holliday who had ambitions to be a Beloved Leader himself but who hurriedly left government riding the peoples’ bike.

After 16 years in power, whilst the elite indulged themselves on the finest foods and wines, those at the lower end of the scale had been seen push starting an ambulance in order to get a relative taken to hospital. The former Health Tsar, who fell with her beloved leader, denied such events ever happened or that she had failed to order new ambulances for the emergency fleet.

Many Gibraltarians thought their Supreme Leader was a saint or they had been brain washed to believe so. Even those who knew the truth pretended he was the Almighty One in case they lost their place on the housing waiting list.

Curiously the passing of the Supreme Leader came around the time that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is said to have died whilst on a train in his starving yet nuclear powered nation. These two events are not believed to be related.

A SEASON TO BE GRATEFUL: may I thank the many readers of this website and Panorama who have contacted me directly or through the letters page of the newspaper to comment on my articles. As this is also the season of good will to all men (and women) I include in my thanks those who disagree with every word I say – God bless you for still taking the time to read what I have written – and even those who believe the finest form of attack is personal abuse whilst hiding behind their anonymity. As I raise my glass of good cheer over the Christmas meal I will toast you all and, God willing, we will return to debate the issues in 2012. Merry Christmas and the very happiest of New Years.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I finished my article in Panorama on Wednesday on the subject of the British EU crisis with the words: “There is however a serious point for the Gibraltar government to consider here. Gibraltar may or may not be a colony depending on how you read the status report. The Rock may have a strong degree of self-governance. Yet the fact remains that the decision on whether Gibraltar remains in the EU will not be made by the government of the day, or the Gibraltarian people even if they are given participation in a UK referendum, but in London. Furthermore, if the British Government decides to withdraw how the decision will affect Gibraltar will not even be taken in to consideration.”
Now this very point was reinforced on the BBC Today programme on Radio Four yesterday by Alex Salmond who is the First Minister in Scotland. He was spitting blood over David Cameron’s actions at the EU Summit because he says it damages Scotland’s interests. Indeed the point has been made that Cameron was laying back and thinking of England and has potentially made life very difficult for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with their devolved assemblies – and indeed Gibraltar.
Others have gone so far as to argue that Cameron’s veto has given a weapon to the Scottish Nationalists in their campaign for independence from England. Salmond sees the Cameron veto as ensuring a hostile environment for Scotland’s own fishery talks with the EU this week. Scotland wants to be part of the EU and Salmond hasn’t ruled out joining the euro in the future.
Now if Cameron isn’t worried about Scotland it is probable that Gib isn’t even on his radar. Conservatives have always been viewed as the party of the Union but an independent Scotland would create an England with a perpetual Conservative majority government. Scotland is far more vital to Ed Miliband and Labour because without its Scottish MPs it can never form a British Government. So does Cameron even care about Scotland and the Union?
My next question is who truly speaks for Gibraltar in Europe? Of course Gibraltarians fought any almighty battle to be represented in the European Parliament and are now part of the South West England constituency. I have praised Sir Graham Watson (pictured above), the Lib Dem MEP, here before for his sterling work speaking up for Gibraltarians in Europe and holding the British and indeed the Gibraltar government to account. With the Liberals forming a key component of the new Gibraltar Government Sir Graham’s role will become even more important.
Sadly the five other MEPs will be of little use in defending Gibraltar’s interests in wishing to be fully involved with the EU. Two, the Earl of Dartmouth and Trevor Colman, are members of UKIP which wants the UK out of Europe at all costs. The other three, Giles Chichester, Julie Girling and Ashley Fox, are all I am reliably told Euro sceptics at best. Hence only Sir Graham is available to argue Gibraltar’s case in a constructive manner.
Gibraltar has long had a London office to be its voice in the UK. Perhaps Sir Graham should be consulted on how Gibraltar can also make its presence felt in Brussels – a task which requires it to punch way above its weight (as always) to have the views of Gibraltarians listened to and acted on.
PS: Dychow-houlsedhas Pou an Zouzn is Cornish for South West England Constituency. Just thought you’d like to know.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I wonder how many soldiers have gone to their deaths over the centuries in which each side in the bloody conflict believed God was on their side? Religion should have no place in war and many would argue it has no place in politics either. Yet for many their Christianity is what drives their political convictions.
The Church of England is traditionally described as the Tory Party at prayer. However if you took the average congregation today it probably has little in common with the Conservative Party profile.
In the 19 th and 20 th centuries there was a mass migration from Ireland to Britain and the Irish, being Catholics, reinforced that church. As they were immigrants socialism was their natural political home and it is no coincidence that many leading Labour politicians over the years have had Irish surnames and are Catholics.
However Labour also drew much of its support from the Welsh valleys and industrial heartlands where chapel and non-conformist brands of Christianity held sway. F D Maurice, Ellen Wilkinson, George Lansbury, and Donald Soper all came from this rich tradition of Christian Socialists.
In May for the first time I visited Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery. To be honest I was drawn by a simple plaque nearby bearing the name of Ralph Miliband, the father of David and Ed. The distance from this section of the cemetery to the Catholic grammar school I attended in the 1960s was 20 minutes max. On Friday July 14 1961 Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, visited Karl Marx’s tomb as part of his visit to London and Manchester. As he was Russian, a Communist and an atheist - for weren’t all Russians Communists and atheists – the school totally ignored this historic event on our doorstep.
Yet with the fall of the iron curtain we find that the Orthodox Church in Russia never went away and today holds major influence in the country of Stalin. The Catholic Church in Poland even gave us one of the most popular modern Popes and its economic migrants to the UK are reinforcing the church there as the Irish did one hundred years ago. So Russian or Eastern Block they may have been, communist as well but atheist certainly not.
Two politicians, Tony Blair and Peter Caruana, demonstrate perfectly the tug of war between church and State. Blair, once a protestant, is married to Cherie Blair, a devout Catholic and it was no secret that Blair wanted to become a Catholic being received in to the Church shortly after he left office. Yet as Prime Minister he presided over a secular government introducing in to law a number of measures which incurred the anger and opposition of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church. As Alastair Campbell famously said: “We don’t do God”
In Gibraltar the Minister for Justice, Daniel Feetham, brought before parliament a private members bill over the age of consent for homosexuals. It was a private bill because Peter Caruana as a devout Catholic said he couldn’t support it. Hence we had the bizarre spectacle of the chief minister voting against a measure introduced by his own minister of justice. In addition we had other GSD ministers also opposing the measure although whether they were following their Lord spiritual or temporal is a moot point.
I raise this issue today because before me I have a number of leaflets one of which reads: “If this is how you want Gibraltar to suffer like the rest of Europe! Vote for Godless Socialism! GSLP/Lib. If you want to continue with the best Godly government Gbraltar (sic) has even had and enjoy 3 per cent unemployment! Vote GSD!”
Well the writer may want to warp Peter Caruana in the Shroud of Turin but I would argue the message is an insult to all religious people in Gibraltar. As far as I am aware we are all equal in the sight of our God, we all worship together and there are no GSD, GSLP, Liberal, PDP or political agnostic segregated pews in the Rock’s churches, chapels, temples, mosques or synagogues.
To pretend that all members of the GSLP are atheists is as false as believing in 1961 that all Russians were Godless. I don’t doubt the chief minister’s religious conviction but to suggest that all members of the GSD share his faith is ridiculous.
Many Christians are drawn to socialism because they believe passionately in social justice. Many Christian Socialists believe all people are created in the image of God, have equal worth, deserve equal opportunities to fulfil their God-given potential.
There are many Christian Socialists in the GSLP as there are many good Christians in the GSD. To suggest that God is on the side of one party over the other is simply unchristian.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


