La Linea mayor
attacks Gibraltar over pensions issue
The announcement that Britain and Gibraltar
are prepared to challenge any court action on Community Care
has provoked a particularly strong attack from the mayor of La
Linea Juan Carlos Juarez, describing it as 'vile' behaviour.
He sees it as a way of not giving due consideration to the
request from the European Commission in respect of resolving
Sr Juarez criticises the neighbourliness of Gibraltar, saying
that Gibraltar wants one-way traffic for its benefit.
He further accuses Gibraltar of not wanting to give anything
in return, even though he thinks that the EU formally
requested in March that there be a solution to the pensions
He considers it "insensitive and shameful" that Peter Caruana
should have told them that the pensions issue was being
considered in the tripartite talks and he was now said
Spain wants to facilitate frontier traffic etc but London and
Gibraltar simply want to prolong the decision on the pensions
by going to court, perhaps in the hope that more pensioners
In another statement yesterday, Sr Juarez urged that the
question of the pensions should be the priority issue in the
*As is known, the EC sent a letter to Britain last March
expressing 'serious doubt' about Community Care and alleging
“Britain was given two months to reply. This is what is being
done, in responding to the EC action.
If after receipt of the British opinion, the EC remains
unhappy about the situation and resorts to court action,
Britain says that this will be contested. Gibraltar Government
about anything Gibraltarian - even 'queso de bola'!
Once again, that paragon of Spanish political
'enlightenment', Rafael Estrella, shows his true colours, says
the Voice of Gibraltar Group.
"In the same breath, he indulges in the now well-worn 'talante'
but recommends that Gibraltar 'shifts' from the trade in
tobacco and petrol.
Even the humble 'queso bola' got a mention," says VOGG.
They add: This gentleman believes that such trades are not 'a
21st century economic activity'. Then, what is?
The likes of him persistently complain about the Finance
Centre, Bunkering, MOD shipping, even land reclamation and
Well, these and others, are what attract thousands of their
fellow countrymen to queue up for work on The Rock.
So much so for Spain's reputation as a top-tier EU state.
So Gibraltar is expected to move into the 21st century in all
its activities, whichever these may be, says VOGG. In the
meantime, Spain can continue to uphold its 18th Century
sovereignty claim, which denies the 'llanitos' their right to
self-determination and economic advancement.
Anyhow, it is El Quijote's 500th Anniversary and certain
attitudes will never change.
The group goes on to say: It will be recalled that many were
overawed by Mr. Estrella's 'performance', some to the point of
veneration, during his last visit to the Casino Calpe and
other local venues.
Perhaps some of those star-struck pillars of the community, in
particular, those who deal in the specified commodities, can
now offer pertinent comment.
Alternatively, why not have him back and quiz him accordingly?
The Voice of Gibraltar Group says it will not hesitate in
responding to all the diatribe that emanates from Spanish
politicians, whatever their 'talante', tripartite talks,
'neighbourhood' process, regional cooperation, cross-border
relations or the quest for Nirvana.
Not for the first time, Mr. Estrella's contribution is an
insult to the intelligence of the Gibraltarians, or to put it
colloquially, 'nos esta comiendo el coco', say Paul TUNBRIDGE
and Julio PONS, spokesmen of THE VOICE OF GIBRALTAR GROUP
Gibraltar to play Monaco
Gibraltar is to play Monaco and the Amateur
Football Alliance (UK) in the second edition of the Gibraltar
Cup at the Victoria Stadium later this month.
The GFA says:..
"The Gibraltar Football Association is pleased to announce
that the 2nd edition of the Gibraltar Cup will taking place at
the Victoria Stadium between the 27th to 29th May, kick off
for all matches being at 7.30pm.
The order of the matches will be as follows:-
(a) Friday, 27th May Gibraltar v Monaco
(b) Saturday, 28th May Amateur Football Alliance (UK) v Monaco
(c) Sunday, 29th May Gibraltar v Amateur Football Alliance
The Amateur Football Alliance was established 98 years ago, it
is affiliated to the English F.A. and its leagues are made up
of purely amateur players from the length and breadth of
England. The Monaco Football Association was established in
2000 and indeed played against Gibraltar its first
international match. Its players are also amateurs.”
