Friday, June 28, 2013


There are four candidates in this by-election and you might argue that the independent has the hardest task because he does not have a party organisation behind him. Equally you might say that Albert Isola has the easiest job because he is the candidate of a popular party of government. I would venture that Albert Isola has the hardest campaign to fight by far.

If you elect Marlene Nahon she will sit as an opposition GSD MP for this parliament and may be the next. If you elect Nick Cruz he will be the PDP’s first MP but a lone voice in the chamber unless he can persuade some GSD MPs to switch parties. If you elect Bryan Zammit the Senior he will do on the Opposition benches exactly what he does on Facebook. However if you choose Albert Isola not only are you choosing an MP but under our electoral system a Government minister too. Hence he has to demonstrate he is up to both tasks from day one.

I have met Albert Isola and I have interviewed Albert Isola but I would describe him as an acquaintance and not as a friend. No slight here: it is I am simply old school and whereas on Facebook you can be instant friends with people you have never met I would never presume I am a friend with somebody until I knew them well. This has allowed me to watch Albert Isola in action from a dispassionate stand point.

I am going to use two words to describe Albert Isola: one you will find surprising for me to link to a politician and one you may view as being over the top. However I will justify my use of both.

Albert Isola is a former MP, the joint head of one of Gibraltar’s most respected law firms and has standing in our community. If you coupled that with a strong manifesto, hard campaigning and good public debates both you and indeed the candidate would be right to believe he or she has done enough to win your vote.

So here is the first word I am going to associate with Albert Isola: humility. I use that word because despite all of the above from the day he was selected as the GSLP candidate he has gone to spend time with each government minister both of his own party and the Liberals. The purpose of his visit wasn’t a photo opportunity but to listen and to learn. Believe you me a man of Albert Isola’s standing who has the ability to sit, to listen and to learn has humility.

The second word I am going to give you is exceptional. Albert Isola has already demonstrated he has grasped something which many politicians never understand in their political lives and that revolves around a party’s manifesto and what it should be.

Caruana was quite open about the fact that the GSD manifesto was a ‘wish list’. If you had a project he’d include it on the list as then you were more likely to vote for his party but once in power the ‘wish list’ was dumped till the next election.

This explains why Feetham is so alarmed by the numerous pledges in the GSLP Liberal manifesto. What he has failed to grasp but Albert Isola does fully is that this lengthy manifesto isn’t a “wish list” but a declaration of core beliefs and commitments by two left of centre parties.

The reason I say Albert Isola is exceptional is he has demonstrated the further understanding that a manifesto isn’t a leaflet or a brochure: it is a living thing. And what makes the manifesto live is the Government’s ministers who are charged with carrying out the election pledges which come with their portfolios. A party once elected can ignore its “wish list”. However it cannot simply hand such a detailed manifesto as drawn up by the GSLP Liberals to civil servants and tell them to get on with it. A minister has to drive the delivery him or herself.

It is Albert Isola’s ability to hit on this from day one; to sit, listen and to learn from those who carry the responsibility of delivery that for me marks him as a man of humility with the potential to be an exceptional politician.

On July 4 you’ll make up your own minds.


A week to by-election day when the voters of Gibraltar and not pundits like me will decide who will be our new MP. However with a week to go I will none the less give my reflections on how I see the state of play for the GSD. I will turn to Albert and to Neil in the coming days.

I am still of the view that the coming by-election could be disastrous for the GSD and for Danny Feetham’s leadership. Had the GSD been wise they would have sat this election out. They should have taken the high moral ground and said that as the vacancy had come about due to the sad and untimely death of Charles Bruzon, a GSLP Government minister, they would not contest it. They would have suffered some ridicule for doing so but it would have been the correct choice politically.

Instead Feetham allowed himself to be goaded in to putting forward a candidate probably not realizing that the strategy of the goaders was to make him do just that. So he has to fight the election on the GSD’s record, which like an old 78 is scratched and warped, and attack a government that is delivering on its manifesto.

In Marlene Nahon they have an able candidate or she would be if she wasn’t standing for the GSD. You cannot take to the social media and bear your political soul rubbishing the GSD in the process then do the opposite of what you proclaimed and end up as the GSD candidate. You are dead in the water before you start.

I see that Marlene describes herself as an avid horse rider. Perhaps that is why some political hacks dubbed her as a stalking horse candidate. If elected as an MP she could ride down Main Street and tying up her steed outside Parliament. She could even arrive as Lady Godiva wearing the GSD manifesto. The sight of Joe Holliday on a pushbike was stunning enough but nothing compared to Marlene and her trusty thoroughbred.

