I had a little chuckle to myself when our government issued the press release announcing that not only was Joe Bossano going on a mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands to monitor their elections: he was also the head of mission and would be responsible for writing the report on whether they were fair and free.
One of the benefits of having written my weekly Gibraltar Viewpoint column for nearly 20 years is that I can remember back to times when there were rumours that the British Government wanted Joe out as Chief Minister and to impose direct rule. Nothing was ever officially said or communicated to Gibraltar but the UK press were duly briefed even about a meeting Bossano had not attended with then Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. Needless to say the GSD of those days made much millage out of those claims.
Now you do not get to lead a Commonwealth mission to anywhere if in official circles you are still viewed as the bad boy on the block. So it is interesting that Joe Bossano is not only a revered figure in our politics but is receiving international recognition too. I hope he is collecting his Air Miles because in recent weeks he has been to China, Brazil, India and now the Turks and Caicos largely on his reputation not only as Gibraltar’s elder statesman but also a man of sound knowledge.
I have been fortunate in having sat down and talked to a number of Gibraltar’s bright young politicians and I include in that number Daniel Feetham in his rebels days with the GSLP and as leader of the Labour Party. All were certainly younger than me: all were and still are bright but Joe Bossano is one of the most impressive politicians that I have ever met – and over the years I have met a few.
I appreciate there are those in Gibraltar who either love or loath Joe and of the older generation it is unlikely they will switch camps. However whichever camp you are in you should respect Joe because his achievements and knowledge demand and deserve that.
Not only has Joe acquired a massive knowledge over the years but if you are willing to take the time he is fully prepared to share it with you. When I have interviewed politicians I have usually been prepared for 20 minutes at the max. If you want to engage with Joe he will discuss things with you for as long as he can before he is dragged away to meet somebody else. The key thing is what he tells you is sound fact and reasoning: he will challenge your own preconceived ideas and anybody who believes he no longer has a role to play in our politics is gaga and not him.
There is no politician actively involved in our parliament who can look back over four decades and even beyond that as a Labour Party member and union activist in the UK. Bossano was a street politician: a breed that in this age of social media we will never see again but this old dog has learned the new tricks and is as happy doing a pod cast as he was on his soap box. He is a national treasure in a way Caruana never could be or even comprehend. An international salute to Joe is a salute to Gibraltar and of that we should all indeed be proud.