Thursday, May 23, 2013


I received an email from The Convent on Tuesday. My heart sunk: what have I written that’s upset them now? Nothing for once. Instead it was a link to Parliamentary Questions at which Gibraltar had been the subject.

The three I am going to quote you are from Jim Dobbin. He is the Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton and is one of the cross party Parliamentarians who ask informed questions of Ministers about Gibraltar. I remember meeting him at the Gibraltar Reception at the Labour Party Conference two years ago. 

The first question was: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters there have been over the last six months.

Well the Secretary of State didn’t reply but David Lidington, who is the Minister of State (Europe and NATO) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, answered this one and the other two.

Lidington stated: There have been 176 unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by Spanish state vessels in the period from 1 November 2012 to 30 April 2013.

We will pause here whilst Danny “I see no ships” Feetham gets his abacus out and totals his own figures.

Whilst he does that I must admit I was surprised at the total which is just under 30 a month or around one a day.

Next Jim Dobbin wanted to know: “what steps he has taken to deter illegal incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters by Spanish Civil Guard boats.”

To this David Lidington replied, although I doubt if he was at the helm himself The Royal Navy challenges Guardia Civil vessels whenever they make unlawful incursions into British (BGTW). We also make formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government about all such incursions. We will continue to do all that is necessary to uphold British sovereignty over BGTW.”

When I am sure readers have their own views on that.

Finally Jim Dobbin asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times the Spanish Ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office over the last 12 months in respect of Spanish incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters.

Now it is this reply that I find the most interesting. David Lidington told Jim Dobbin:  The Spanish ambassador has been publicly summoned to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office once in the last 12 months in respect of unlawful incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by Spanish state vessels.”

So let us get this right: over a six month period there have been 176 illegal incursions by the Spanish State vessels into our waters which equates to around one a day. And how often has the Spanish Ambassador been summoned to the Foreign Office to explain these actions. The reply is once – in the last 12 months.

You will note the answer is once in the last 12 months, not six months, so in the last six months the answer could be no times at all.

Far be it from me to tell the Foreign and Commonwealth Office how to do its business. However if the Spanish Ambassador had been summoned to the Foreign Office basically every day for the last six months to explain his Government’s actions, maybe, just maybe, Spain would take the illegal incursions in to our waters a little more seriously.

Having said that I fear another email from The Convent is on the way.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


The first Gibraltarian politician I interviewed was Dr Joseph Garcia. He was then the young leader of the unelected GNP; today he is Deputy Chief Minister and leader of the Liberals who have three MPs. Back in the mid 1990s he was very young. Of course today he is still young: it is me that has grown much older. The GSLP Liberal government is built on a firm coalition so today we talk coalitions.

David Eade: I know many people on the left in the UK are intrigued by the coalition between the GSLP and our Liberals. They are intrigued by the longevity of the pact and how it worked in both opposition and in government. Neal Lawson, the chairperson of the Compass action group which advocates a broad coalition of the left between socialists, liberals, environmentalists etc has studied our left coalition. What would be your message to those seeking a similar alliance to which you have helped create here?

Dr Joseph Garcia: It is often a mistake to attempt to transpose the political situation in one country to that of another in this context because the histories, parties, policies and personalities are not the same. The reality is that there are examples of long-lived political pacts in the Iberian peninsula. The one that springs to mind is Convergenica y Unio who are now the Government of Catalunya. It is made up of two parties, Union Democratica de Catalunya, which is in the Christian Democrat International and Convergencia Democratica de Catalunya, whose members are closely involved in Liberal International. This relationship has worked for them, in Government and in Opposition for decades.

I know that there are many people in the Liberal Democrat party in the UK and also in the Labour party who consider that a broad coalition of the left is the way forward. The political scene in the United Kingdom is unusually fluid at this moment in time so I suppose that anything could happen in the future. There may need to be an overriding national issue which makes it important for parties to cooperate and work together. In
Gibraltar, about 16 years ago now, that issue was that our position in the EU was being seriously undermined by Spain.

