An opinion poll in Spain is hitting the news headlines because it confirms what I have been saying all along that for the average Spaniard Gibraltar is simply not an issue. Sure if you ask a Spaniard is Gibraltar Spanish the stock answer would probably be Gibraltar Español: but then he would go back to watching the football or she with the task of preparing the family meal and not give it another thought.
The poll findings suggest that for 60 per cent of Spaniards the dispute over Gibraltar is of little importance and should not be on the country’s foreign policy agenda.
The soundings by the Real Instituto Elcano published on Thursday also show a split on the strategy being followed in the confrontation between the fishermen of the Campo de Gibraltar and our government.
Four out of ten people believe there should be greater diplomatic pressure whilst 44.1 per cent prefer the tension to be lowered. This is three times more than the previous percentage seeking a softly softly approach.
Not surprisingly the answers are significantly different depending on the political ideology of the person questioned.
Amongst voters on the right, that is right-wing Partido Popular supporters, 50 per cent believe that the dispute over Gibraltar is quite or very important in Spain’s foreign policy. However that percentage drops to 32 per cent amongst voters of the centre and dips lower to 30 per cent amongst those on the left.
The same bias is shown when the second question on the fishing dispute is asked with regard to the banning of local fleets from Gibraltar’s waters.
Amongst the heirs to Franco on the right six out of ten want to strengthen the diplomatic pressure however 51 per cent on the left want the tensions to be reduced. In the centre it is more divided with 44 per cent going for tightening the diplomatic screw and 42 per cent easing it.
However as I have said oft times before in Spain as a nation as compared with the Campo de Gibraltar the Rock does not rate as the burning issue of the day. When you stand at a bar or queue at the supermarket checkout Gibraltar is not what everybody is nattering about.
As the Chief Minister observed earlier this year for Spaniards there are many burning issues but they are not Gibraltar. The collapse of the economy, the frighteningly high rates of unemployment especially amongst the young and the cases of people being made homeless, thrown out on the streets by the same abusive banks that caused the crisis: this is what resonates amongst Spaniards young and old.
Any Spanish politician who cries Gibraltar Español in order to divert attention from the nation’s woes will simply be greeted with derision. Say what you will about Spaniards but they are not idiots and smell a red herring a mile off: especially when being hawked by a right wing politician.