Picardo becomes GSLP leader with clear message: WE CHALLENGE CARUANA TO CALL AN ELECTION NOW!
In a stirring speech last night, the new GSLP leader Fabian Picardo said the GSD and Mr Caruana deserve to lose the next general election. And he offered "a hand of partnership and deep friendship to the UK", while telling Spain that there will be no transfer of sovereignty "to Spain or any other nation." Mr Picardo spoke of the end of one-man government as epitomised by the GSD, and of "positive changes to be implemented by a Cabinet Government with our colleagues in the Liberal Party."
He felt proud in succeeding someone of the political stature of Joe Bossano. "Joe is one of only two giants of Gibraltar politics. Joshua Hassan and Joe Bossano are in a league of their own," he told the GSLP annual general meeting.
And he added that no one will ever reach the heights of their contribution to Gibraltar politics.Because that commitment and that contribution are not about winning elections. It is about loving our people and loving our land. And no-one loves our people and our land more than Joe.
He welcomed that Bossano had told them that he remains at the service of the party "that we love" and that he will be letting his name go forward to the executive to be selected as a candidate for the next general election.
"We are celebrating a generational relay in the leadership of our party AND the continuity of Joe’s contribution to our party’s future" said the new leader.
He wanted his message to filter through to Gibraltar as a whole: "The GSD have earned the right to lose this election. Mr Caruana deserves to lose this election.
“But to win it we must work together every day until election day, not just to take our message to every voter. As from tonight, Gibraltar is looking to us for leadership. And we must EARN and DESERVE the trust, the confidence and therefore the votes of those outside this hall tonight WHO ARE CRYING OUT FOR A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT."
We are going to fight the general election on policies and ideas, he said. Yet every day we hear people say that this is going to be a very dirty campaign.
Who are saying so? It must be GSD activists (the few that are left) or GSD executive members or GSD elected members who must be saying that this is going to be a dirty campaign - and so they must be saying it because they must be planning to make it a dirty campaign.
He spoke in electrifying and telegraphic terms: "My message to them is: don't fall into the trap of taking your campaign into the gutter, because the people of Gibraltar will not forgive you for it.
"The people of Gibraltar are tired of the politics of insults and innuendo.
"The people of Gibraltar want a contest of ideas, policies and commitments.
"This is not a time for mud slinging or empty promises.
"It is not a time for spin and propaganda.
"It is not a time for character assassinations.
"That is the politics of the past and it will be rejected by our people.
He went on to speak about "positive plans that start and finish with our commitment to a level playing field that will not be affected by the political parties that a person may support.
"Positive plans to be implemented not by ME – one man – but by the team that the executive of the GSLP and our colleagues in the Liberal Party democratically choose.
Positives changes implemented by a CABINET GOVERNMENT – all ministers working together to deliver an even better Gibraltar on a level playing field for business.
And for that reason I say to all our citizens: we will not allow favouritism of the type we see today."
MESSAGE FOR BRITAIN
It was not just Gibraltar listening. The eyes of some in London and Madrid are on us too, he said.
"We have a clear, simple and fair message for London: relations with the United Kingdom are of fundamental importance for us. We in this party have no colonial chip on our shoulder.A GSLP Chief Minister does not care if the Governor arrives before or after him. We are not about protocol.We are about substance.The GSLP values the relationship with the British Crown.And this GSLP Chief Minister will extend a hand of partnership and deep friendship to the UK.
"And it is important to say that tonight, because it is becoming increasingly clear that the state of the relationship with the UK is not as rosy as Mr Caruana would have us believe."
MESSAGE FOR SPAIN
"Similarly, it is also important to send a simple, clear and honest message to Madrid tonight.
"Let us be very clear. A GSLP Chief Minister will never recommend an Andorra style solution for the future. I am sorry to tell Madrid that neither I nor anyone in our strong team for Government will ever have a “Seville Moment” like the one Mr Caruana had last year when he LET HIS MASK SLIP and said that he might be willing to recommend an Andorra style solution to our people in a referendum.
"No GSLP Chief Minister will ever agree to any arrangement for the transfer of any part of the sovereignty of Gibraltar to Spain or to any other nation.
"No GSLP government will ever be found wanting in defending our sovereignty and in advancing our case to freely determine our political future.
"But I also want us to say clearly to Madrid that we are ready to enjoy friendly relations on everything on which we can co-operate together WITHOUT any sovereignty price.
"And that is why we will maintain the trilateral forum for dialogue."
