Around mid-morning last Wednesday I was talking to colleagues from Rumanian and Poland at the Europcom 2013 Conference at the EU’s Committee of the Regions. The red light on my Blackberry started to flash and as I opened up the email my face obviously changed from happy chatter to stunned silence. It was significantly different enough for my colleagues to ask was everything was alright. I assured them it was but hurriedly moved away.
What I had seen on the Blackberry screen was the Gibraltar Español banner beneath which was a bizarre photograph of the GSD Leader Daniel Feetham. Then the message from Gibraltar Español itself: “#Gibraltar Daniel Feetham critica el ataque a #España en la ONU de Fabian Picardo y Denis Matthews. parece que por fin empieza a aparecer gente cuerda en la Colonia.” You can imagine the comments by the boys and girls who support Gibraltar Español that followed.
The article in the Spanish media accompanying the Gibraltar Español piece continued: “El líder de la oposición Daniel Feetham ha criticado tanto al Gobierno como al grupo en Pro de la Autodeterminación SDGG por las acusaciones que han realizado en su reciente visita a las Naciones Unidas.
Las acusaciones contra España de conducir una campaña de odio contra los gibraltareños las cataloga de inadecuadas en un momento en que Gibraltar está buscando el diálogo.
“El líder GSD ha dicho que “el Gobierno debe mantener la cabeza ” y fue crítico con las acusaciones que Fabian Picardo planteó a la Comisión del IV Comité de la ONU.
“Así mismo calificó de “insensibles” las declaraciones hechas por el presidente del SDGG Denis Matthews , cuando sugirió que las acciones de España se podían recoger en una definición de la UE contra el terrorismo.”
Well the rest you know!
The fact that I was 1,000 miles from Gibraltar in Brussels at the time is significant because this was not a parish pump issue but impacted on our standing around the world.
When the latest crisis with Spain started in August the Opposition had two real options. The first was to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Government or the second was to stay silently so as not to rock the boat. They opted for the second but as their sullen attendance at National Day, in stark contrast to Prime Minister David Cameron’s strong message of support” showed they were not happy bunnies.
So for the past months we have had the scenario where our Government, supported by the people of Gibraltar and backed 100 per cent by all major political parties in the UK have faced down Spain. There was no chink in our armour and the threats against our Chief Minister intensified as Madrid’s frustration grew. Then enter Daniel Feetham who did not rock the boat he capsized it.
Let’s move on to last Thursday when our Government issued a statement stating “the Opposition regarding criticism of Mr Feetham on Facebook is” involved in “a feeble attempt to turn the tables after he has put his foot his foot in it. The plain fact is that the Opposition's criticism of the Chief Minister's speech at the United Nations has been a monumental error of judgement.”
Some would judge that was an understatement.
It continues: “Members of the GSD have written on social media saying they are leaving the party as a result of Mr Feetham's leadership and in particular his handling of this matter.”
Their words not mine.
However what was jaw dropping was the Opposition contention the call on “the Government to condemn criticism of Mr Feetham, when he has not even had the decency to formally condemn the poisonous attacks against Gibraltar in general and Mr Picardo in particular, including the constant death threats and abuse against him, that have been ongoing in Spain for over two months.”
I couldn’t have written it better myself.
Feetham’s future will be decided in the near future by the GSD or maybe by the people of Gibraltar. The honourable decision for him would be to resign but then if honour was the criteria he wouldn’t have wrecked the boat in the first place. If it’s the latter then it will be the Chief Minister’s call. He will have to decide what impact the Opposition Leader’s words have had in Spain. If he feels the damage is severe then he may feel it is necessary to call a snap general election and ask the people of Gibraltar to endorse his actions as their elected leader. It will give Feetham the platform to openly voice his vision of his Gibraltar which only the PP seems to share. It will be left to the people will decide whether “el Gobierno debe mantener la cabeza ” – Fabian Picardo.