There are those who point to Marlene’s selection over Danny’s boys, who were also named as GSD candidates for selection, suggesting this demonstrated a snub or defeat for Feetham. I do not buy that argument: indeed on this I believe Feetham got it 100 per cent right.

Marlene Nahon will fight the GSD corner albeit with one if not two of her hands tied behind her back – an old circus pony rider’s trick. In the unlikelihood of her winning, Danny can point to his excellent choice of candidate. If she fails then his brother and his other standard bearers, who I believe were just on the list as window dressing, live to fight another political day unscathed. None of them wanted to be labelled the GSD candidate who failed.

Perhaps the plight of the GSD in this by-election is best demonstrated in the Facebook positing of Neil Costa. Neil is of course a Liberal Minister in this Government and wrote: “Curious. Only one central criticism on my 18 months on tourism and that related to what we inherited from the GSD! No comments from the Opposition on my Budget Address on the Port, the Gibraltar Maritime Administration or Commercial Affairs. Instead, the brunt of criticism against me was about my public statements against the then Government. We all felt in the twilight zone.”

In the twilight zone – and that is exactly where the GSD will exist until they have the courage to come to terms with their past and drive the stake through the previous government’s heart. You can’t attack the present government when all your efforts have to go to defending your own indefensible past.

By the by: I believe that Neil Costa has proved to be one of the unsung successes of this Government. In opposition he shadowed Yvette Del Agua. He demonstrated the GSD health service was on life support and the voters agreed with him and sacked Del Agua. His new portfolios are a very different kettle of fish. I met a tourism professional in London in the first months after Neil became minister. He had met Neil and I was taken aback by the praise heaped on him for his grasping of his portfolio and his intellect. Over a year on obviously the tourism head honcho was spot on.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Another Queen’s honours list has come and gone with many Gibraltarians asking the question when will Joe Bossano be honoured for his life of selfless dedication to Gibraltar? The answer is far from clear. It may be the Queen’s honours but the fact is she has no more idea who is on that list than you or I. It is an honours list drawn up by the British establishment.
It seems reasonable to me that if you have been elected as chief minister of Gibraltar on four consecutive occasions then at the end of the day you get a knighthood. So I have no problem with Peter Richard Caruana being given a K.
What I do have a problem is why that honour should be granted now. The 16 years of the Caruana era are at the moment a hot potato. The government tells us there are numerous investigations underway and in the life of this parliament questions will have to be answered. It may be that Caruana is made to answer both politically and legally for his period in office. Hence it would strike me as reasonable that the announcement of his honour should have been made when that due process was completed.
The second problem I have is one of timing. You will remember that Peter Hain’s book, Inside Out, was embargoed by the Foreign Office least it should influence Gibraltar’s general election in 2011. It is therefore unfortunate that the honour for Caruana should have been announced at the start of a by-election campaign when his and his party’s record in government may be an issue and he may well be called upon to speak for his party.
An argument from the British establishment may be that Joe Bossano will get an honour when he steps back from political public life. The inference being that is what has happened to Peter Caruana. True Caruana is no longer chief minister, but neither is Joe Bossano. True Caruana is no longer leader of his party, but neither is Joe Bossano. True Joe Bossano is a serving government minister but Caruana is a serving MP and as he hasn’t taken this opportunity to stand down it is reasonable to presume he will see out this parliament.
Joe Bossano will never again lead his party or be chief minister but Caruana might do both. If the Feetham leadership proves a disaster Caruana is still waiting in the wings and may come forward to save his party and be its candidate for chief minister at the next election. Unlikely perhaps but possible.
So what if Joe Bossano sees out his life with his political boots firmly on? When is the British establishment going to honour him? When he’s in his fosse?
Some may point at Joe Bossano and say he hasn’t been honoured because he is seen as a divisive character. Really? If Bossano divides Gibraltar then so does Caruana in more than equal measure. The British establishment by honouring Caruana and snubbing Bossano have just favoured one section of our society over another.
I would have thought a man who founded the GSLP in 1978 based on the statutes of the London Co-operative Movement, a party that is a sister to the Labour Party in the UK, a party that throughout its life has either been the official opposition or government as it is today is worthy of an honour.
Joe Bossano has none.
I would have thought that a man who has been an elected politician since 1972, been in our parliament since its founding in 1978, who for the majority of that latter period has been either the leader of the opposition or a two term chief minister was worthy of an honour.
Joe Bossano has none.
I would have thought that a man who is respected trade unionist, socialist and parliamentarian not just in Gibraltar and the UK but in Europe and internationally was worthy of an honour.
Joe Bossano has none.
So why hasn’t Joe Bossano been honoured?
Is it because he was born in a Gibraltar slum and not with a golden spoon in his mouth?
Is it because he didn’t go to the right school but has become an internationally recognised LSE economist with another degree in Italian through his own diligence and study?
Is it because he is a trade unionist and a socialist and not a man who flaunts himself in wig and gown?
Or is it because he has Gibraltar engraved on his heart, has always stood up for Gibraltar and Gibraltarians, would never sell out your birthright unlike some others who would do so like a shot if they thought they could get away with it? Yes perhaps that is it.
Make no mistake the unpalatable truth is that Joe Bossano has never been given any honour by the British establishment because they have snubbed him. Yet by snubbing him they snub Gibraltar and all Gibraltarians too not just those who support him politically. The Queen’s Honours List is to honour those of her subjects who have given distinguished service not those who the British establishment feels are one of them.
If anybody has served Gibraltar with distinction then it is Joe Bossano. Hence if Gibraltar is no longer deemed to be a subservient colony Joe Bossano must be honoured and soon. The British establishment not only owe it to him they owe it to you too.
The question on Gibraltarian lips is – when will Sir Joe arise?
The above article appeared in Panorama on Friday June 21. The letter below in support from the eminent lawyer James Levy QC appeared in Panorama on Friday June 28.