He went on to recall that Mr Caruana is on record as saying that issues of Sovereignty and Spanish proposals in respect of the future sovereignty of Gibraltar must be raised in the trilateral forum. He has actually called for Spain to bring Sovereignty proposals to the trilateral table, and is UNIQUE in seeking to provoke Spain into talking about our sovereignty with him.
Spain and the UK continue to say that the issue of Sovereignty must be dealt with in the bilateral forum which is the Brussels process. Well I go one further.
*Mr Caruana says sovereignty is a trilateral issue.
*London and Madrid say it is a bilateral issue.
*And for us in the GSLP, sovereignty is a UNILATERAL issue.
The sovereignty of Gibraltar is neither Spain’s to claim nor Britain’s to give away, he said echoing the words of a former Governor.
And stressed: Our sovereignty is exclusively a matter for us.
In that context and in that framework – we are happy to work with our neighboring country on all matters unrelated to sovereignty. That is the modern, European politics of the 21st Century that we will deliver for our people. But our work is not just work to be done internationally.
He said there was a lot of work to do within Gibraltar.
"The most important thing we have to do the moment we are elected is to start working with and for our young people and developing a social partnership with teachers and educators to reconnect government to the needs of your people.
"No-one in the GSD is talking about finding worthy jobs for young Gibraltarians. But we in the GSLP are.
We are planning to provide jobs to returning graduates and training and jobs for those of our young people who don’t want or cannot go away. Because we are about our youth as much as we are about our elderly; We are about our entrepreneurs as much as we are about our workers; and we are about traditional family values as much as we are about modern families.Because that is what will deliver to us a strong and lasting community. And that commitment is what is missing in Gibraltar today."
Not least, he went on, is the work we have to do to re-establish a real democracy in Gibraltar.In fact, many of the essentials of democracy are under attack.Freedom of association is under attack.
For example, it's ok for Mr Caruana to meet every unionist under the sun, but when a unionist meets a member of the Opposition, then it is “manipulation”.
Now people cannot even meet without looking over their shoulder. What is our Gibraltar coming to?
He asked: Is this the community we want – where you cannot meet people in a public place without fear of retribution? From there to dictatorship there is a hair’s breadth.
He added: Well, I have a message for all Union leaders and all citizens tonight:
If the people of Gibraltar make me their Chief Minister after the next General Election, you will be able to meet any of my political opponents without concern.
I will never tell you – if you choose to see my opponents you will not see me again, as Mr Caruana has previously told some union leaders. NEVER.
Because I believe in political freedom as much as I believe in personal freedom.
I also want to send a clear, simple and honest message to the civil service and the people who are employed by the GDC. My message is this: respect., support and commitment.
That is what will define the GSLP government's relationship with each of you. Deep respect to allow you to do your jobs.
GSLP ministers will not be heads of departments – they will be ministers in charge of policy.
Support so that you can do your massively important jobs in keeping our public service going – support for training for the future and in developing the service into the best employer in our country to provide the best service in our country.
And a cast iron COMMITMENT that a GSLP government will NOT reduce the manning levels of the civil service.
AND to the employees of the GDC, I remind you also of our manifesto commitment to harmonise your terms and conditions of service with those of the Civil Service.
He wanted also to send a special message to the health service professionals: "In government the GSLP will never be found wanting in our unwaivering support for you. Too often we hear from our members and those who seek our help that the frontline staff in the GHA are superb. Yet all too often we also hear that the management of the Health Service is a hinderance to the service that our professionals can supply.How can we allow that to continue? The answer is that we cannot.
“Some parts of the present management of the GHA are not making the delivery of service to patients at the point of delivery : they are making it harder.Some parts of the present management of the GHA are not fit for purpose. We will not stand idly by whilst our consultants, doctors and nurses find management an obstacle and not a facilitator.
"Because where Mr Caruana has visions of Royal Theatres and Grand Airports, I have a vision of an even better health service for all our community, especially our elderly in need of care and those who require mental health services. My vision is of social justice in a community where some are doing very well indeed but others languish in frailty and old age because they are not well enough connected.
"My vision does not involve pharaonic monuments : IT INVOLVES SEEING OUR NATION PROSPER FURTHER AND BECOME THE ENVY OF THE WORLD.
