Thursday, September 26, 2013


Normally when reporting on a Labour Party Conference once the Government of Gibraltar reception has passed you are confined to UK issues. This year is different because next May, Gibraltar in common with the rest of Europe, goes to the polls to elect our new MEPs.

Gibraltar will be represented by six in the constituency it shares with the South West of England. Curiously three of the Labour candidates seeking your votes already have links to the Rock.

Number one on the list and hence the most likely to be elected is Clare Moody. We will return to her in a moment but she is a member of the Unite the Union and campaigned in Gibraltar at a previous Euro election as a candidate. Second on the list is Glyn Ford who was our Labour MEP until the last election when the number of seats was reduced from seven to six. At number four is Hadleigh Roberts who led Labour’s criticism against Peter Hain when the Labour MP took advantage of the border blockade by Spain this summer to press home his long discredited joint sovereignty beliefs.

As it happens all three were at the Government of Gibraltar’s reception on Sunday night and Clare Moody spoke alongside our Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and the Shadow Minister for Europe, Emma Reynolds.

In the South West and Gibraltar seat Clare Moody, a Unite political officer and former aide to Gordon Brown, topped the regional list of candidates in the poll amongst activists. She is backed by six separate unions but it was still a surprise she came ahead of Glyn Ford, a popular Labour figure who was the MEP for a decade.

Clare has stated that it is vital that the candidate at the top of the list for 2014 is someone who can win for Labour in that election and who can then deliver for the South West and Gibraltar afterwards. She believes she is that person.

Small in stature but full of vitality and charisma Clare is on the campaign trail already. She said:  “Our region has a huge amount to offer and a huge amount to gain from the European Union.  However, the people of the South West and Gibraltar are currently represented by UKIP MEPs, who apparently spend their time sleeping through parliamentary business and Tory MEPs, who are marginalised in the parliament because they don’t belong to a mainstream parliamentary grouping.

Speaking at our Government’s reception Clare made it clear that not only did she want to be elected for Gibraltar but pledged that she would be a strong defender of and advocate for Gibraltar. She was scathing about the recent Partido Popular Government’s campaign against Gibraltarians and suggested that with Madrid mired in an economic and corruption crises Rajoy and Margallo should keep their noses out of our business. Gibraltarians have the right to exist independent of Spain and that right must be respected.

Over the coming months Gibraltarians will have their own chance to make up their minds about Clare Moody because she will shortly be heading this way. Expect to meet her on a doorstep on street near you.


My article centres on events being played out in a dusty committee room of the House of Commons. A battle is underway to ensure Gibraltarians are allowed to vote in the Conservative’s EU In-Out Referendum should the Tories be returned to power at the next UK election.

Gibraltar has been a member of the EU since January 1 1973 by virtue of Britain’s membership. However although Gibraltarians are full European citizens we were denied a vote in the European Elections until the 2004 poll. Gibraltarian’s will well know this followed a ten-year legal fight which culminated with the European Court ruling that as European Citizens we had the fundamental right to vote in the Euro elections. The UK then added Gibraltar to the South West England Constituency where it sits today.

A cynic may say there are two facts that may colour the Conservative Party’s seeming reluctance to include Gibraltar in its EU In-Out referendum. The first is that in the 2009 European Elections Gibraltar was the only area amongst all the UK Constituencies where the vote for Labour increased.

The second is that Gibraltar is very pro-Europe and indeed the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would be politically and economically disastrous for us. Hence if an In – Out Referendum is held in 2017 it is likely that Gibraltarians will vote massively to continue EU membership. True Gibraltar only has around 20,000 votes but in a tight election that total could help swing the election in favour of staying in the EU.

The whole concept of the 2017 referendum is a bizarre piece of legislation. It is not the Conservative – Lib Dem Government that is proposing it but it comes in the form of a Tory private member’s bill. It would only be enacted if a Conservative Government was returned. It has little to do with the EU but rather is a tactic to fend off UKIP at the next General Election and to keep Tory Euro-sceptics onside.

In off the record chats with Gibraltar Government officials I have been told that the UK has given the impression that Gibraltarians would be allowed to vote in the referendum. However there is nothing in writing and the current bill being discussed in Committee at the House of Commons, the Conservative Private Member’s Bill, does not allow for Gibraltarians to vote.

The Conservative Minister for Europe David Lidington had the chance to clear up the matter last week when he addressed the committee stage of the Bill. He said that regardless of whether or not Gibraltar is included in the In-Out referendum on the EU, which has yet to be determined, the UK should consult the Government of Gibraltar to fully understand its views as Gibraltarians would be affected by the decision either way.