Dear Sir, I refer to David Eade’s article “Arise Sir Joe”

Having worked with Joe Bossano initially for 8 years when he was Chief Minister and seeing the enormous amount of progress that he made for Gibraltar, I wholeheartedly agree with David Eade’s thesis.

Joe Bossano has been much maligned by his political enemies. One day a fair history will be written and Gibraltar will see how much good he did for our wonderful country.

I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with Sir Joshua Hassan who I consider to be the father of the Gibraltarians and Joe Bossano who has followed close behind him.

I agree “Arise Sir Joe” the sooner the better.

Yours faithfully,

James Levy QC

Friday, June 14, 2013


The Albert Isola interview

In January I interviewed Nick Cruz which means I have already ticked the PDP candidate in the forthcoming by-election off my list. Today I chat with the GSLP candidate Albert Isola who seems to be a very popular choice with the party members. There was a time over a decade ago when Danny Feetham was never out of my inbox but now like some other journalists I am not deemed worthy to receive GSD press releases or invites to press conferences so I can presumably cross Marlene Hassan off my list of serious candidate interviews. Ironic really as in the Caruana epoch I always received invites and courtesy from Francis Cantos and Clive Golt. Now to Albert Isola.

David Eade:  You come from a distinguished legal family: what made you decide to enter politics and as a socialist?

Albert Isola: My family have been a part of the Gibraltar legal family since 1892 and I am the third generation who has been involved in the law and frontline politics.  I have always been interested in politics and indeed was a cheeky helper in the days of the IWBP and later with the DPPG.   I have been with the GSLP since 1986 and worked with them in the 1988 and 1992 election campaigns and then stood for election with them in the 1996 campaign.  I served in the Parliament from 1996 to 2000 and then withdrew from politics to look after my family and focus on the legal practice which I have done since that time with a good degree of success and good fortune. As in all success stories hard work and determination have played its part. It is that hard work, determination, knowledge and experience that I am determined to bring to Government if elected.

DE: Years ago senior executives of a multi-national told me they preferred to recruit legal graduates rather than those from marketing or other disciplines. They believed that a legal training, although it would never be used as such, better equipped a person to make decisions. Do you think this holds true in politics here in Gibraltar?

AI: There is no doubt in my mind that lawyers have an advantage in entering the political arena.   Our training unquestionably helps in the challenges that politicians meet on a regular basis as our work requires certain skills that are commonly needed in the political world.  It is interesting to see that Marlene’s campaign team are a troop of lawyers.

DE: You served as a one term MP for the GSLP before standing down and have now decided to re-enter the fray: why did you walk away from politics and why have you returned?

AI: When I entered Parliament in 1996 I did so with two very young children, and when I left in 2000 I did so with four very young children.  At the same time I was working hard developing the family practice and with politics it became impossible to properly manage and spend time with my kids.   My youngest child is now 14 and my eldest is 22 and the business has developed very successfully employing close to 130 people. I have some great partners in the firm and feel the time is right to return to politics which has always been in my blood. My decision to return was only taken after I had spoken to my wife and children, my family and close friends and received their overwhelming support. In fact I have been totally overwhelmed by the generous response to the announcement that I had been selected as a candidate. Having said that, as I have mentioned on repeated occasions, I am sorry that it has come about following the death of Charles Bruzon. He was a giant of a gentleman and to regain his seat is an extra motivating factor for us.

