Thursday, January 26, 2012


The recent revelations in the Hain book coupled with the Brussels Process and rumours of other Conservative Government plotting with Spain tells us one simple fact: given the opportunity London would clinch a deal with Madrid over Gibraltar. That applies to whoever is in power and Cameron would snatch a deal as readily as Blair or Thatcher.
Let us take a look at this from London. There are at least one million Britons living in Spain or with second homes there. They pay taxes in Spain, many work for Spanish registered companies, others run businesses. Around the same number of Britons holiday in Spain each year; in many regions they top the tourist charts. Spain is Britain’s eighth largest trading partner and in 2011 exports were nearly eight billion pounds.
This means that when Whitehall looks at its interests with democratic Spain it is these statistics that loom large and not Gibraltar. In addition to that both are partners within the EU, both currently have centre right governments and both are members of NATO.
The days of Gibraltar’s strategic importance have largely gone and the Rock is no longer the bastion of democracy on the face of Franco’s Spain. Relations between London and Madrid are good but would be better if the Gibraltar issue could be solved.
I have no doubt that Britain will honour the pre-amble to the Constitution. In addition the ties that bind the UK and Gibraltar are very strong indeed. There is over 300 years of mutual history and institutional bonds including a shared monarch. However we are faced with two differing priorities: London would like a settlement with Spain (joint sovereignty would suit it fine) and Gibraltar has no intention of diluting its sovereignty: “no surrender!”
Every indication is that Gibraltarians wish to self govern their Rock whilst maintaining the link with Britain. What needs to be done now is for that policy to be agreed not by politicians but by the people and enshrined in a binding document. It should be a document that sets out the future for Gibraltar and how it intends to relate to Britain, the EU and the UN. It will be the will of the people endorsed by the people at a referendum.
Whether the Hain revelations are true or not the fact is that Caruana has constantly sent out messages to Spain that he is willing to discuss an Andorra style solution regardless of the fact the majority of Gibraltarians are not. He comes from the Palomo tradition and talks the Palomo talk. He has been happy for sovereignty to be on the table. As a democrat I believe he has every right personally, and I stress the personally, to do so. However when he did so as chief minister he should have realised that he gave hope to those in Madrid and London who desire a joint sovereignty accord for differing reasons. Furthermore he should have made it plain he spoke for himself and the two per cent who perhaps back such a solution but not the vast majority who would reject it out of hand: including most GSD supporters. In such delicate matters as sovereignty you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
That is why I say I believe there should be a debate amongst all Gibraltarians to define the future Gibraltar they want; how it will relate to Britain, Spain and its European neighbours. In essence it will be a political debate but it shouldn’t be clouded by party politics. It should be the will of the people and once set down represent the status quo that London and Madrid have to deal with.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It was two days before the Gibraltar General Election that I broke the story in Panorama that the UK’s former Europe Minister Peter Hain was going to tell all about the joint sovereignty debacle with Peter Caruana that occurred over 2001 and 2002. His book ‘Outside In’ had been embargoed by the Foreign office because it was felt the revelations that are now out in the open could affect the result of our election.
On the day that Panorama published the story I was named in a Government press release as a GSLP activist who had penned an article of lies. This is not the first time I had crossed swords with Peter Caruana on this issue.
In Panorama on June 22 of last year I penned an article: “Whispers of deals done or deals in the offing”. In it I wrote referring to 2001 and 2002: “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.”
During his closing budget speech in July the chief minister chose to name me in the House and to quote, incorrectly, from what I had written. He told Parliament that I had accused the then GSD government of being prepared to do a deal on joint sovereignty. Of course I had written no such thing and the GSD did not even feature in my article: only he did.
On December 6 I wrote: “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 re-launch 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.”
Well despite all the previous denials from the former Europe Minister, the Foreign Office and Caruana that is what Hain is now claiming and both he and the former chief minister can battle it out over who is telling the truth.
On Thursday 10 November I was party to a telephone conversation with the Foreign Office in London. The message back was that Hain couldn’t speak on the matters relating to 2001 and 2002 because they were to be published in his book ‘Outside In’ and for now it was the subject of a Foreign Office and Cabinet Office embargo.
The message went on: “If the GSLP win the general election then the people of Gibraltar will be very happy. If Caruana stays in power then they will be very angry indeed.” On the basis of that conversation I went to London and had conversations with Labour HQ and leading Labour politicians through whom I was able to ascertain that the embargo did exist and the basis of what Hain would say. You read that here on December 6.