DE: The coalition in the UK between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems seems to be a case history in how not to achieve an alliance. Do you think the coalition as constructed after the 2010 election was a mistake?

Dr Garcia: I have friends in the UK Liberal Democrats, and indeed in the Conservative and Labour parties so I have to answer with a degree of caution. I think part of the problem in the UK is that people are not used to coalition politics. The negotiations that follow general elections elsewhere in Europe, when there is no overall majority, provide a considerable degree of give and take and this is very common. I have discussed this over the years with Liberal Ministers in places like the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany where coalitions are the norm. This is not the case in the United Kingdom because the electoral system has traditionally favoured the election of majority Governments. There was no majority Government elected last time round and two parties had to agree on a common programme which meant that both had to make compromises in the wider interests of the country. The case studies of Gibraltar and Catalunya will show that it is much easier if the programme for Government is agreed before the election and not afterwards!

DE: It is interesting the number of people who cut their political teeth with the GNP then the Liberals who have gone on to hold posts in the GSLP, GSD and indeed the PDP. There was dynamism in the party in those early years, do you feel the Liberals have now lost that edge and why did those talents jump ship?

Dr Garcia: Somebody on the other side of the political divide once told me that we started as a political project ten years too early. Maybe he was right who knows!

DE: The GSD recently took issue with the Liberals, as a political party, being allowed a separate platform in a broadcast debate arguing they all but merged with the GSLP. Given the close alliance how do you still define the Liberals as being an independent party from the GSLP?

Dr Garcia: These arguments are well-worn now and over a decade old. Each party has its own members, its own Executive and its own ideas which come together in the parliamentary group as they have done for more than ten years. We have contested elections together in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2011. It is probably safe to say that the system is tried and tested.  The Liberal Party brings a very important international dimension to the table as a full voting member of Liberal International, the worldwide
federation of Liberal political parties. We started this work at a senior level soon after the 1996 general election. We have since then had the opportunity to meet and lobby politicians, parliamentarians and Government Ministers from countries all over the world. It is no secret that Simon Hughes MP, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Graham Watson MEP are both influential friends of Gibraltar inside the party. I am also lucky to count them as my own friends. We have seen that the support of the UK Coalition Government on issues like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands is almost unprecedented. It is why David Cameron and Nick Clegg included the reference to defence of our right to self-determination in the Mid Term review and why the Queen's Speech mentioned the support of this right for the first time in my political memory. These international and particularly European connections, thanks to Graham Watson MEP, are now serving Gibraltar well in Government. This was clear during the high profile visit that the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and I made to Brussels earlier this year. We are also promoting our contacts with Liberal parties and Governments in other countries.

DE: Finally the million dollar question. Given the closeness of the GSLP and Liberals, given the man or woman on Main Street doesn't know whether say for instance, and I am just choosing two names at random here, Steven Linares is a Liberal or Paul Balban a socialist, to them it is all one government, is there a case for the two parties to merge?

Dr Garcia: There are two parties but one Government. This is the same as it was in Opposition from 1999 until the end of 2011. All that has changed is that we now have the opportunity to put our ideas and our policies into practice. The truth is that the present system has worked and continues to work very well for Gibraltar as a whole. The GSLP/Liberal Government is committed to deliver our manifesto to the electorate and I know that every single one of us is working hard to ensure that this happens.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Several months ago whilst visiting Momy Levy I was very flattered that he presented me with one of his ties. He also told me an interesting tale.

When he first produced the ties he presented one to his uncle Sir Joshua Hasssan. At the time Joe Bossano was the leader of the opposition so to be fair Momy also presented him with a tie too. After a while it became clear that whilst Sir Joshua never wore the tie Joe always did. Eventually Momy challenged his uncle asking why he didn’t wear his tie when the leader of the opposition did - to which Sir Joshua replied: “I have lots of ties, Joe only has one!”

