Thursday, February 28, 2013


I am amused and I guess bemused by the attempts by the Spanish media to find a negative linkage to Gibraltar even where one does not exist.

The latest case comes from El Economista and is written by Javier Nart who is an Abogado – so I better be careful in what I say.

Abogado Nart’s overall case may well be legitimate. He is firing at British Airways whose aircraft land and take off from our sacred soil but in this case that is neither here nor there.
Nart’s complaint is over the merger of Iberia with British Airways to form IAG with its linkage to the current Iberia strike.
Apparently the original idea was that Heathrow would be the platform for serving the West and Madrid’s airport, Barajas for the East. With the two airlines brought together their European destinations would be rationalized. Well that makes sense so far.
However Javi goes on to say that what was not explained to Iberia at the time of the merger was that British Airways was indeed a major airline but one with “plomo en las alas”.
Well I have to admit it is many a year since British Airways boasted of being the world’s favourite airline and when I do fly from Gibraltar BA would be my third choice after EasyJet and Monarch for a variety of reasons. Yet I have yet to experience “plomo en las alas”, which sounds more like Ryanair to me.
Anyway back to the good lawyer. The “plomo” is apparently the huge deficit of the British Airways pension plans that affect the viability of IAG and hence Iberia. Nart informs us that the shortfall in the accounts submitted in June 2010 was more than 4,550 million euros.
The argument therefore is that Iberia is now a prisoner of the British Airways Pension Fund and its activities are subordinate to those of the UK airline because it dominates IAG. Hence British Airways grows and Iberia shrinks.
Abogado Nart informs his readers that Spain cannot depend on British decisions on that country’s communications with Latin America. Iberia is a subordinate company and the lawyer questions whether the T4 terminal at Barajas will become London’s second airport? What he fails to add is that London Heathrow is owned by a consortium led by Ferrovial, so in effect is Spanish owned.
Nart goes on to argue that British Airways is actually a large pension fund, a complex insurance company that also runs an airline. He adds that the strike by Iberia workers from ground staff to pilots is not for better pay or privileges but for the very survival of the Iberian structure, its lines and its services. This the good legal beagle says means the Spanish Government is not facing an employment crisis in the airline industry but a real challenge to Spain’s relationship with America and the role of Barajas as an international hub.
Well the article is an interesting take on Spain’s airline industry and the bitterness felt in some quarters over the formation of IAG and the role of British Airways.
The title of Nart’s article is: “Iberia, otro Gibraltar”. Now back to the title of my own article: What’s Gibraltar got to do with it? Err, nothing! Well nothing other than the headline and Nart’s closing sentence which reads: “Si ya padecíamos un Gibraltar territorial y financiero, ahora tenemos un segundo aeronáutico.”
It requires the mind of a lawyer to take British Airways, Iberian and IAG, mix them up and come out with a dig at Gibraltar. Indeed Nart in his desperate attempt to find some damning linkage to Gibraltar has just crash landed. Or as Horace used to say down the Wig and Gown after a long day in court: “Solventur risu tabulae, tu missus abibis.” 

Friday, February 22, 2013


I have stated here before that the GSD opposition- not that they take any notice of me - should not pick fights with the government in areas that its record is bad; some may even say a disaster.

The GSD has to remember that for four terms it was the Gibraltar Government and that administration’s record is the one it has to stand on. From time to time the party harks back to the days of the last GSLP Government as if what happened pre-1996 is of relevance. Only one member of the present government was in office then albeit as chief minister. However what the GSD did between 1996 and 2011 is very relevant indeed as it impacts on the here and now.

It is all very well for the former Captain of the GSD ship to willing walk the plank but that has changed nothing. He has been replaced by his former cabin boy and the GSD still has to answer for its time in government.

The new captain, cabin boy Feetham, has to learn from the Labour Party in the UK who found itself in opposition after a similarly long period in government. Feetham was a member of New Labour in the 90s and for all I know may still be a party card holder. Under its new leader, Ed Miliband, Labour has been careful first to hold up its hand to its mistakes and then to criticize the coalition in areas where the government cannot immediately return fire on its own record.

This is a skill, amongst many, that Feetham still has to learn. The captain is dead, long live the captain’s cabin boy. He may have been just the cabin boy but he was still allowed to sit at the captain’s wardroom table and took part in the decision making.

So one area where the GSD needs to hold its fire is housing. Under the Caruana government there was no housing policy, a fact admitted by the former Supreme Leader after he squeezed home in the 2003 election. For Caruana and indeed Feetham the only housing they were interested in was in Sotogrande. The fact that many Gibraltarians were forced to live across the border in La Línea in cheap flats because there was no affordable housing here did not register on the good ship GSD’s radar.