DE: You sat out the majority of the GSD’s years in government: what impressions both negative and positive did you gather from that period?

AI: Having stepped out of politics in 2000 I did not involve myself in any shape or form with what was happening and merely observed the elections that occurred in the intervening period.   There is no question that the GSD worked hard on improving the reputation of Gibraltar and indeed repositioning our tax system.  For me their most important achievement was the successful campaign they ran to deal with the UK Government’s joint sovereignty proposals. That campaign enjoyed the entire support of the whole of Gibraltar.  There are clearly very many negative parts to the GSD time in Government which I will not detail or list here but certainly their style of Government is one that I believe caused most problems for the people in Gibraltar generally.  I have always respected the work put in by Peter Caruana, even where I have not agreed with him.

DE: You have also now seen the first period of the GSLP Liberal government. What excites you about this administration and if elected what contributions do you think you can specifically make?

AL: I am excited by the energy, efficiency and organisation of this administration and the manner in which they are delivering their commitments at the rate that they are.  This political project is the most specific and detailed one I have ever seen and it is an ambitious project and program which they are rolling out on a daily basis. It is difficult to imagine that such a programme is possible, and therefore enormous credit must be given to Fabian and his ministers for making such a terrific start in such a short time. As individuals we all have different qualities and I hope that if successful at the forthcoming bi-election, I will be able to make a valuable contribution to the objectives that have already been set out.

DE: What do you think are the main opportunities and challenges facing Gibraltar and is this government equipped to meet them?

AI: There are many challenges facing Gibraltar both domestically and internationally.  There are moves on our gaming sector and indeed Financial Services sector as well of course as the ever present Spanish dimension.   The forthcoming vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union also requires to be watched carefully.  The threat of online shopping to our retail sector in Gibraltar also requires to be considered.  All of these and many other issues are constantly under review and indeed work continues by the relevant Ministers and Government generally to preserve and protect Gibraltar’s best interests.   I have no doubt that Fabian and his team of Ministers are able to meet these challenges and the others that will undoubtedly arise.

DE: Finally politics should be about policies and not the candidate per se. Yet already the social media are attacking you for being a lawyer – a profession the leader of the GSD follows – for living both in Gibraltar and Sotogrande – some GSD names come to mind there too and for sending your daughter to a boarding school. How do you answer the Twitterati or do you ignore them?

AI: Social media is a new phenomenon for me in politics as last time I was there there was no internet!  Unfortunately, social media is often used as a negative means of distributing material although of course it does provide at a push of a button the ability to reach large numbers of people with positive messages.  I was surprised at the ferocity of the attacks in the days following the announcement of my candidature.   I make no apologies for having been successful in my professional life as that is what I have strived to be and of course like any success an element of luck is involved.  I do have a house in Spain and like many many other Gibraltarians enjoy it with my family.   I do not believe that impacts in the remotest on my ability to serve the community and indeed if it did a similar question would arise for many present and former members of the GSD Opposition.  For five generations my family has taken advantage of the benefits of boarding school in the UK.   It is not everyone’s cup of tea but it has worked for me.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Not so long ago we had Danny “Sex Bomb” Feetham on stage at Gibraltar’s  National Song Contest showing us his moves. In recent weeks he has morphed into Captain Danny “Long Johns” Feetham, once cabin boy to Admiral-in-Chief Caruana, and dancing the Hornpipe over the floating hotel issue.
First “Long Johns” shimmied and gave the impression that his party were against the floating hotel. Quick change of step when the Government reminded him that in office the GSD had recognised some value in a floating hotel. Indeed they had even held discussions to bring one here and that they actually did so for a particular sporting event.
Next “Long Johns” put his left leg in saying that his party welcomed the investment and but then shook it all about shifting the argument.
Then “Long Johns” sang out voicing his concern for existing hotels until it was pointed out that the GSD once announced plans for seven new hotels in Gibraltar and were still pressing for new ones.
“Long Johns” put his right foot in and complained that the floating hotel had gone to the Development and Planning Commission (DPC) as a done deal. He even suggested the vessel had left for Gibraltar before the DPC had even met.
“Long Johns” quickly pulled his right leg out when the GSD learned there was no done deal because the DPC meeting was two weeks before the vessel left.
Yet “Long Johns” had more moves - now like a demented Tom Jones he thrust his pelvis accusing the Government of only paying lip service to the planning process even though it was precisely the Government that ensured the vessel went to planning in public in the first place.  
“Long Johns” then waved his arms in the air and accused the Government of flouting environmental considerations. The Government waved back saying the planning application form for the project made it clear that an environmental statement was underway. Therefore far from paying lip service to the environment, such considerations are at the centre of Government thinking and an EIA is being produced.
At which point “Long Johns” and the GSD all fall down before getting up and starting all over again.
However Feetham is not a one dance hoofer. He has danced the Fandango over the number of operations cancelled due to bed shortages even though there were fewer than when the GSD took our pulses.
He has treated us to the Lindy Hop, also known as the Black Bottom, over the government’s appointment of the new GBC Board despite the fact it followed the same steps as the GSD. He kept on Hopping when it was pointed out that his former dance partner, the greatest Gibraltarian who has ever lived, had appointed members of his own family to the board.
He’s done the prancing Cakewalk over hospital waiting lists that are better than when Nurse Del Agua left the dance floor.
He’s given us the Farruca with its sudden tempo and mood changes because the Chief Minister met President Obama and he didn’t.
He has done the Twist when it has been pointed out to him he has sold Gibraltar short abroad.
Feetham has even managed to find dance steps to Beating the Retreat over the GSD’s Theatre Royal debacle and his party in government’s power station plans for Lathbury Barracks.
The GSD collectively did the Chicken Dance over whether to put forward a candidate for the by-election or not. Did the Single Swing because they daren’t let Caruana stand down and lose his seat. They even performed the Khon to persuade a member of the PDP to stand for selection as nobody in the GSD dared be caught standing when the music finished.
The GSD are now being schooled in the Bransle – a French follow the leader dance – that could take some time to learn. Feetham will be doing the Hula, with its hypnotic hip movements during the by-election so watch out for that one. Finally if the GSD come third, as many predict, then expect the Shag, which is a dance, which is a dance – where party members hop about enthusiastically to avoid getting the blame.