On Thursday the people of Gibraltar go to the polls to elect their next government. However, sometime in January, they will also have another date with destiny. On that day the former Europe Minister, Peter Hain, will publish his book ‘Outside In’. Whilst it will cover many topics it will also reveal exactly what happened between him and Peter Caruana over the joint sovereignty talks in 2001.
The book has been in the process of being published for some time. As the Foreign Office was aware that Gibraltar would be holding its general election this autumn the contents have been placed under embargo and the publication date moved back to January.
“Outside In” will appropriately be published by BiteBack Publishing – a company that specialises in political books. Hain is a loose cannon even within the Labour Party and the fact the book is to be published has shocked many within the party organisation and at Westminster. The events surrounding the attempts by Blair/Straw/Hain to bounce Gibraltar in to a joint sovereignty agreement against its wishes are something the Foreign Office and Labour would wish to forget.
Jack Straw always maintains he can’t remember what went on and sends enquiries to the Foreign Office. Yet the year after the 2001 debacle the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee reported: “According to the Foreign Secretary, the British Government and Spain have agreed to the conditions for negotiation originally demanded by Peter Caruana, who has since imposed further conditions which are incompatible with meaningful negotiation.”
It has always been inconceivable to many Gibraltarians that Britain would have embarked on the joint sovereignty exercise with Spain, knowing Gibraltar had a veto, unless they felt confident the Rock would support it. The suspicion has always been that Caruana promised to deliver the support of Gibraltarians and then went back on the deal. National Day 2001 is the likely date he saw the writing on the wall and stabbed Hain in the back.
In September 2004 the Gibraltar Chronicle reported on Fabian Picardo attending the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. There he had a meeting with Peter Hain and they naturally discussed the Joint Sovereignty process of 2001 – 2002. Fabian Picardo questioned Hain: “Let me ask you this, what was the attitude of the Chief Minister when he welcomed you to Gibraltar in September 2001 and welcomed the relaunch of the Brussels Process?”
Peter Hain replied: “He led us to believe he would be a willing partner in the talks – and then he pulled back.”
That is what it is believed Hain’s book will now confirm. As it so happened I was close at hand when Picardo met Hain at this year’s Labour Party Conference in Liverpool and the former Europe Minister repeated the same claim.
That documents sit in the Whitehall files relating to the joint sovereignty negotiations is fact. The Public Records Office has admitted to their existence but has refused to release them under the Freedom of Information Act as they would damage relations between the UK and Gibraltar governments.
This raises a very important issue. The people of Gibraltar have the right to know what their chief minister offered to Britain and Spain at the time of the 2001 joint sovereignty negotiations. The Foreign and Cabinet Offices might argue the case for an embargo now because of the elections. Yet leaving aside the elections Gibraltarians will be very angry indeed if Caruana is shown to have tried to lead them down the path to joint sovereignty especially if he is re-elected as chief minister.
The Gibraltarian people have a right to know what bargaining went on over the future of their homeland. They are no longer colonial serfs tugging their forelocks in the direction of the Foreign Office, the Convent or indeed No.6. It would have been better if these records had been made public – in the event it appears Gibraltarians may owe a debt to Peter Hain who up till now has been their bête noir.
Even now Caruana talks of the possibility of Gibraltar having a joint sovereignty accord with Spain. It was just a year ago when he suggested in Sevilla that Gibraltar take on an Andorra-style status. Nothing has seemingly changed over the last ten years. 