Gibraltar-licensed PartyGaming considers conclusions of
PartyGaming Plc announced in January that it
was undertaking a review of its strategic options.
This review has now been completed.
PartyGaming is pleased to announce 2004 revenues of $602
million (unaudited) and EBITDA (before share option expenses)
of $391 million (unaudited).
The Group has also announced the appointment of Michael
Jackson, currently Chairman of Sage Group plc, as
non-executive Chairman and of Brian Larcombe, formerly Chief
Executive Officer of 3i Group plc, as non-executive Deputy
The Group is now considering the conclusions of the review in
conjunction with Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (“DrKW”).
Richard Segal, Chief Executive Officer of PartyGaming said:
“The financial performance of PartyGaming is a clear
reflection of the growth in the online gaming market and
specifically online poker. PartyGaming was one of the earliest
entrants into this global industry and the Group’s ongoing
investment in its organisational and IT infrastructure,
customer service, marketing and payment processing have
created the foundation for the Group’s growth to date.
Any future decisions will be based upon PartyGaming’s record
of strong profits growth and significant cash generation.”
Regarding the appointments of Michael Jackson and Brian
Larcombe, Richard Segal added: “I am delighted to be
announcing the appointment of two highly experienced
businessmen as our Chairman and Deputy Chairman.
Their credentials and reputations speak for themselves and the
Group considers itself fortunate to have recruited such highly
“The Group is already benefiting from their wise counsel and
PartyGaming (formerly iGlobalMedia) is a leading e-gaming
company which owns a number of online poker, casino and bingo
It is licensed and regulated by the Government of Gibraltar,
where the Group has its headquarters.
PartyPoker.com is the Group’s flagship brand, and accounts for
the majority of the Group’s revenues.
Launched in August 2001, PartyPoker.com is the world’s largest
online multi-player poker room.
Britain to challenge any court action, but will the EU
Britain is prepared to challenge any court
action on the question of Community Care - but will the EU
change its position?
That is the crux of the matter as the chief minister returned
from talks with officials at the Foreign Office in London.
Mr Caruana has described the meeting as "very constructive and
successful", but this is because both governments "agree
substantially on the nature and basis of the response to the
European Commission letter."
It means, therefore, that there has not been full agreement
and what are the differences have not been explained.
The EC wrote to Britain (as the member state responsible for
Gibraltar) on 21 March saying that "serious doubt" remained in
is mind related to Community Care's nature, and alleged
The Commission gave the UK a deadline of two months to submit
The deadline will be up next week, and hence the urgency of
the meeting held in London.
What the EC is saying is that it wants Britain to allay the
"serious doubts" it has over Community Care.
This is indeed a serious matter. If those doubts persist,
legal proceedings may ensue.
"The Commission may, if appropriate, issue a Reasoned Opinion
on the matter," said the EC letter. "If in the future the
Commission should decide to challenge the legality of
Community care payments, the UK would defend such challenge,"
said the Gibraltar government. As in the case of the finance
centre, this is the least anyone would expect.
But a cloud of uncertainty remains over whether or not the EC
is going to change its position and accept that Community Care
The Government says that for its part, "it is, and will remain
totally convinced, of the legality of Community Care
That is to be expected to be the case, as otherwise it would
not be backing it.
But the central issue is not that, but what the EC thinks
The EC's current position is that it has "serious doubts" -
and now it is up to the British and the Gibraltar governments
to convince the EC that the Gibraltar position is the correct
The Gibraltar government says that it will "fully support" the
decision of the Trustees of Community Care to continue such
payments regardless of any political or legal challenge that
Everyone in Gibraltar is indeed behind Community Care. There
is no doubt about that.
It would be a wholly unacceptable situation if a body like
Community Care were not allowed to provide a household cost
allowance to residents of Gibraltar.