Now of course if a person goes to the GSD with a concern or complaint over housing then the party should contact the minister concerned on their behalf. Who knows Charles Bruzon may even be minded to reply and solve the matter, which is in stark contrast to when he was the opposition spokesperson when he rarely received the courtesy of a reply let alone action from the GSD minister.

The GSD in government employed a scorched earth policy to housing before it left office in 2011. There was not one housing project under way, there was not one housing project ready to go. This meant that when the GSLP Liberals came to power no new housing could be delivered until they had been planned and built. To the government’s credit it has been able to still provide homes by refurbishing housing stock that had stood neglected, abandoned, just like the GSD’s housing policy.

So before the GSD attacks the government over only allocating 324 flats, having 950 new homes underway with more in the pipeline it has to answer, to the public’s satisfaction, a number of questions. First how does it explain its scorched earth housing policy? How does it explain that many of the new homes it did provide were sub-standard? How does it explain the debacles surrounding a number of disastrous development schemes that cost the Gibraltar tax payer – you – millions of pounds? And how did it skilfully turn hundreds on the waiting list to 1,400 in 2011? When the GSD fully tells us that then we can start the process of moving on!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


In the time I have been writing for Panorama I have on more than one occasion crossed swords with the then Supreme Leader. However I can tell you for nothing that as I passed a certain door in Irish Town on Tuesday I genuflected. Nothing over the top, more a stumble really, fellow pedestrians probably thought I was drunk. At 11.30? Ah those were the days! Seriously though in the afterlife we humble hacks will need all the friends we can get and a Pope is a useful guy to have on your side.

I don’t believe in coincidences. In January the former Supreme Leader announced to Urbi et Orbi on GBC that he was standing down as leader of the opposition. Whilst he’d still be collecting his MP’s pay we’d hardly hear a whisper from him. Then just weeks later Pope Benedict XVI announces in Latin that he is off too. The Pope will retire to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo when he leaves office before moving into a renovated monastery used by cloistered nuns for “a period of prayer and reflection”. Sorry but that is too much of a coincidence.

Since the former Supreme Leader lost the last election the expectancy has been he’d be off to a top job. Little did we realise! The word on the legal circuit is for the past months he has been working out of a small office, little bigger than a monk’s cell, surviving on handouts in the form of work from the Feethams. Don’t sneer – there is nothing the Vatican cardinals like more than a humble hermit.

So what are Caruana’s qualifications for the job of Pope? Numerous as it happens. He certainly is a devout Catholic, has a tendency to wrap himself in the Shroud of Turin, I believe he is even a Papal Knight or some such.

The new Pope will be the Supreme Leader of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Caruana has been Supreme Leader of his chosen people from time immemorial.

The Pope is infallible. Ditto Caruana. Indeed he can even make two opposing statements to two different audiences and convince you there is no contradiction. My God, this man was made for the Vatican corridors of power.

Now for my trump card. Matthew 16.18, in the Douay-Rheims Bible of course, states – “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter, rock (of Gibraltar)? Come on the former Supreme Leader is a Papal Shoe-in!

I decided to check the betting on who would be the new Pope and headed to Paddy Power. If an Irish Catholic doesn’t know what’s going on nobody does. After the Cardinals comes the atheist Richard Dawkins at 666/1 – the sign of the anti-Christ. Singer Bono clocks in at 1000/1 but he’d need a bigger stage than the Vatican apartment’s balcony. Finally there is Fr Dougal Maguire at 1000/1, which are generous odds when you consider he is a TV character. Given there are more on-line bookmakers on the Rock that you can shake a bishop’s crook at how about some odds for Peter Richard Caruana?

Ah, but you may say, there is one fatal flaw in my argument, the former Supreme Leader is not a cardinal, he’s not even a priest!

True but believe me it doesn’t matter. As I sat up in bed last night sipping my cocoa I read through my well thumbed copy of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Codex Iuris Canonici. Required reading in my house as I am sure it is in yours. Technically, any Catholic male who has reached the age of reason, is not a heretic, is not in schism, and is not “notorious” for simony can be elected pope. Indeed it is even technically possible for the cardinals to elect a non-Catholic male, if they had reason to believe that he would immediately convert to Catholicism. So the field is wide open.

P.S. Bookies wishing to take my crisp ten pound note for “Caruana for Pope” please send me their odds.

Pax vobiscum.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


So Daniel Feetham is the new leader of the GSD. Hold me steady, I’m in shock, I never saw that coming!

The GSD election battle was the nearest you’ll see to a one horse race with two runners. The GSD executive chose the winner; just why the wider party was not consulted I know not, perhaps there isn’t one. However I guess the executive deciding it is a step up from the former Supreme Leader dictating matters. It is hardly democracy at work but then the wider electorate will have its chance to decide at the next general election whether Daniel Feetham is chief minister material or not.