"BUT whilst I remain Leader of the Opposition – a post I assume tonight also – I owe it to you and to our country to put our nation first and our party second. Like Joe Bossano before me, I will never be found wanting on an issue of National importance. Should Mr Caruana ever call upon me to stand beside him on a National issue, or should he need to brief me confidentially on any matter, he will never find me reluctant to put my shoulder to work for the common good of our Country. Gibraltar first. Always.
"But let no-one try to confuse the partisan interests of the party presently in power with the national interest. The two are separate and distinct – even if some would see that distinction blurred. And so I want to this message to go from this meeting to all of Gibraltar.
"I say to all workers, from around the trade union movement, outside the trade union movement, from all levels of the public service to all levels of the private sector, blue collar and white collar, unqualified or professionals
"This party of working men and women is your political home.
"And I say to our entrepreneurs who with their industry and imagination, with their hard work and commitment make our private sector a success in areas as diverse as financial services, tourism and the very welcome professionals in our online gaming industry."
The message to take to the rest of our community is that if the GSLP wins the coming general election, all of Gibraltar wins the election.
So the message to Mr Caruana is short, simple and clear: The good people of Gibraltar are fed up of a government run by one man alone.
It's time to change to a strong GSLP team that will stand as a team and will run government as a team.
SO WE CHALLENGE THE GSD TO CALL THE ELECTION NOW!
We in the GSLP are ready for an election NOW! Gibraltar is ready for an election now.
He ended: "And so I say to all of Gibraltar: if you believe in fairness, equality of opportunity, a level playing field, a future in Gibraltar for our children and young people and a strong and dignified defence of our sovereignty: COME HOME TO THE GSLP. THIS PARTY HAS JUST BEGUN!"
Putting a nice face to tripartite cooperation, while seeking to damage Gibraltar elsewhere
While the Chief Minister was preparing to accept the Cordoba agreement, which included paying uprated Spanish pensions, the Spanish negotiators in the tripartite process were, elsewhere, quietly trying to damage Gibraltar's role as a naval base.
The principal Spanish negotiator Jose Pons, director for Europe at the Spanish foreign ministry, was urging the USA not to use Gibraltar for their submarines, and instead, to use Rota, as we first published yesterday following Wikileaks which have revealed hitherto confidential exchanges between Madrid and Washington.
In fact it does not matter who the Spanish negotiator was, what matters is that they are prepared to negotiate what they think is in their interest as regards Gibraltar, in the tripartite process putting a nice face to cooperation, but in other issues, unknown to the Gibraltar government, trying to fire a broadside at Gibraltar, as with the submarines.
It was in July 2006 that a US submarine was to visit Gibraltar.And the Spanish senior official at the foreign ministry in Madrid was telling the US ambassador of Spanish concern about the visit.
It is not that the Spanish government is concerned about such submarines being dangerous. It is simply that, as with other issues, they do not like Gibraltar to be important in any respect, so it was then that they asked the Americans not to use the Rock and instead to use Rota, as submarines could use the facilities there without arousing public concern. This is because military activities are less exposed to ecologists etc in Rota, but in Gibraltar it is easier to see what is going on.
When considering the double-faced Spanish offer, the American armed forces told the Spanish that Spain did not have authority over questions related to Gibraltar.
As regards the submarine in question, the visit to Gibraltar carried on regardless - and the Spanish director for Europe made his formal protest to the US ambassador.
In a telegram to the Spanish government, the US ambassador said on 31 July that the USA would continue to send vessels to Gibraltar whenever convenient and noted that the UK government was delighted with the submarine visits to Gibraltar.
The US told Madrid that they would cease to send submarines to Rota if the buereaucratic requirements were excessive.
They went on to take note that the Spanish government had expressed the preference that the submarines called at Rota instead of the Rock. But if the Spanish were to become over-bureaucratic, Gibraltar would become a more attractive alternative.
It would appear that the Spanish adopted a position acceptable to the Americans, although this has not been confirmed, but the fact is that 93% of US vessels used Spanish ports and only 7% used Gibraltar - this despite a PSOE electoral commitment of not allowing 'another Tireless in Spanish waters.'
So, why have two US nuclear-powered submarines recently been to Gibraltar?
It could be, as the Americans say, that Gibraltar possesses a type of oil which certain US vessels make use of and which is not available in Rota, while the depth in Gbraltar waters is greater than in Rota.
At the time, Madrid had been urging other NATO allies not to use Gibraltar, such as Germany and the Low countries.
The US policy is to be grateful to Spain for putting at their dsposal Spanish ports, siding with Spanish national concerns and to be 'inflexible' when defending their right to call at Gibraltar.