At the meeting in London, Mr Caruana was accompanied by chief
secretary Ernest Montado and the director of the Gibraltar
office in Brussels Michael Llamas. They met with officials
from the Foreign Office and legal advisers from the FCO, the
Cabinet Office and the department of Works and Pensions.
"The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the content of the
UK government's response to the letter received from the EU
Commission which invited comments as regards Spanish pensions
and Community Care," said a statement.
We are in,
says Junta; You are out, says Gib Govt
by Our Political correspondent
The next meeting under the tripartite process is to take place
in late May. Or in June. It depends who you listen to.
The Gibraltar government talks of late May, but the Spaniards
talk of June. What is certain at this point in time is that no
date or venue has yet been fixed!
As regards a venue for the main trilateral talks, they ought
to be held in Gibraltar if the talks are truly trilateral.
They cannot be held in Spain and in Britain only. It is
something the Gibraltar governent should take a stand on.
Meanwhile, a Junta spokesman has said: We are in! But No.6
Convent Place has explained that: They are out! It all depends
what each is referring to, it seems.
If you thought there was a trilateral process only you are
wrong. That's what No.6 said yesterday. There are two separate
PROCESS NUMBER ONE: That is the 'Cooperation Committee',
otherwise known in Spanish as the 'Comision Mixta de
Colaboracion'. This was established between the Gibraltar
Government and the Mancomunidad de Municipios. The Gibraltar
Government would have no objection of the Junta getting
involved at that level of things. It must not be forgotten
that the Junta thinks that the Mancomunidad has no competence
to get involved in some of the things they have been getting
involved in, which adds spice to it all.
PROCESS NUMBER TWO: Now, that's something else. This process,
says No.6, is between the Governments of Spain, Gibraltar and
the United Kingdom...in that order. And to make it clear to
the Junta, they add: This process does not envisage the
addition of any further parties.
In case it makes things any clearer, this is the full text of
a statement issued yesterday by the Gibraltar Government. Read
"Following recent commentary in the Spanish Press the
Government would like to remind people that formal dialogue
with Spain currently takes place under two distinct and
"The first, is the Comision Mixta de Colaboracion, which was
established between the Gibraltar Government and the
Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar, relates to
cross border dialogue. Although established between GoG and
the Mancomunidad, the Gibraltar Government would welcome the
participation in that Comision Mixta by the Junta de Andalucia.
Although this matter has not been formally considered or
agreed by the Comision, the Gibraltar Government would
certainly support it and agree to it if it is proposed.
"The second, distinct process of dialogue is the Tripartite
Forum. This process is between the Governments of Spain,
Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. The Agreement establishing
it does not envisage the addition of any further parties.
"No date or venue for the next meeting of the Trilateral
Process has yet been fixed. The three parties are presently
considering the possibility of a meeting in late May.
"In the meantime, and contrary to some reports, the work of
the Trilateral Process has not been suspended during the UK
elections. Work has continued in relation to telephones and
The suspense heightens...
Spain 20 years to plan 'red' and 'green' channels at the
It has taken the Spanish Government 20 years
to plan 'red' and 'green' channels on their side of the
They first said they would do this prior to the re-opening of
the frontier in 1985, to the extent that such signs were
painted on a placard in the aduana. But in practice, everyone
crossing the border was deemed to be 'red'.
Now, the idea is that if you have something to declare you go
through the 'red' channel, and if you don't, you go through
the 'green' channel.
Such a system has been in operation on the Gibraltar side at
Matters concerning the frontier were discussed last week at a
meeting in Madrid attended by representatives from Spanish
customs, National Police, Civil Guards and the Interior
ministry. They plan to reduce or to eliminate the unecessary
crossing times affecting everyone crossing the frontier.
It has long been suggested by Gibraltar sources that the
answer to the delays is to have more points of entry and exit,
as well as more personnel.