Indeed they would Mr Lidington but asking the Gibraltar Government its views is a far cry from allowing Gibraltarians, as British and European citizens, to vote and is simply not acceptable. The suspicion that the Tories intend to deny Gibraltarians the vote is strengthened by the fact that Lidington did not take the opportunity when he had it to state categorically that we would be allowed to participate which would have cleared up all doubt.

Instead it has been left to Lidington’s shadow, Labour Europe Minister Emma Reynolds and her team to fight Gibraltar’s corner. Reynolds is worried that the bill as currently drafted fails to appreciate the particular and unique legal and constitutional position of Gibraltar as both a self governing British Overseas Territory and as part of the European Union.

As the Bill is currently drafted, the entitlement to vote in the proposed referendum will be restricted to “persons who, on the date of the referendum, would be entitled to vote as electors at a parliamentary election in any constituency.”

Whilst Gibraltarians are entitled to vote in European Parliamentary elections as part of the South West England Constituency we are self governing and not represented in the UK’s Parliament. The people of Gibraltar would therefore not be able to vote on whether to remain or leave the European Union should a referendum take place. There is also the prospect of Gibraltar having to leave the European Union, alongside the UK, without its people having had a say. Labour has proposed two key amendments: the first to ensure that Gibraltarians as British citizens are included and the second that Gibraltar’s result is declared separately. Will the Tories take note? No sign so far!

For Gibraltar this is a two-fold issue. Gibraltarians, as European Citizens, must be allowed to vote on their future in Europe. Withdrawal would have important negative economic implications for Gibraltar.

Gibraltar’s successful business model has taken the best part of the past forty years to develop as Gibraltarians have matured into their role in Europe. In an address to the Fabian Society in London in April Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, stated: “Our success in tourism, bunkering, telecoms, financial services and gaming as well as the many other sectors of our economic activity depends on our membership of the EU giving us unimpeded access to the Single Market in services and free movement of people and capital.” He added: “Now would be the wrong to time to change one of the few successful economic models in Southern Europe.”

The prospect of Gibraltar’s economy being destroyed by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, via a referendum in which Gibraltarians as British and European Citizens had no say, would be disastrous for Gibraltar and disastrous for our concept of democracy. It is the duty of the Conservative-led Government and the Conservative Party to ensure that does not happen.

Friday, September 13, 2013


One of the declared aims of setting up the Cervantes Institute in Gibraltar was to teach Gibraltarians how to speak Spanish. True, the majority of Gibraltarians speak Spanish already, and Llanito, and English, but the Castellano heard on Main Street is not the same as they speak in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol.

So the logic in Madrid was and I guess still is if Gibraltar Español is one day to become a reality then it would help if Gibraltarians could speak the language properly. I know not whether the ability of Gibraltarians to speak the King’s Spanish is better now than when the institute was opened but by all accounts its Spanish classes are very busy indeed.

Ironically leading Spanish politicians have been ridiculed over recent years for not being able to speak English. The media have labelled recent Spanish Prime Ministers as being an embarrassment to the nation because when they appear before international forums, such as in Davos, they cannot communicate in the language of business: English. Hence you have a Spanish leader having to be accompanied by his translator so he knows what everybody else is saying. Indeed Zapatero was blasted for avoiding international gatherings in favour of Moratinos because of his poor language skills.

Which brings me to the weekend’s events in Buenos Aires. I am sure many Gibraltarians were delighted when Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games fell flat on its face. It would be nice to think that the chaos at the border played a part in the Spanish capital being eliminated in the first round. However what played on the delegates’ minds far more was the fact that Spain is a financial basket case.

How could the IOC ask Spain to spend multi-millions of euros on creating the infrastructure for the games when the first priorities should be combating the economic and indeed corruption crises? So it follows that success was never really on the cards. To lose in those circumstances to Tokyo would have been no shame. However to be dumped in favour of Istanbul in the first round, with all the problems that country faces, was nothing short of humiliating.

To hide the national embarrassment Spaniards have rounded on the Mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, who is also the wife of the former PP premier José María Aznar, to vent their collective spleens. Botella is in the firing line over both her use of English and her lack of proficiency. Her words to the IOC Committee were cruelly subtitled on YouTube as “Diar Allosi Menbers, Leidisan yentelman”. By the by Rajoy wisely spoke to the Olympic chiefs only in Spanish.

Her phrase: “relaxing cup of café con leche en la plaza Mayor” has a certain element of Llanito about it. By Monday, T-shirts were on sale at 18 euros each with a parody of the Starbucks logo, featuring a profile of Botella and the logo: “Relaxing Cup of Cafe Con Leche in Plaza Mayor”.

