Complacency is one of the enemies of any political party. Go no further than the last UK election in which at one time it looked as if the Conservatives would win and Labour would lose, yet a Conservative/Liberal Coalition was the result. Recent opinions polls point to a GSD loss and a GSLP/Lib win. I have commented in my last blog that it is the electorate that has the final say, whilst the GSD may be losing, for them to lose another party has to win and want to win. If no other party goes for a win then the expected loser,the GSD, can and will win.
How? Very simple the disaffected GSD voter either does not change his allegiance and reluctantly votes GSD again or shifts it to the PDP. This type of result was a constant theme during the AACR era. Over and over again they formed government without receiving 50% or more of the vote. At the last election the GSD got just below 50% of the votes. It was enough to form Government because they got all their candidates elected.
I have been pulled up for saying that the GSLP/Lib Alliance needs to sort out their leadership, slate of candidates and act together in order to win the next election and should not just rely complacently on thier belief that the GSD will lose. I stand by that opinion. I am castigated on the basis that the leadership and slate does not need to be in place until the eve of the election:wrong. An Opposition Party must be a government in waiting. It has to show the electorate that it is capable of forming government, otherwise the electorate will not change its Government.
The leader of a party is a crucial decider for electors. Certainly the GSLP is to be commended for having leadership elections. It is for the GSLP at those elections to make its choice. The situation is that Joe Bossano has said he will step down this coming year, opening up the way for a new leader. Is this wise? The time lapse between the party leadership election and the possible date of a general election is very short. Will it give the electorate time to rally behind a new leader? Of course, GSLP Party rules dictate that a leadership election has to take place but Joe can and should contest that election. If he does he will likely win them. Is he the best person to lead the GSLP into the next election? It is not for me to say but, certainly, the recent opinion polls that favour a GSLP/Libs win have all been held whilst he has been leader. Certainty in its leadership will help the GSLP/Libs win the next election.
The early announcemet of the slate is equally important. It is one method by which an opposition party can show that it is a government in waiting. Each and every potential candidate must show the electorate ability and capability to be a Minister. Gibraltar wants a Government not government by one person. The GSLP/Libs have a golden opportunity to take advantage of this desire and show that they are a team that can govern in cabinet with collective responsibility, not because its leader dictates, but becuase all candidates have participated in the process to come to a policy decision.
Why do I say that the GSLP/Libs have to get their act together? Well, quite simply because it may have the best policies and the best manifesto. It may issue wonderful and lengthy press releases. It may ask hundreds of questions at meetings of Parliament. Electoral politics is not just about that. It is about getting the message across to the electorate. How many people really read such lengthy and complicated press releases? How many people actually get to know about the questions and answers in Parliament? How many people do more than glance at a manifesto? I am sure that I do not have to answer any of these questions. Getting the message across is about short and sharp soundbytes on topics and issues that affect and interest the electorate.
I can hear all the voices at once saying, the incumbent Government has all the advantanges, just look at GBC, they publicise the Government and even allow them Ministerial broadcasts whilst denying the Opposition a right of reply. What do the Opposition do? Bleat about GBC not giving them the right and ask GBC for it: wrong. The Opposition were handed a public relations win/win. It has not used it to best effect.
The issue is not that the opposition has not been given a right of reply, that is only half the issue. The other half, that they should but have not exploited, is the very fact that the GSD were given air time to make a Ministerial Statement at all. On what legal or democratic basis was that permitted by GBC? If it is permissable under the law or rules governing GBC, then it should, surely, only be on the basis that an opposition party has a right of reply. The relevant provision should be changed, if it exists at all. A perfect soundbyte opportunity lost by the GSLP/Libs.
Instead the Opposition decides to shoot itself in the foot. It votes against the new tax legislation proposed by Government and recognized to be the way forward economically for Gibraltar and its finance centre. One justification for this "NO" vote is that the tax law enforcement provisions are too onerous. Well tell that to the GSLP/Lib alliance core voters who are in the main PAYE payers. Do they care? I doubt it, what they want is all self employed and businesses to pay their dues. The GSD Government have got that one right and guess what they have gained from the event, courtesy of the Opposition.
I could go on but I believe I have made my point. What I will finish off on is some self indulgent statistics. This blog, on the basis of word of mouth only and without access to any Gibraltar news media, gets on average 10,000-12,000 hits a month. The Facebook page for this blog has 1600 individual adherents (the GSLP's page just over 800 for the purposes of comparison). Surely there is a lessen to be learnt by all political parties from these statistics? The lesson, simple, the electorate is thirsty for REAL politics. Go on, be brave give it to them ... otherwise democracy in Gibraltar is but a figment of the mind of politicians. A lack of proper party politics and proper choice in Gibraltar defeats the whole democratic process. Go on GSLP/Libs have some courage and give Gibraltar's democracy what it deserves: a credible government in waiting.