What is quite clear is that Fabian Picardo was not lying over the conversation he had with Peter Hain at the Labour Party Conference at Brighton in 2004. Nor was Fabian Picardo lying over his encounter with Peter Hain at last year’s Labour Party Conference in Liverpool at which I was present. Nor was I lying in my articles here on June 22 or December 6. So who is lying Mr Caruana?
(Fabian Picardo meets Peter Hain at 2011 Labour Party Conference).

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I never thought I would write the words – I feel sympathy for Margaret Thatcher – but I do. Being in London last week I took the opportunity to see the Meryl Streep movie, The Iron Lady, which will bring the actress many rewards, maybe even a coveted Oscar. It is a silly film, it is a fine film but my own personal feeling is that such a delicate subject as Thatcher’s fading old age amidst dementia should have been left to after her death.
I have no problem with a film about the Thatcher years. They faded in and out of the portrayal and reminded us why and how she divided a nation. Indeed the legacy of what Britain’s first woman prime minister achieved lives on to this day both in her triumphant successes and total disasters.
I was in London throughout the mainstream years of Thatcherism. I was in Brighton on the night in 1984 when the IRA bomb exploded at the Grand Hotel. I had drunk in the bar and then passed the hotel in the late hours on my way to catch a train to London. When I awoke the following morning very early to catch a train to Edinburgh I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the radio news reports of what had happened and how the Thatchers had escaped unscathed.
Thatcherism was not something that for Gibraltarians simply happened in the UK. Let us not forget it was her Foreign Secretary now Lord Howe who in 1984, with her full approval, foisted the Brussels Process on the Rock. The relevant clause reads: “The establishment of a negotiating process aimed at overcoming all the differences between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar and at promoting co-operation on a mutually beneficial basis on economic, cultural, touristic, aviation, military and environmental matters. Both sides accept that the issues of sovereignty will be discussed in that process. The British government will fully maintain its commitment to honour the wishes of the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble of the 1969 constitution.” Its implications and the fact it opened up the right of Spain to discuss Gibraltar’s sovereignty will haunt us for many years to come.
It is ironic that a Conservative Prime Minister, who would open up the prospect of negotiations over Gibraltar’s sovereignty with Spain, would give the order in 1982 to sink the Argentinean battleship, the Belgrano, in her determination to ensure the Falkland Islands remained British. The Belgrano is the only ship ever to be sunk in anger by a nuclear powered submarine HMS Conqueror The debate over whether the Belgrano was a threat or sailing away from the British Task Force will rumble on long after Thatcher has left us.
The Iron Lady shows a Margaret Thatcher who wanted to do nothing more than to change the world. That she became a Tory MP at all and indeed went on to lead her party (and thereafter her country) is probably down to two men: Denis Thatcher and Airey Neave. Denis has always been portrayed as a golf playing and gin and tonic swilling buffoon – the truth is probably far different but the film does little to dispel it.
Airey Neave was a MP, a barrister and a war hero long before Margaret Thatcher even came on the scene. He is one of the few prisoners of war to have escaped from the German prisoner of war camp at Colditz castle. He was assassinated by it is believed the Irish National Liberation Army in a car bomb explosion as he drove out of the car park at the House of Commons in 1979. The moment is graphically portrayed in the film. I had interviewed him the year before at his office at parliament on Northern Ireland issues. He was a man of true stature and helped guide the young Margaret Thatcher through the ranks of the sneering Tory grandees.
The Iron Lady also shows us a Margaret Thatcher who is devoted to her family. However she made it plain when agreeing to marry Denis that she was destined for a life in politics and hence wouldn’t be a housewife tied to the kitchen sink. I suspect he always played second fiddle to her ambition and what of her children: Carol and Mark? Carol is shown trying to help her dementia suffering mother come to terms with the facts that Denis is dead and she is no longer prime minister. It is said their relationship has always been difficult. Mark was and is by all accounts her favourite but only appears as playing as a child on the beach in old family home movies. Given what we know of him; that is probably the best place to leave him.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, has been named the vice president of the commission for oreign affairs in Spain’s lower house of parliament, Congress. For apart from being a mayor Landaluce is also a Cádiz MP for the Partido Popular.
The PP group in Congress met on Tuesday to approve the appointments for spokespersons and presidents of commissions. It was a top level affair presided over by the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, plus his sidekick Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and the secretary general of the party, María Dolores de Cospedal.