Thursday, June 6, 2013


Sir Graham Watson interview

I was in Brussels last week for a high level Party of European Socialists conference at the EU on Europe’s industrial policy. I should stress it was high level not because I was there but because the keynote speakers were Laszlo Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, and Bernadette Segol, the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

A man who spends much of his time in Brussels working for Gibraltar is our Lib Dem Euro MP, Sir Graham Watson. I once dubbed him in an article as “The man who speaks for Gibraltar” and that is no exaggeration. So I took the opportunity to ask for his views on Gibraltar in Europe, next year’s European Parliament elections and the UK’s possible in – out referendum on EU membership

David Eade: Sir Graham, thanks in large amount to your hard word Gibraltar’s voice is now heard at the EU? What impact does Gibraltar now have and how can that be continued and strengthened?

Sir Graham Watson: In view of Spain's frustration of the lives of EU citizens living and working on the Rock it is important that Gibraltar's voice be heard. I have been pleased to organise meetings with EU Commissioners and other senior officials to ensure that the administration in Brussels is aware of Gibraltar's challenges. This is a process which should continue, since many of the decisions made in Brussels have an impact on Gibraltar.

DE: Next year we have the European elections. Currently in your seat there are three Conservatives, two UKIP and yourself. I believe it is important for Gibraltar that you are re-elected as you have been the only pro-active MEP for Gibraltar. However with the increasing popularity of UKIP and with the pressure on the Conservative and Lib Dem votes how are you viewing the looming polling day?

Sir Graham: Gibraltar's voters can have an impact in this election. Support for populist and newly established parties is rising across the EU, but I hope that voters will look at the way these parties' MEPs conduct themselves and recognise the much better value they get from those who seek election in order to achieve things rather than simply to make a protest.

DE: The UK seems set on an “in – out” referendum on EU membership. If the UK voted to leave I believe it would be a disaster for Gibraltar. Do you believe there will be a referendum and what will its likely outcome be?

Sir Graham: Having Liberal Democrats in government in the UK has prevented there being a referendum in this parliament. The Conservatives want one in the next. Much will depend on whether they win the next election. Should the UK pull out of the EU it would indeed have a huge impact on Gibraltar and would give grist to the mill of the Castilian nationalists.

DE: As Gibraltar is a member of the EU by virtue of the UK’s membership if the UK withdraws so too will Gibraltar without having any say in the matter. However Gibraltar unlike the UK is part of mainland Europe and its future lies within Europe. Is there or could there be a mechanism for Gibraltar to have its own status within the EU?

Sir Graham: There is not, but Woodrow Wilson's doctrine of the right of peoples to self determination has lost none of its validity. And the question of whether people can be stripped of their rights as EU citizens through loss of that citizenship against their will is indeed poignant.