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).