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.