On December 8 the voters of Gibraltar have a very simple choice – do they want a chief minister whose heart lies in Spain – or Picardo or indeed Azopardi whose feet are firmly on Gibraltarian soil.
For the truth on the joint sovereign negotiations they will have to be patient and wait a while longer – but the truth will out.

Friday, December 2, 2011


By this time next week Gibraltar will have a new chief minister. Peter Caruana could be settling back in his previous four-term chair or Fabian Picardo or even Keith Azopardi could be busy measuring their office at Number 6 for curtains. Any of the three will be experiencing euphoria but it might be short lived.
Their arrival in the hot seat, either as a seasoned leader or a new broom, could coincide with financial meltdown in wider Europe. It will not be of Gibraltar’s making nor can the Rock influence its outcome. However the new government will have to deal with its effects on the local economy.
On Wednesday the countdown started. In the words of the EU’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn: “We are now entering the critical period of 10 days to complete and conclude the crisis response of the European Union.” The TV news channel, CNN, even has modelled the 10 days on an Advent calendar.
The mood of gloom was set by Gerard Lyons, chief economist at Standard Chartered, who said in his Economic Outlook for November: “The euro cannot survive in its present format. Throughout the year I have stressed that the world economy could suffer a double-dip if it was hit by one of three factors: an external shock, a policy mistake or a loss of confidence. Unfortunately, in recent months, the euro area has been hit by all three. And that is why the euro area will slip back into recession in 2012.”
The news from London is that the Treasury is involved in intensive contingency planning for Greece and possibly Italy, Spain and Portugal quitting the eurozone. British banks have been urged by the City watchdog that they must brace themselves for the collapse of the single currency. Of course Britain’s banks are Gibraltar’s banks so what hits the UK will hit here too.
There is also a bigger threat closer to home. Economically Gibraltar and the Campo region along with wider Spain are interconnected. If they catch economic cold in Madrid or La Línea the sneeze can be loudly heard on Main Street. If the euro is shaken by Greece’s exit, the rumble will be felt here. If Spain is also forced out of the common currency and returns to the peseta Gibraltar will not escape Scott free.
Gibraltar is not able to seek succour in its close links with the UK or sterling. In the Tuesday Autumn economic statement Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne painted economic gloom right through to 2017. However he was very careful to point out that if the euro implodes and the EU economy with it even that pessimistic projection goes out of the window.
Gibraltar’s gross debt is believed to be around half a billion pounds. That equates to 16,000 pounds for every man, woman and child on the Rock. Yes even our children are already bearing the burden. If the financial sector, gaming and tourism are badly hit by the gathering storm then using a quote from the 1996 GSD manifesto this “millstone round the necks of future Gibraltarians” could sink us all.