Now that Botella has woken up and smelt the coffee it begs the question should the Gibraltar Government set up a Llanito Institute in Madrid to teach Madrileños our tongue? After all hell will freeze over before Gibraltar becomes Español so the sooner they learn to speak to us on our terms the better.

The hapless Ana Botella also caused a stir on social networks because of the press conference on Friday in Buenos Aires in which she defended the candidature of Madrid to host the 2020 Olympics. She was questioned in English by a journalist and judging by her response, she did not understand what the reporter was asking. Botella dispensed with headphones to hear the question and talked about the infrastructure in Madrid when the journalist had asked about the suitability of organizing the Olympics in a country that is in a very serious crisis with a 27 per cent unemployment rate.  To her humiliation she was duly upbraided by the Chairman of the Spanish Olympic Committee who did not realize his table microphone was on.

The incident has now gone viral... as has Botella’s shame.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


If in December 2011 Gibraltar had returned again a GSD government would we be going through the current crisis with Spain? The answer is of course we simply do not know but we can make some educated guesses.

The first observation to make is that the problems with Spain are not new. They have been going on for over three hundred years, for a period we saw the border closed and usually when the Partido Popular are in power there’s a more forceful chanting of the Gibraltar Español mantra. So the fact that we have endured a long hot summer is nothing unique.

What we can probably say with certainty is that if we now had a GSD government the accord with the local fishermen, which has seen them break Gibraltarian law with impunity. would not have been rescinded. It therefore follows that the reef would not have been placed in our territorial waters because Gibraltar would not have had a proactive environmental policy.

So if you believe the summer campaign by Spain was caused by the reef and generated by the scrapping of the illegal fishing accord shortly after the GSLP Liberals came in to government you might argue all would be peace and harmony.

However the fact is the fishing accord and reef were only the excuses that Madrid needed and not the root cause. The Partido Popular spent two terms in opposition plotting how to both dismantle PSOE’s international treaties with Gibraltar and also how to instil Gibraltar Español as a central plank of its “foreign” policy. On being elected around the same time as our own Government it made its intentions crystal clear so the crisis should be no surprise to anyone.

Having first defended the eight hour border queues as punishment for the reef laying Madrid quickly changed tack and declared it was to prevent smuggling. This pasodoble was because the Spanish Government realised it could not defend the abusive queues by pointing at a reef at the end of the runway buried metres under British Gibraltarian waters. So it became official: the border chaos has nothing to do with the fishing dispute or the reef - it’s all about tobacco.

One of the measures that Margallo has threatened Gibraltar with is the toll. This, of course, is nothing new for it first made its appearance when we had a GSD government. Indeed the then maverick PP mayor of La Línea, Alejandro Sánchez, who is now said to be guiding the Spanish Government’s “dirty tricks on Gibraltar department” in Madrid, went much further than mere suggestions. Indeed I suspect the concrete lane markings he laid out as you enter La Línea can still be seen to this day. Sánchez is foe to both GSD and GSLP chief ministers alike. ¡Gibraltar Español! is emblazoned on his t-shirt.

So what are the other issues that Rajoy and Margallo take with Gibraltar? Well chief amongst them is the Córdoba Accord which was the shining policy of the GSD. There’s tobacco, bunkering, all matters financial, phone lines, the sovereignty of our waters and air space, land reclamation, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. None of these are new and all existed under the GSD and would exist now. They are a target for Madrid whoever is in power here.

Even when the fishing accord was in place the Guardia Civil still made incursions in to our waters. Indeed during the GSD era they even landed, shopped in Main Street, bought monkey t-shirts for the kids, purchased cartons of cigarettes in black plastic bags and stashed a bottle of whisky not DYC down their trousers before heading home. OK I made the very last bit up but you get my gist.

The fact is the current crisis with Spain is nothing to do about fishing, nothing to do about the reef, little to do with Bárcenas or the PP’s other corruption scandals, little to do either with that country’s economic crisis but everything to do with Gibraltar Español. The crisis would have come whoever was in power only its timing may have been different.

There are several good things to come out of the summer heat. The vicious campaign, especially in the Spanish media, against our Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, shows how little the Spaniards understand Gibraltarians or the British. The aim was to make us turn against our leader and for Westminster to disown him. The opposite has happened. Gibraltarians have rallied to his side and the British Government has never been a stronger ally. British Gibraltar rules ok!

The crisis also means that much of what we have suffered in silence over the years is now out in the open. Brussels is involved on a number of fronts as well too could be the international courts and even the UN before the year is out. The fascist Gibraltar Español policy of the PP will be shown up for what it is and if we play our cards right Gibraltar can emerge stronger not weaker.

One Gibraltar, one Rock, one people.