Escalation of MOD
dispute: Unions serve legal claim on MOD
In an escalation of the MOD dispute, the
unions yesterday served a legal claim on the MOD. The unions
involved were the TGWU/ACTS and Prospect.
The unions say they have been forced to seek a court remedy
because the MOD has "improperly persisted in
The MOD are also accused of failing to comply with terms of
its employees' contracts.
The MOD also wishes to limit its consultation to
implementation of contractorisation and no more, say the
unions, in effect seeking to turn the unions into their own
members 'willing executioners'.
This is THE FULL TEXT of a statement issued by the unions:
This morning, in an escalation of the dispute over
contractorisation, a legal claim was served on the MOD by
TGWU/ACTS and Prospect.
The Unions have been forced to seek a court remedy because the
MOD has improperly persisted in contractorisation by:
(a) failing to provide sufficient and accurate information at
the right time; and
(b) by refusing to engage in real and meaningful negotiations
starting when plans for contractorisation were being put
together and continuing throughout the process the MOD’s
actions have been in breach of sections of the Employment
Ordinance giving effect to European law rights of workers in
the context of the transfer of an undertaking, as well as of
constitutional and human rights which protects the employees.
In addition, the MOD has failed to comply with terms of its
employees’ contracts. Those contracts incorporate a process of
consultation which the MOD is obliged to follow, instead it
has sought to bypass it.
The MOD wishes to limit its consultation to implementation of
contractorisation and no more, in effect, seeking to turn the
Unions into their own members “willing executioners”.
It is the Unions’ firm stance that they will not be unlawfully
co-opted in this way and that the MOD will instead be made to
do its duty under the law.
The Unions emphasize that the failure to inform and consult
property has already given rise to real detrimental effects on
some of the employees and, if left unchecked, will go on to do
The Unions are asking the court to impose a remedy which will
cause the MOD to:-
(a) Stop the contractorisation;
(b) Withdraw the letters it has sent to employees telling them
that their jobs are ‘in scope’ to be transferred to a
contractor (often, in breach of the Employment Ordinance, at a
lower grade than the one they are currently at) and all other
communications relating to contractorisation;
(c) Go back to the very start of the whole process and involve
the Unions throughout in seeking ways to achieve the
efficiency outcomes it is looking for.
It is still open to the MOD to acknowledge its mistake and do
what the laws says it should, without the wasteful expense of
a court trial.
The Unions invite the MOD to see sense and to go back to
working together. In that way, gains might be achieved which
will be benefit the MOD, its employees and the economy and
people of Gibraltar as a whole.
evacuated in bomb scare
by PANORAMA reporter
A bag containing rubbish was the source of a bomb scare
yesterday afternoon, which led to the building housing the
Royal Bank of Scotland and other businesses having to be
The bag was found outside the building, said police. No one
claimed ownership, so it was treated as suspect.
Normal procedures were adopted. The bank building was
evacuated, roads were closed and the anti-bomb team attended.
The bag was blown up.
The whole episode lasted around two hours.
Police cars were alerted and diverted to the scene of the
suspected bomb. They went to the area at great speed.
There were long traffic queues, but in the end it was just a
scare. Just as well.
Gibraltar will have to show its teeth to the MOD, says
Opposition spokesman on employment
The MOD's deductions from employee's wages for
their support of the demonstration held on 1st March has led
to a reaction from the Opposition.
"Frankly the attitude of the MOD is unacceptable.
“The people who demonstrated did so out of a desire to protect
their jobs and livelihoods.
The demonstration was designed to impress the workers'
strength of feeling on the visitors to Gibraltar who are
responsible for the ongoing process of contractarisation,"
said employment spokesman Fabian Picardo (pictured).
He added: "To deduct an hour's pay from the workers for
defending their jobs, and thereby in effect expressing a
desire to see a continued, strong MOD presence on the Rock, is
If what the MOD is trying to do is pick a fight by behaving in
this manner, they may yet live to regret it.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that Gibraltar is going to
have to show the MOD its teeth.
“The workers and the unions can count on us in the Opposition
to do whatever they think is necessary to protect their jobs."
