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.