Friday, March 29, 2013


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.

Monday, March 25, 2013


On Friday I begged the question in Panorama should Gibraltar seek to make common cause with PSOE to pressure the PP Government in Madrid to honour its commitments under the Cordoba Agreement and the Tripartite Forum.
It appears that as I was writing the article the Commission of the Presidency and Equality of the Andalucía Government was talking about the Foro de Diálogo too. The ruling coalition of PSOE and the IU passed a motion calling on the Spanish Government to normalise relations with our Government and to reactivate the Forum of Dialogue for the mutual benefit of Madrid and Gibraltar. It will come as no great surprise to learn that the Partido Popular representatives on the Commission voted against the first part of the motion but not all of it.
The motion was presented by PSOE. The socialists received the backing of the far left Izquierda Unida but some of the motion was passed unanimously with the support of the PP.
It was like back to the good old days of socialist rule in Spain when they promised to make the border a pleasurable and easy place to pass through. Not only did those pigs never fly they didn’t even make it on to the runway. Still we should be happy that the Commission wants to see improvements to benefit both Gibraltarians and those in the Campo, to study the situation of the Spanish workers in Gibraltar, and to increase the coverage given to Gibraltar, the Campo and Ceuta affairs on the Andalucía broadcaster RTPA.
The socialists didn’t hold their punches. Speaking for the motion Rocío Arrabal who represents Algeciras for PSOE stated: “since the arrival of the PP in the Moncloa the relations of coexistence with Gibraltar have deteriorated significantly. The Government of the nation has forgotten permanently that more than 5,000 (Spanish) workers ply their trade in Gibraltar”.
The PSOE MP from across the bay went on to criticise the Spanish Government for announcing earlier this year “the end of the tripartite forum for dialogue on Gibraltar.” Arrabal pointed out that many advances had taken place since its inception for the people of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar including “the revaluation of pensions for workers in Gibraltar, the joint use of the airport or the opening of the Instituto Cervantes in Gibraltar”.
Another voice from across the bay then spoke up in the form of PP MP Jacinto Muñoz. Well I am sure I don’t have to tell you what Jacinto said but just for the record it included the fact that the arrival of the PP Government has meant that relations will be “bilateral” between Spain and the United Kingdom because Gibraltar “is not a sovereign State with voice and vote”. He went on to argue the Tripartite Forum had produced “damaging” consequences for Spain and added that under the PP government there would be no “submission” to Gibraltar as there had been from Socialist governments.
The IU view expressed by Alba Doblas was that every time there is a PP government in Spain relations with Gibraltar take a step back. Don’t we know it. Doblas called for collaboration and not confrontation.
So there we have it. It seems both the socialists and the IU are holding the PP government to account for Rajoy’s confrontational politics with Gibraltar. PSOE also seems intent on defending the Cordoba Agreement and the Tripartite Process. Which brings me back to my question of Friday – should we do likewise?
I leave the final word today to José Carracao who up to the last election was a PSOE Senator with a special role in Gibraltar affairs. A former mayor of Jimena and president of the Campo de Gibraltar town halls he still holds major influence in PSOE. He told me: “Demuestra que en España no todos pensamos igual, que hay una parte muy importante que pensamos que tener unas buenas relaciones, amistosas, con nuestros vecinos gibraltareños, son beneficiosas para ambos lados. La propuesta del PSOE, en la que he trabajado, aportando mis conocimientos de la cuestión, apoyada por IU, exige al Gobierno de España el restablecimiento del Diálogo, que ha dado importantes frutos en otros tiempos y que debe seguir dándolos, puesto, que hay cuestiones importantes: accidentes marítimos, tráfico de drogas, terrorismo internacional, por poner sólo unos ejemplos, que nos afecta a ambas comunidades y a los que debemos dar respuesta conjunta.
“Creo que desde el máximo respeto a las posiciones de cada cual, el diálogo es algo por lo que vengo luchando desde siempre y por lo que seguiré luchando. Hago grandes esfuerzos personales por intentar convencer al Gobierno de España, que el camino que ha elegido, de la confrontación no es el adecuado. Vivimos en una zona con una renta de situación magnífica que merece ser explota adecuadamente para que la gente que aquí vivimos podamos progresar de manera adecuada, en paz y en libertad y que se reduzca la alta tasa de desempleo que azota a miles de familias y los hace infelices.
"Espero que el Gobierno de España, tome buena nota de esto que el Parlamento de Andalucía a propuesta del PSOE y apoyada por IU le demanda, en representación de los ciudadanos andaluces."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The decision of the former Supreme Leader to stand down as leader of the GSD and opposition comes as no surprise to anybody. If there is a surprise it is that he stayed on so long. On purely human terms if you have been chief minister for four consecutive terms, no mean achievement, why would you want to spend a fifth term leading the troops you led to defeat on the opposition benches. No it is better to be off and to spend more time with your family.

However that is not what has happened. The former Supreme Leader has stood down as party leader and leader of the opposition but will still draw his pay although it appears he intends to be just a token MP. It is a role that our constitution does not really allow for. Either you are elected to government and become a minister or you are on the opposition benches and are a shadow minister. Sitting around, popping in if you feel like it, taking your salary has not been previously on the agenda.

When the voters elect their MPs they expect them to serve. They serve either in government or in opposition. The role of an MP who just collects his dosh has not been envisaged by either Gibraltarians or the rules that govern our parliament.

Now it is unlikely the GSD will push Caruana out. It would mean a by-election that the party might not win. In all probability the GSD is still in awe of the former Supreme Leader so his former cabin boy Daniel Feetham would probably only shove if he wanted a replacement in his own image and likeness - like the brother.

The GSLP Liberal coalition is unlikely to press the point either. Having Caruana in parliament serves them well. It reminds the voters of who led the previous four administrations, it gives the GSD no chance to move on, Caruana is there when needed for when further chickens come home to roost and they can point to Caruana in opposition doing what he did in government – using the public’s money as if it was his own.

Hence it falls to the PDP to hound Caruana until he goes. It allows the unelected party to take the high moral ground and campaign on what an abuse to our parliamentary system the former Supreme Leader’s presence in elected chamber is. If the campaign is intense enough it may well result in his departure to his allotment in Sotogrande.

Once he is gone it leaves the PDP with the real first chance of winning a seat in parliament. In a straight fight with the GSD, and if they put up a candidate loved by the GSD diehards, they could find the reward is an MP. Then at the next election the centre right vote is up for grabs. This would certainly be the case if the GSLP Liberal coalition did not contest the seat.

The government already has its full slate of MPs but I am led to believe there is nothing to stop them adding an eleventh in a by-election. There are certainly those in both governing parties who would argue if there is an election they should contest it. However given that this election could lead to a fatal split in the GSD ranks by leaving its supporters free to back the PDP that might be the preferred option.

Of course this is all theory. It will only become fact if the PDP hounds Caruana out of his cosy seat and then mounts a strong challenge. It remains to be seen if the party, born of a rupture in centre right politics, can leave its comfort zone of just issuing wrist slapping press releases and join the political big boys (and girls). The signs so far are not encouraging.