The fact that the MOD has been photographing the demonstrators
also attracted a comment from Mr Picardo who stated: "As for
the photo-graphing of protestors, that is really no more than
a transparent attempt to intimidate the demonstrators. In this
respect I think that the MOD is really "losing the plot".
What threat is it anyway to the employees to photograph them
as protestors when it is proposed that they are soon to be
sacked from the MOD?
The fact is that it is the MOD that must understand that it
and its officers in Gibraltar are the ones under scrutiny -
not the men and women of the workforce that are properly and
lawfully defending their jobs," he said.
And added: "The MOD has to realise that it is doing business
in Gibraltar subject to our trade union legislation and not in
the UK where union rights have been substantially eroded.
The sooner that the defence establish-ment here wakes up to
that the better! Our message to the MOD is clear - you can
photograph the workers as much as you like, but we are
watching every move you make!"
pandemonium provoked by PANORAMA POLL
Yesterday's PANORAMA public opinion poll has
caused a major stir in political circles - pandemonium as
someone put it!
A PANORAMA poll was first to detect that the GSD had overtaken
the GSLP - that was ten years ago, five months ahead of the
1996 election which the GSD actually won. Since then, all
polls had put the GSD ahead. Now, for the first time in a
decade, it is the GSLP/Liberal Alliance that overtakes the GSD.
GSD popularity had gone down from 58% to 51% when comparing
the last two general elections. There is now a further
downtrend of 7% as predicted by the poll.
Questioned by GBC, Opposition leader Joe Bossano said that the
poll results would not change the way they conduct themselves
in opposition and would not stop them highlighting the
The results, he added, "vindicate entirely" the Opposition's
criticisms that the Government has no mandate to implement
increases which include water and electricity charges. People
should have been told that Government was facing a deficit
during the election campaign and in the 2003 manifesto.
Had the increases been announced then, the GSD would not have
got into Government.
For his part, Labour leader Daniel Feetham told GBC that
"people will decide at the next general election and not in a
Christine Podesta reported on GBC last night that there have
been "plenty of rumours of a merger between Labour and the GSD,
with the Labour leader Daniel Feetham having gone to the UN
with the Chief Minister twice. The rumours could further be
encouraged by the fact that Labour has been very quiet, in
fact inactive, over the past months."
Reacting to its showing of 2.7 percent in the PANORAMA poll,
the Reform Party said it was actually quite cheerful. "One way
to look at it is that it's the best score we've ever had to
date. In fact, it's more than twice the percentage we've ever
had before in any local opinion poll or actual House of
Assembly election " said Party Leader Lyana Armstrong-Emery.
In a statement yesterday, she added: "Therefore, if anything,
we're twice as optimistic and twice as determined today as we
In politics being right is ultimately more important than
being popular of course but we're heading in the right
direction to be both!"
Oil search in the
A Spanish oil company, Repsol, has been given
permission by the Spanish government to start drilling for oil
in the strait of Gibraltar. This will begin next month.
The principal area for the oil exploration is that near
Alboran sea which is not far from Gibraltar.
Jorge Saez, who is responsible for marine ecosystems for a
Cadiz ecology group, has told the newsagency Europa Press that
the Spanish environment ministry should put an end to this
plan by prohibiting Repsol from proceeding with the oil
exploration. His objections are prompted by what he terms are
threats to marine life.
Minister in London for pensions talks
Community Care on
The Chief Minister left Gibraltar yesterday evening for
discussions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the
British Government's formal response to the European
Commission's recent letter inviting the UK to comment on its
observations on the nature of Community Care payments.
A statement from No.6 Convent Place added: "As the Government
said last week, the EC Commission has not, at this stage, made
any ultimatum or initiated any legal proceedings relating to
Spanish pensions or Community Care. If such proceedings
materialise in the future they will be robustly resisted by
the appropriate parties."
The Chief Minister is accompanied by Chief Secretary Ernest
Montado and returns today.