Well I haven’t examined Joe’s tie rack but I know he has more than one now because Momy has given them to him in several colours. Mine has a blue background and not being a tie person was proud to put it around my neck for Charles Bruzon’s funeral. I knew it would amuse Charles because around a year earlier we had attended a formal dinner. As I walked along the corridor of the Rock Hotel to meet Charles and Marilou in the bar wearing a tie and jacket Charles gasped in astonishment declaring he’d never seen me in anything but jeans and an open shirt before!

Last week I went to Kyustendil in Bulgaria as a member of the team of international observers sent by the Party of European Socialists. There was also another team from the OSCE (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) as well as such organisations as Transparency International. I decided that Momy’s tie should come too.

There were two reasons for this. First the Union Flag clearly marks me as being British as I am described on my official pass from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However the tie also bears the flag of Gibraltar which I suspected might come in handy.
Let me explain: when I attended the PES conference in Budapest in March it soon became clear that the British Labour Party was not the flavour of the month amongst many European socialists: it was the Parti Socialiste from France that holds sway. However on such occasions I could always promptly get onside by proclaiming my membership of the GSLP instead, which was both warmly welcomed and seen as being “European”.

Surely what had served me well in Budapest would also do the trick in Sofia. It did and it didn’t. We were all given Bulgarian Socialist Party pens with our election monitoring packs which were then swiftly withdrawn as it became clear such partisan articles couldn’t be allowed in to the polling stations. We had to be seen to be neutral: so sadly Momy’s tie with its British - Gibraltarian insignia was also banned.

However I did proudly wear it at social occasions with other socialists in Bulgaria. Some knew of Gibraltar, others had a vague sense of its existence; there were even some who had never heard of it. Well they do know because the tie was the perfect introduction to Gibraltar and became a talking point – which of course is what Momy had intended in the first place.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Speaking to the GSD faithful last week the former Supreme Leader predicted the GSD could be back in power as soon as 2015. One perquisite for that to happen would be collective amnesia on the part of Gibraltarian voters over the expensive fiascos committed by consecutive governments led by Caruana.

One reminder that will not go away for a very long time is the Caruana Gin Palace building that now serves as the Gibraltar International Airport terminal. No doubt the auditors would have a field day if they were ever set to work wading through the contracts and payments associated with this edifice to one man’s vanity. It also demonstrates the former Supreme Leader’s inability to determine what was the priority for the airport and Gibraltar.

The priority wasn’t the airport terminal. I am not and never have been one of those who didn’t believe that Gibraltar needed a new terminal suited to the needs of today’s travellers and the airlines that fly them. What Gibraltar didn’t need was the budget busting Gin Palace that was placed by the border in order to honour sections of the Cordoba Agreement that Spain never complied with. A much simpler option could have been chosen and indeed there are numerous examples such as the Southend on Sea airport in Essex which was upgraded for the London Olympics at a fraction of the cost of the Gin Palace. The Southend option was pointed to on a number of occasions by the current Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, when he held the Opposition Tourism portfolio.

The priority at the airport was to take traffic under the runway either through the tunnel scheme that ended up as a giant ditch or some other such project. The chaos and delays that ensue every time an aircraft lands or takes off is one of the reasons for the border crossing misery.

It remains a priority to this day. The current government has spoken of opening up more border crossings to ease the congestion at the current Third World frontier. To achieve that we need to allow people and vehicles to be able to access the border without crossing the runway. I am not an engineer but getting people from A in Gibraltar to B in La Linea is the aim: let’s just hope we don’t have to demolish the Caruana Gin Palace to do it.

I stood today as the barriers came down. Crowds of tourists waited to cross the runway, Gibraltarians going about their business stood alongside them or sat in their cars with other cross border traffic as well as the buses, lorries and coaches. It was chaos and the summer hasn’t started yet. If Caruana had addressed and solved this issue whilst in Government he would have performed a notable service for Gibraltar. Instead we have the Gin Palace, which we can’t avoid as whilst we wait to cross it sits there staring us in the face. It will stare us in the face come election time in 2015 too and will be all the warning many people need not to vote GSD.