Two disparate pieces of recent news, with one connecting fact, Clive Golt, keep coming back into my mind. The first is the justification by Peter Caruana for denying the New People government advertising whilst government advertises profusely in the Seven Days. The second is the recent attempt by the union Unite to show how valid the GSD's socialist credentials are, why? I really do not understand.
Much has been said about the appointment of Clive Golt as Media Director of the Government. I do not intend to dwell on his abilities, that is a value judgment on which agreement may or may not be reached. There will be those who say he has all the attributes and those who may disagree. Only time will tell. I remain neutral and wish him well and much luck.
What I cannot help but comment on is the revelation by Fabian Picardo that the New People has for 15 years been owned by Mr Golt, who stood as a GSLP candidate in 1996 but not by the GSLP or any member of its executive, yet Mr Caruana justifies that the Government does not advertise in it because he considered it to be a GSLP party organ. Well, what does Mr Picardo reveal about the Seven Days? He says that it is owned by a GSD supporter, yet the Government does advertise in the Seven Days.
Surely. applying Mr Caruana's own criteria the Government should not be advertising in the Seven Days. I suppose the fact that the owner of the Seven Days has not actually stood for election as a candidate for the GSD is a distinction that could be drawn. There is no doubting, however in my mind, that the editorial policy of the New People favours the GSLP and that of the Seven Days favours the GSD. Does anyone disagree?
The problem is that the whole argument that Mr Garuana deploys to justify not advertising in the New People is flawed. To decide that a newspaper is a party organ or not (whether based on ownership or editorial policy) should not be the criteria by which any government should be deciding where to place or not to place its advertising. It is a subjective judgment that is not capable of objective justification. It is , therefore, fraught with the danger that any decision will be tainted with political bias, especially if the decision is taken by a politician, and so be advantageous to the person making that decision and his party. This is intolerable and unacceptable in a constitutional democracy.
The decision should be one for the Civil Service to take applying objective standards. What are these? Simple, answer two questions. First, is the publication in question a Newspaper, as defined in the Newspapers Act? Second, is it necessary and in the public interest to inform the public about something? If the answer to both questions is in the affirmative, then any government advertisement or notice should appear in any such newspaper that has a reasonable readership, after all the need to advertise is to ensure that people are informed. Informing the public is the public interest justification for such advertising. Starving the public of information and free speech is not in the public interest.
Turning now to the Union Unite. I was taken aback that it should be welcoming the appointment of Mr Golt as Media Director and in the same breath attempting to justify the socialist credentials of the GSD on the basis that GSLP executive members and ex-union officers were now aligned to or are ministers/ex ministers in the GSD Government. This logic is fundamentally flawed.
It is not the identity or passed allegiances of any person that informs an opinion or decision as to where in the political spectrum a party lies. What defines a party in terms of left and right are its policies. I believe that the GSD have undertaken certain social democratic policies. I do not consider that this allows it to be described as 'socialist". Certainly the recent budget cannot be described as left wing. It favours regressive rather than progressive revenue raising measures. In terms of capital expenditure, in the main, this is on projects more akin to that favoured by a right of centre party than a left wing party. More could have been done for the needy and for social cases, also.
All in all, I am confused. Either Gibraltar has a democracy that I find difficult to understand or it is just unique and quirky. Can anyone throw some light on all this?