Friday, April 26, 2013


The GSD, in the form of Isobel Ellul-Hammond, has raised its concerns that the Liberal Party may be allowed a separate voice in GBC debates such as on Parliamentary Reform. Her point being that as the Liberals are in coalition with the GSLP her party would in effect be having to debate with the government from two angles.

I see her point but it very much depends on how the debate is constituted. If GBC has asked a Government Minister and the GSD Shadow to debate an issue such as broadcasting then of course it should be on a one to one basis. However if the debate is amongst political parties then the Liberals are as entitled to their say as the GSD or the GSLP.

The fact that the GSLP and the Liberals have been in coalition in opposition and now government over a long period is neither here nor there. They are two independent parties, with their own organizations, leaders and members. They may have found a way over the years to work closely together but I suspect if you discussed politics with a member of the Liberal Party and a member of the GSLP, although they would have a joint centre left approach, they equally would have a very different take on any given issue.

Both parties are also very distinctive in the GSLP being a sister party of Labour whilst the Liberals are closely linked to both Liberal International and the Lib Dems.

If we take the UK as an example if there is a TV or radio debate on a key political issue it is not unusual to see a Conservative MP pitted against a Lib Dem MP with a Labour MP thrown in. The difference comes when the subject for debate is one of government and there the Minister will take part, who may be Conservative or Lib Dem, with a Labour Opposition spokesperson giving their party’s view.

So Isobel Ellul-Hammond would be right if GBC was creating a debate on a government issue. Then obviously only the minister should be involved, regardless of his or her party, and likewise the opposition spokesperson would speak for the GSD. However if the debate is between parties then our Liberals have as much right to be heard as the GSLP or GSD.

Indeed if it is a party debate then the PDP should also be included. They have earned the right to be heard for in two general elections they have fielded a full slate of candidates. The fact that none of them were elected is neither here nor there. People still voted for them.

If the PDP was included and as it sprang from the GSD then the two parties’ views on an issue could well be in alignment. So would it be fair for the GSLP and Liberals only to have one voice when those of the PDP and GSD were ranged against it in a party debate? I would say not.

These issues are far more complex than a sound bite but I can’t blame Isobel Ellul-Hammond for trying. Being a believer in democracy over all else I would defend any party’s right to be heard: that goes for the GSLP and the GSD; it certainly goes for the Liberals and yes the PDP too. The PDP may not have any MPs but they did win votes and the people who voted PDP have the right for their party’s views to be aired alongside those of the other elected parties in public debate.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


As I write this article there are tears in my eyes. Tears for my dear friend Charles Bruzon, tears for his beloved Marilou and his family and tears for Gibraltar, which has lost a noble son, a person totally without “mala leche”.

I am aware that those of you who are reading this have known Charles for far longer than me. I have known of Charles Bruzon for many a year but we only met some 21 months ago. Yet in that time he became the dearest and closest of friends. So whilst I feel acute pain and sadness at his passing I realise it can only be a fraction of that being felt by his adoring family.

Charles Bruzon was a gentle man but as strong as they come. You do not stand down from the priesthood in what was then a very Conservative Catholic community unless you have steel in your heart and a need to do what was right – and for love. God blessed his decision some years later by matching Charles with Marilou.

Charles Bruzon was a passionate man. I was with him on a number of occasions after he’d spoken with people who had major housing and social problems. He felt and shared their pain and anguish. That is why being Housing Minister was so important to him as he was finally able to right all those wrongs. Sadly the plans he laid he’ll never see through but rest assured others will do so in his memory.

I know of no other person who was better prepared to meet his maker than Charles Bruzon. He may have left the priesthood but he never wavered in his Christian faith. If there is indeed a Father, Son and Holy Ghost then Charles rests at peace in their company.

It always amazed me how Charles worked to connect his Christianity with his Socialism. We would debate an issue from one perspective and then another. You would know Charles had finally made the total connection when he would declare: “Even Joe Bossano would support that!” Fabian Picardo never had a more loyal minister than Charles Bruzon. However Charles was extremely close to Joe and one of my treasured photographs is Charles and Joe face to face, beers in hand, debating an issue of the day.

Some time ago in Parliament the then Chief Minister taunted Charles that he’d never be a true politician as he lacked “mala leche”. Well the then Chief Minister would know all about “mala leche” as he had it by the bucket full. These comments I won’t say worried Charles but they certainly irritated him. On a number of occasions before the General Election he raised it with me as if lacking “mala leche” was a weakness. Well Charles totally lacked “mala leche” in his personal, Christian and Socialist life. If some saw it as a weakness it was in fact what marked him out as a truly fine son of Gibraltar and Parliamentarian.

I have lunched with Charles many times. Sometimes they were simple lunches; others were more elaborate with Marilou and yes a bottle or two of good wine.

I had lunch with Charles in September when the first signs of what would turn out to be cancer appeared. He didn’t know that then and he amused me because Charles relayed in graphic detail, as only Charles could, his symptoms as we munched our pub lunch.

I had lunch with Charles and Marilou in December at the Rock Hotel after his operation. He explained his decision to have chemo and radio therapy. He wanted to make sure the cancer didn’t come back.

I had planned to have lunch with Charles in March now the treatment was over. We exchanged texts: Charles was excited he had much to discuss. Then a text came saying he had a bad cold. Then the texts become more confused as Charles was taken back to hospital for the last time.

At this point I am going to take you to New York. In the early 1980s I had lunch with another dear friend Walter Neiman. Walter was president of WQXR the radio station of the New York Times. We crossed the street to the famous restaurant Sardis and after we’d sat down, received our drinks Walter broke the news. This would be our last lunch together. He had a heart complaint that was terminal and it was a matter of weeks or months before it would beat its last. Curiously it was a very good lunch, a final celebration of our friendship and it was only when we’d finished that we left the restaurant, hugged and then I walked away with tears in my eyes.