The presidency of the foreign affairs commission rests with the CiU’s spokesperson, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, whilst the spokesperson of the commission is the PP’s José María Beneyto, who is the MP for Cuenca.
Landaluce has been in parliament since 2000 and during that time has been a member of both the foreign affairs and defence commissions. There are two differences this time round: he moves up to being the vice president and the PP are in power.
Naturally the mayor from across the bay is relishing his new role as he observes: “This role is important for the Campo de Gibraltar because it makes political decisions.” He added the ministry will have much to say on the Strait of Gibraltar, on relations with Morocco and of course, Gibraltar.
The role of foreign minister is held by José Manuel García-Margallo but Landaluce is in no doubt that he will listen to the members of the commission. With regards to Gibraltar Landaluce repeats the PP mantra of “two flags, three voices” in discussions over the future sovereignty of the Rock.
Such hard line verbiage is all well and good however the PP and Landaluce should realise that in the sovereignty dance it takes three to tango and if Gibraltar wanders off to powder its nose then there’s no dancing!
After his appointment Landaluce observed: “It is a good vantage point to be vice president of this committee on foreign affairs because its decisions affect the Campo de Gibraltar and gives us a privileged position.” He also stressed the importance of the province of Cádiz as it is the home of the port of Algeciras – the most important in Spain – the American base at Rota and another military base in Gibraltar. The PP already insists that Gibraltar has no airspace or waters – now Landaluce seems to be arguing the Rock is just another part of the Spanish province for which he sits in parliament.
With the change of government the Campo de Gibraltar sees its influence in foreign affairs in Madrid switch from José Carracao to Landaluce. Carracao was a senator who stood down at the last election after five terms in office. He held key posts in the commissions for foreign affairs, co-operation, the EU and others. The Campo de Gibraltar now has no voice in the Senate but instead has Landaluce.
The difference between Carracao and Landaluce is profound. Carracao was the mayor of Jimena, then the president of the association of town halls in the Campo de Gibraltar before going to the senate and assuming special responsibilities for cross border affairs. He viewed himself as a friend of Gibraltar’s, albeit from a Spanish perspective. However Landaluce is a sworn enemy of the Rock as is his party. Expect stormy times ahead.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


By The Real Chief Minister
My loyal subjects, I know there was a dreadful mistake in the general election and I was voted out of office but I still consider myself as the Real Chief Minister as I know you do too.
Last year I sent you a postcard from Andorra, the tiny nation set in the Pyrenees, whose model I aspire too for our own beloved Rock. I am doing so again this year, or rather the Beloved Sister has bought me an Andorra Wii, so I am sending it from there. Sadly without the salary and perks of being chief minister I have had to reduce my spending and so for now it is a virtual Andorra rather than the real thing. Later my family will come skiing with me down the stairs of my house in Irish Town which I have now renamed Andorra La Vella after the capital of Europe’s sixth smallest country.
There have been some wicked rumours about my wish to make Gibraltar in to another Andorra sharing sovereignty between Britain and Spain. True for the past decade I have been in favour of an Andorra status for Gibraltar even though I deny it when I have to. Whatever you do don’t believe a word of what Peter Hain is about to tell you!
Andorra is governed ultimately by the Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. If Gibraltar follows this model I accept the Spanish monarch would be one of the co-rulers but as a Knight of the Holy Catholic Church I would protect your interests as the other head of State.
Now I am sure some smart Alec will point out that the President of France and the Bishop are royal princes in Andorra although they have never been elected by the Andorran people. This should worry us not as we didn’t elect the British monarch either and certainly not her Governor. As the Real Chief Minister it is my right to be your ruler and remember in Spanish Real means Royal, which of course I am.
A little known fact about Andorra is that it declared war on Imperial Germany during the First World War. However it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles and hence remained at war with that nation to 1957. Likewise as the Real Chief Minister I have declared war on many people, Joe Bossano and the Governor of the Day to name but two, and I assure you that will remain my status quo until I am truly raised up over you as Head of State and then “off with their heads!”
For the next four years please feel free to come and tug your forelocks at my front door. I will also be doing processions through my kingdom with Prince Daniel, who you have to admit does carry himself like a real prince, which could never be said of my loyal serf Joe Holliday.
The Other Chief Minister will govern you until you come to your senses and vote me back in to power. As he takes over the reins of office may I say to Fabian Picardo – break a leg in 2012! The Beloved Sister has just said “say it as if you mean it”, which of course I do – break a leg Fabian! Perhaps two!