Gibraltar elections and the Foreign Office
|Letter sent to the editor from Joe Caruana Chairman of IWBM
Opinion Polls by your Newspaper have always been accurate and confirmed by the results in the subsequent General Elections.
In a recent GBC " Talk about town " Mr. David Bentatta said that there were so many positive things the Chief Minister had done, that he couldn't lose. This is the common belief amongst GSD supporters. Indeed the GBC's opinion poll has raised lots of comments though no less than four Opinion polls in succession, bar one, has shown the Government trailing in the polls. Why is this?
72 hours following the GBC's Polls Fleet Street came into play, with articles, no doubt already in the pipeline boosting the Chief Minister's image. Is this mere coincidence?
Some even say that the GBC's poll could well be a ploy of "reverse psychology" to get the electorate to rally round the GSD. This is a possibility but should we discount that three other opinion polls produced the same results.
Notwithstanding this it is becoming apparent that "Events" in Gibraltar are catching up with the present Government's policies. Harold Macmillan, when Britain was at its highest prosperity level, said " You've never had it so good", yet soon lost the next elections.
When asked why he lost he answered " Events my dear boy, Events".
A fact in politics is that Building Projects alone does not guarantee an election win. This is a historical fact other "Events" may sway the electorate.
In 1972 the IWBP had a most ambitious development programme Gibraltar had ever seen. 780 rental flats at Varyl Begg and Catalan Bay, The Victoria Stadium and multipurpose sporting complex, the Boys Comprehensive School, finishing the two Tower Blocks, the Junior school at Laguna. Remodeling the KGV as a psychiatric hospital, and St. Bernard's Hospital, construction of Ocean Heights, Holiday Inn, the Workers Hostels, a Desalination plant and Refuge destruction plant. All of these projects started in 1970 without Spanish Labour or Spanish materials. Introduced the Health Center with the Group Practice and sponsored patient schemes, yet the IWBP lost the election in 1972, how come? It took me Three hours, in the 1970 Budget session of the House, to explain the huge programme.
The IWBP became a dangerous political menace for the Foreign Office. Sir Douglas Hume came to visit and for the first time the UK, even with dictator Franco in power, suggested a 25-year lease of Gibraltar to Spain!
Sir Robert Peliza immediately turned this down as unthinkable and the IWBP went to an early election. The Foreign Office, the Governor and Sir Joshua Hassan, immediately denied the "lease proposal" had ever been made, this became known as the "Big Lie" during the Elections. Thirty years later in published Secret Papers in this newspaper, Sir Robert was vindicated!
The Election was lost "inspite" of a huge Development Programme.
Did The Foreign Office, by any chance use the "Big Lie" as a ploy and therefore the loss of the Elections for the IWBP?
In 1996 the GSLP did the biggest construction project ever. 16 acres of land reclaimed at no cost to Gibraltar, providing affordable housing for many Gibraltarians. The introduction of the Community Care scheme. A big infrastructure programme of Refuse, Electricity and Water production. These projects served the GSLP for nothing!
Did the electorate turn against the GSLP because of the smuggling activity and rumours of Home Rule by the British Government? Of course they did, the then Deputy Governor clinched the defeat by playing a big part in a dirty "spin" campaign. Why? Let me explain.
The FCO's policy since 1972, and particularly in 1975 when Hattersley came to Gibraltar and said that Gibraltar "needed to look towards Spain"! Also that Gibraltar could not exercise Self-Determination. Statements repeated by Hain and Straw to this day!
Joe Bossano did not fit the FCO SCHEME since in 1988 he buried the Brussels Agreement.
The FCO coolly waited for their opportunity, during 1996 the Deputy Governor was instrumental in manipulating Fleet Street propaganda so that Joe Bossano was locally discredited. Bossano could not win!
By 1996 the then GSD aspirant Peter Caruana was committed to restarting the Brussels process with many "Concessionists" supporting his party.
The FCO finally found their "man" that fitted their policy of "looking towards Spain".
The GSD started the Brussels process that led to Jack Straw's Joint Sovereignty Proposals and the start of the Tripartite Forum, The Foreign Office's dream come true.
Judging from all the above Opinion polls it appears that the electorate today is prepared to forgive Bossano. The challenge for Gibraltar in the near future is the ECONOMIC one and we may well ask is Bossano the right man?
Elections are not won, rather the incumbent party loses it and the people who sway an election are not the party diehards but rather the Floating Voters.
The "floating vote" is probably over 30%. These Floating voters are indeed the unpredictable ones that can win or lose an election. These voters are more discerning and not committed one way or another, they do not follow the Leader, they can vote by "instinct", with their "hearts", or with their "stomachs". But ultimately they will be wise in their choice.
Former Minister in Government.
Chairman of IWBM