I have written a lot over the years about the efforts of the Lib Dem Euro MP, Sir Graham Watson, to battle for Gibraltar in Europe. Indeed he is our most effective representative in Brussels and the European Parliament by a long shot although he is outnumbered by Tories and UKIP MEPs in the South West England and Gibraltar constituency.
Being a Lib Dem he has a firm base in Gibraltar with our own Liberal Party both when that party was in opposition and now it is in government. He has held on-going meetings with his constituents on the Rock and spoken on their behalf for years.
The fact the former Supreme Leader and his successor Daniel Feetham seem not to be able to grasp is that he is elected by Gibraltarians to speak for them in Europe and to raise issues related to the EU. British politicians do not have any mandate to speak for Gibraltar but Sir Graham does.
I met Sir Graham in Gibraltar in the last period of the Supreme Leader’s administration and we discussed his role on representing Gibraltarians. It was an open secret that tensions existed between our Euro MP and the former Supreme Leader for the simple reason that the latter believed he was the only person who should speak for Gibraltarians even if what he said was more often than not at odds with what they wanted.
Never has Sir Graham criticised the former Supreme Leader to me when we met or indeed in our correspondence over the years either on or off the record. He has a high standard of ethics hence his knighthood.
However Sir Graham did speak up for Gibraltarians on European issues in London, Brussels and here for the very simple reason that more often than not the former Supreme Leader refused to do so. Or, in some cases, he or his administration infringed the European rights of Gibraltarians.
Obviously the GSD have been stung by the success of the Gibraltar Government’s delegation not only to Brussels but also to London and Washington. In the latter two cases the doors of No 10 and the White House were never opened to the former Supreme Leader. I wonder why?
The success of the Brussels visit can be partly attributed to Sir Graham and he should be thanked and not slated for his hard work in making the encounters happen.
That being said Sir Graham is a Euro MP. He does not have the power to block the Chief Minister of Gibraltar visiting Euro officials or putting our case in Brussels.
The fact that such visits never took place during the 16 years that the Supreme Leader was in power are down to the Supreme Leader and nobody else. His failure to engage with Brussels, the European Parliament and a whole range of other people who could have helped Gibraltar are his responsibility alone.
Feetham says Sir Graham broke a long-standing convention that UK frontline politicians do not interfere in local politics. Sorry but the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Treasury and its ministers are involved in our local politics whether we like it or not. In contrast Sir Graham is elected by Gibraltarians to speak for us: Danny it is called democracy!
The one person who is owed an apology here is Sir Graham. Sadly Daniel Feetham, following in the footsteps of the Supreme Leader, lacks the grace to tender one.