Last Friday, the Government issued a Press release condemning
both the GSLP Opposition and the Mayor of La Linea for their
"manipulative and misleading use of the Spanish Pensions issue
for political purposes at the expense of unnecessary anxiety
(in the case of the GSLP) and false expectation (in the case
of the Mayor of La Linea)."
On his return from Brussels the Mayor of La Linea had said: -
"The ultimatum extended to Britain by the European Commission
in March expires in a fortnight. The deadline referred to the
need to modify current legislation on Gibraltar's social
assistance payments considered discriminatory to Spanish
workers because of the residency required."
Sr Juarez could not have been told this by the EU Commission,
because it is simply not true, said No.6.
It added that on 21st March 2005 the European Commission had
written to the British Government saying that "serious doubt"
remained in its mind related to Community Care's nature as a
"social advantage linked to the worker's conditions" and
alleged discrimination in relation thereto.
The letter invites the UK to submit its observations on that
issue within 2 months, as required by EU procedure. This
expires this week. The letter then goes on to say that after
examining these observations, or if no observations have been
submitted within 2 months, "the Commission may, if
appropriate, issue a Reasoned Opinion on the matter".
for MOD healthcare contract in Gib
The MOD is expected to let the contract for
building a new Integrated Health Facility at Devil's Tower
Camp in August so that building work can get underway as soon
as possible. It is aimed to have the new facility up and
running by autumn 2007.
The new healthcare facility will bring the current
capabilities at the Royal Naval Hospital and the Joint Medical
and Dental Unit under one roof. It will also mean that the
current buildings are expected to be handed over to the
Government of Gibraltar as soon as practicable once the new
building is fully operational.
Commodore Allan Adair, Commander British Forces Gibraltar has
welcomed confirmation of the go-ahead.
"This is not only good news for our people based in Gibraltar
but for the entire population," he said. "The Royal Naval
Hospital and the Joint Medical and Dental Unit have served us
well but it makes more sense to be able to have both
capabilities in a single Health Centre under one roof. This
means that we can release the existing buildings to the
Government of Gibraltar and is welcome evidence of our
continuing operational commitment to Gibraltar."
GSLP/Liberal Alliance ahead in dramatic poll result
If a general election took place today it
would not be won by the GSD. That is the dramatic result of a
public opinion poll organised by the daily PANORAMA.
The poll puts the GSLP/ Liberal Alliance ahead with 48.7%,
with the GSD trailing behind with 44.1%.
The poll confirms that any election today would again be a
two-horse race, with both the Labour and Reform parties not in
Labour secures Just 4.5% while Reform are at 2.7%.
The poll was carried out over the last 10 days using the same
scientific methods that have been used in PANORAMA polls for
nearly 30 years, since we pioneered opinion polls in
Gibraltar. We are therefore confident that it represents
public opinion at this point in time. With a sample of around
1,500 used in a large country like the
UK, our 500-plus returns are more than enough to ensure
Our public opinion polls have correctly forecast the winners
of all elections held since 1976, acquiring a reputation and
prestige for accurately forecasting trends and events.
The present poll records a swing away from the GSD of 7% when
compared with the 2003 general election, held just 18 months
ago. It records an upsurge of nearly 9% for the Alliance.
Third parties often do much better in an opinion poll than in
an election proper when the question of polarisation sets in.
The poor showing of Labour and Reform means they would have to
climb a very high mountain to get anywhere in electoral terms.
When a PANORAMA poll comes up with a dramatic
result, there is a tendency for some of those adversely
affected to express disbelief - but the poll is later proved
At the time when our first poll was published in 1976 ahead of
a general election, there was a strong body of political
opinion suggesting that the AACR were about to get ousted. Our
poll, however, said the AACR would win - and they did win!
Two years before the GSLP took over all the seats in the
Opposition a PANORAMA poll had already predicted that they had
become the second political force. At the time a party called
the DPBG had 6 seats in the Opposition and the GSLP had just
one. When the election came, the DPBG were indeed wiped out of
the House of Assembly and the GSLP gained all seven seats.