The current chief minister is also leader of the GSLP, a party that Feetham once aspired to lead. Fabian Picardo is not known to be a drinker of substances alcoholic, may be the occasional glass of wine. Well on Monday night he could be excused a tincture or two in celebration of the election of Mr Feetham because without a doubt he was the candidate the majority of members of the GSLP favoured.

As Nick Cruz the leader of the PDP observed in my interview with him last week both Feetham and his challenger Bossino would split the GSD as was seemingly reflected in the executive vote. It sure is a rum show because as Cruz pointed out both Feetham and Bossino started out in politics in party’s opposing the GSD and now one of them is leading it. I suspect Bossino will keep his ambitions burning because there may yet be a vacancy sooner than he expects. Meanwhile all the true members of the GSD are over at the PDP and I wonder how long it will be till others join them.

Of course Daniel Feetham has been a party leader before with his ill-fated Labour Party. He ditched that, got in to political bed with the arch enemy of his family, and was even instrumental in giving birth to the PDP. And all he wanted to do was lead the GSLP - and be chief minister.

So the GSD executive, in its infinite wisdom, elected the socialist Daniel Feetham as its leader over the Liberal Damon Bossino. So will the next election manifesto be a centre right GSD one or a socialist one? You sell your political soul and make your choice.

I still believe Damon Bossino was closer to the true heart of the old GSD even with a Liberal twist. He is young, bright and had three years to learn the ropes of leadership a skill that Feetham is yet to master despite all his reincarnations.

The problem for the GSD is as the former Supreme Leader edges towards the exit door the black legacy of his administrations live on with Feetham. What the party needed was a new broom instead it has the former chief minister’s bag carrier.

There are still numerous skeletons rattling in the government cupboards on the GSD’s abuses whilst in power which still have to be let out. The former chief minister isn’t escaping them; they are clinging to his ankle like a prison ball and chain. His party had the chance on Monday night by electing Bossino to distance itself from the past. Instead they have chosen Feetham who was as close to the former supreme leader as you could get. It is a decision the GSD may yet live to regret.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I sat in bed on Tuesday morning sipping my green tea with lemon and thinking of Gay marriage. I should explain this took place in Paris. “Ah, all is now explained,” you may say.
Well it is by the fact that on the same day France’s Parliament, the Assemblee Nationale, started the long debate to introduce Gay or same sex marriages which should become law by the middle of the year. Such laws are already the norm in Catholic Spain and Portugal. Indeed in the UK David Cameron is determined to extend the current civil partnerships to include religious services. Hence it may surprise you that in France, which Anglo Saxons have always thought to be liberal in sexual matters, the introduction of this law has caused such acrimony and division.
The left in France has always had the bragging rights when it comes to bringing people out on to the streets over a political or social issue. Hence it is no surprise that according to the police 125,000 activists demonstrated in Paris in support of the new Francois Hollande law on Sunday. The shock comes when you learn 340,000 opposed to the legislation were on the streets of the capital on Tuesday of last week.
Pierre Kanuty, who speaks on international affairs at the Parti Socialiste HQ in Paris told me, “There is a majority in Parliament to pass the law, so there is no serious risk.” Indeed, not only that but, allowing Gay marriage was part of Hollande’s left wing manifesto during last year’s elections so in introducing this controversial measure he is merely honouring one of his election pledges.

The bill is a complicated one covering Gay marriage, Gay adoption and assisted pregnancy for Gay couples. A majority of French people support Gay marriage (55 to 60 per cent), it’s around 50 – 50 on adoption and a majority oppose assisted pregnancy.

The Catholic Church is obviously at the head of the movement to oppose the law. Pierre Kanuty observed: “In a crusade mood, the right wing reopened somehow, the traditional split between the church and the non believers. The law will pass, but probably for a while, this split will last until mentalities change.”

So how about Gibraltar where a more lax regime for civil weddings has traditionally existed – although not for divorces? Are we not ready to allow Gay couples to tie the knot here too?

I know that over any one year there are a good number of Gay couples from overseas who wish to have a civil wedding in Gibraltar and are disappointed to find they are not allowed here. That obviously has a negative effect on our tourism industry. However one may ask why our own Gay couples should have to go to Spain or the UK to cement their relationship in law. I have argued here before that surely love is the determining factor and if two people love each other, want to show their commitment to each other in a civil partnership, who are we to stand in their way by denying a civil ceremony?

However in these matters I accept there are strongly held views for and against. I am pro Gay civil weddings because I believe it is a fundamental human right. Yet I am against abortion except in certain set circumstances. I see this also as a human rights issue but I believe a foetus has a right to life and it is our duty to defend the rights of the unborn child.

Hence, as in France, I accept there are people who would support Gay marriage but would be hesitant about a Gay couple’s right to adopt or to procreate via assisted pregnancy. None of these issues are simple but Gay marriages are the simplest and I believe a mature society such as Gibraltar should at least be ready to adopt such civil ceremonies in law – for the sake of our love for our fellow man and woman.