So myself and Charles have unfinished business. We have to lunch. When the tears have dried and the grief lessened I will meet with those who loved him most and we shall eat and drink and celebrate his life. We shan’t be alone for Charles’ spirit will be with us of that I have no doubt. Together we shall honour this most decent of men.

In the days to come please pray for the soul of Charles Bruzon.

When you find yourself with a full glass in your hand also toast this noble son of Gibraltar, a man who spoke out for Gibraltar – toast the man who was “sin mala leche”.

With his passing we have all lost a dear friend.


This time last week we were all studying the runes in the Spanish press to see what we could read in to the meeting in Madrid on the Monday between Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, and his British counterpart, David Cameron.

The Foreign Office had made it clear that Gibraltar wasn’t on the agenda: the visit was part of Cameron’s campaign to persuade EU leaders that reform was necessary. However the FO did later concede that Rajoy had raised Gibraltar.

Cameron’s response was to recite his mantra on self-determination and only talks if we wish it and are there under our own flag. Rajoy outwardly expressed his wish to engage in talks but added little more. It is hard to see why he would move from his two flags position although would try to include Gibraltar as part of the British delegation because he had included the Campo de Gibraltar on theirs.

Well we know that is a non-starter but Rajoy and Cameron posed for a happy smiling, handshaking photo call to let us know these two right wing politicians are in accord on matters other than the Rock.

On Tuesday it was back to normal. The Guardia Civil patrol boat Río Pas entered once again our waters and according to quoted diplomatic sources at the Foreign Office the Royal Navy saw them off. The British Ambassador was ordered to stop roasting his crumpets in front of the fire and to scurry round to the Madrid ministry of foreign affairs with a note.

They haven’t shown me the note but apparently it said London was fed up with the constant incursions by the Guardia Civil and Armada in to British Gibraltar territorial waters and it had to stop. If not William Hague is going to stop drinking Rioja. Trouble is many of the world’s wine producing nations are at odds with the UK over one thing or another so the Foreign Office carte du vin must be getting very short indeed.

What I find extraordinary is that one day Rajoy and Cameron are all lovey-dovey and the next Madrid sends a gun boat into Dave’s backyard. I know the Foreign Office has made being two faced into an art form but even the Mandarins would have waited to Wednesday.

As far as I am aware neither our Government nor the Convent has issued any statement on the Madrid talks or the Guardia Civil incident apart from the Foreign Office statement about Spain raising Gibraltar with Cameron. I know not the reason but it is one I approve of. Madrid knows that it can cause mischief by stirring up uncertainty when Spanish and UK government officials meet or watching us jump each time they poke us with a stick. There’s a time for protesting and a time for a sharp, knee in the diplomatic bags. On this occasion we were wiser to go for the later.

Now pass me my glass of Torres Viña Sol. Anything we can do to boost the Cataluña economy the better.

Friday, April 5, 2013


By the time you read this Operation Mischief will have begun. Correction: it has already begun.

I am not sure how you first heard the news that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is due to meet his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, in Madrid on Monday. In all likelihood is was from the Spanish media. As I write this no press release from No 6 has been issued on the matter.

On one hand why should there? After all it is a meeting between the UK’s and Spain’s head honchos, both conservatives. One presumes they will be discussing bilateral and EU matters. 

However it would be interesting to know was our government informed in advance of the meeting? Was the Convent? If the latter and not the former did the Convent tell out government? If not, why not etc etc.

I am sure there are more than enough topics to occupy Cameron’s and Rajoy’s time without touching on Gibraltar. Again as I write this there has been no formal statement from the UK that the meeting will take place. Perhaps they hoped we wouldn’t notice. Trouble is Gibraltarians read the Spanish press and have access to their radio and TV networks so the chance of such an encounter slipping us by is nonexistent.

Indeed the Spanish media and Partido Popular wouldn’t want it to either. The word in Spain’s press is that Gibraltar will be on the agenda. As the meeting is in Madrid Rajoy’s clerks probably wrote same agenda so that is no surprise.

So what is the scenario? Will Gibraltar and its sovereignty be on the agenda? Will Cameron refuse to discuss it without us being present and then state in no uncertain terms his mantra on our right to self determination adding in the Falklands for good measure. If that is the scenario then let’s hope so.

Yet is that good enough? Spain is challenging Britain’s sovereignty over our territorial waters. Spain is challenging our sovereignty over our airspace. Logically Gibraltar should be an issue and an urgent issue at that and so be on the agenda? At the top.

However if it is, if Cameron is going to Madrid for more than a photo opportunity and to down some Rioja and tapa, then we should be there too. If our territorial waters, our air space, our right to control our environment, which are all matters of sovereignty, are on the agenda then we should be there. Not our chief minister as a prime-ministerial bag carrier but under our own flag.

Of course if that happened then Rajoy would refuse to meet. Good. The sooner Spain understands that it cannot have it churros and eat it the better. The sooner it realises that it cannot challenge Britain’s and our sovereignty over Gibraltar, our Rock, the better. If that means that Rajoy loses an ally in Europe, so be it. So will Cameron play hard ball with Rajoy or show he has no balls at all: I suspect we know the answer to that one.

In the meantime time the Spanish media will cause mischief by churning out misinformation, sowing the seeds of doubt and creating the impression that two flag talks took place on a three flag issue. Of course all of this will fall on deaf ears here on the Rock. Ok on most of the Rock. There are still ‘palomos’ around who will feed eagerly off these crumbs and make a meal out of them. You have been warned.