Two months before the 1988 general election we forecast a
landslide win for the GSLP, ousting the long-established AACR
from power. And it happened - we said they would get 57% of
the votes, they got 58%!
In December 1995. five months before the 1996 general
election, there was another dramatic result when our poll
showed that the GSD had overtaken the GSLP, which at the time
enjoyed 73% of the votes. When the election came, the GSD won!
Today's poll comes up with another dramatic result, which
some people might find difficult to accept. Certainly, we are
convinced the poll result is an accurate reflection of public
opinion at this point in time.
Some will ask: Is it a passing or a permanent protest against
It is evident that there are a number of important issues
causing increasing concern, which poll participants have
They can be summarised as follows:
1. THE SPANISH QUESTION, and fears of the possibility of
concessions on matters such as sovereignty or the
airport,linked to tripartite talks
2. LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSES, with concern that expensive
bouses keep being built for the rich and for outsiders, but no
affordable houses for the average Gibraltarian and other
3. COST OF LIVING going up, even essential commodities
including water/electricity etc, making it increasingly
difficult to live in Gibraltar and for businesses to be able
to remain competitive with Spain, compounded by economic
4. AUTOCRATIC STYLE OF GOVERNMENT - on this point harsher
words are being used by poll participants to put across the
A myriad of diverse issues of concern appears to be generating
new thinking and establishing new standpoints, with the poll
translating all this into a protest vote against the GSD to
the extent that the poll predicts a loss of majority for them
if an election took place today.
Politicians and others will ask: Is this a passing protest or
a permanent protest? Time will tell.
Alexander be great for Gibraltar?
by JOE GARCIA
Battered prime minister Tony Blair has axed Dennis MacShane as
Minister for Europe as part of his government reshuffle. The
new Minister for Europe is Douglas Alexander, who has been a
Foreign Office and DTI trade minister.
Will Alexander be great for Gibraltar?
That is the question most people here will ask, with the joint
sovereignty plan promoted by the Blair/Straw/Hain triumvirate
still fresh in most peoples' minds.
The joint sovereignty plan has not been killed off and remains
in a Foreign Office pigeon hole. However, if the likelihood of
it being revived in the short term was seen as a non-starter
by UK sources before the election, such a possibility is now
further discounted given the reduced Labour majority in the
With a majority of 66, it only takes 34 rebels to vote against
the government and successfully stop any unsavoury deal.
Thus, Labour's reduced majority increases hope for Gibraltar's
cause. Friends and supporters like Lindsay Hoyle, Andrew
Rossindel and Simon Hughes have been re-elected.
However, the principal pro-deal ministers remain in the
Cabinet, so Gibraltar must not drop its guard.
There is also the internal strife over Blair's future as prime
minister, with Chancellor Gordon Brown poised to take over at
some point in the new parliament.
This is not to say that a Brown-lead government would be more
sympathetic to the plight of the people of Gibraltar.
The new Europe minister Mr Alexander is a protege of Gordon
Brown. They have known each other since their student days in
their native Scotland.
"In a sign of the Chancellor's renewed influence, Mr Alexander
will be attending the weekly Cabinet meetings" said a report.
But it all depends on which side of the political fence one is
in to see things differently.
Said another report: "Putting Douglas Alexander into cabinet
has in effect tied the Brown camp to the outcome of next
year's EU constitution referendum - thwarting the hopes of
some backbenchers that if the government lost it, Blair would
have to resign early."
As Europe minister Mr Alexander's main job is seen as
campaigning to win the EU referendum.
Mr Alexander was returned with a sizeable majority at his
Paisley constituency. But already in the 2001 election he had
played a leading role in delivering Labour's second general
election victory, his intellect and presentational skills
He has been a high flyer. He first secured a government post
after the 2001 election in trade and industry, becoming the
youngest minister. He has also been minister of state in the
His interest in politics goes back to the days, in 1990,when
he started to work as a researcher - for Gordon Brown.