It is the dogma of the majority of Spanish political parties that Gibraltar is an integral part of Spain and should be recovered. The mantra is “Gibraltar Español” and I have always presumed that those on the right of Spanish politics chant it louder than those on the left.
There are those in Gibraltar who welcomed a Partido Popular victory in the last elections because they take the view that you know with the centre right party where you are and you can expect the worst. Not only that but your expectations are likely to be met. The present PP administration certainly is proving the truth of that belief.
In contrast with PSOE you never know whether you are going to get the good cop, the bad cop or whether to an extent on Gibraltar relations they will cop out altogether.
I have held the view that if the centre right and far right could be eliminated from the Spanish political body matters for Gibraltar would change. It is my belief that it is because the parties of the right and principally the Partido Popular have enshrined “Gibraltar Español” on their hearts, minds and souls that all other parties in the political spectrum dare not but chant the mantra. Failure to do so would leave them open to accusations of betraying Spain.
In the 1980s Joe Bossano had talks with the PSOE of Felipe Gonzalez to see if the GSLP could obtain membership of Socialist International with their support. The fact is that if PSOE blocked the move the SI would not grant the GSLP membership. On the face of it this should have been a political matter with a small p. For a socialist party in Gibraltar to join the all embracing socialist movement worldwide should have not been a matter to meet with PSOE’s opposition. However it did as it would do today but the main reason given by Gonzalez to Bossano was that such a move would cost him valuable votes in an election.
Now would a PSOE supporter abandon the socialists and vote with another party because Gonzalez had not objected to the GSLP’s membership of SI? My guess is he or she would not. However if the centre right and right parties got hold of this information then they could blacken PSOE’s name with voters because they didn’t stop the GSLP becoming internationally recognised. That holds a lot of truth.
If you ask the average Spaniard do they believe Gibraltar is Spanish they would answer yes. Not because it is engraved on their hearts, minds and souls but simply because it is the common acceptance. However if you asked a Basque or a Catalan, first they couldn’t answer because they do not view themselves as being Spanish. Secondly they could hardly say yes because what they wish for their own regions is the independence from Spain that Gibraltar currently enjoys.
However the average Spaniard is not a politician. So whilst you will get the knee-jerk reaction to the Gibraltar question when you ask them what are the political priorities in their lives opinion polls have constantly shown that Gibraltar does not even feature. Jobs, the economy, housing score high: even ETA and terrorism scores low but way ahead of Gibraltar which does not register at all.
It is interesting that the present Partido Popular government in Madrid, whose priority is jobs, the economy and housing, has chosen to make Gibraltar a key plank in its foreign policy. However the PP totally fails to understand that for Spaniards the Rock of Gibraltar is simply not important. Hence we find the Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy being ridiculed in Spain and the wider world for demanding before the UN that Britain hands over Gibraltar.
His country is in economic meltdown, key parts of his country want out, the world is in recession, there are numerous wars, people are starving, Arabs are demanding the freedoms that we take for granted and all Rajoy can ask the gathered UN delegates and leaders is: “please can I have Gibraltar back?” He is like a spoilt child wanting a toy in the shop window which he simply can’t have.
The people of Spain by and large could not care what happens to Gibraltar. If the parties of the centre and the left wished to truly reflect their wishes, neither would they. However they are all caught in the sight of the weaving cobra’s head of the right and centre right and dare not turn away. If Spanish politicians on the centre and left had the courage to break that spell there would indeed be a new era in Spanish – Gibraltar relations to the benefit of both societies. Yet for now no mainstream Spanish politician dare but chant “Gibraltar Español”!