Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Democracy, are Elections Alone Enough?

A lively debate ensued, in the main, between two commentators to my last piece, Brown Cow and Ghost on the subject of democracy in Gibraltar. Democracy is an enormous and complex subject that cannot be covered in this blog in any detail but it is worth exploring some issues of concern in Gibraltar.

Brown Cow briefly raised the subject that democracy was about not just outcomes but more importantly about process. She points to lack of information in the public domain and secrecy in process as being the main contributors to speculation and the undermining of confidence in the system of government. She argues that in the absence of a system that in some ways emulates Local Government in the UK, elected every 2 years and performing their functions in public, Parliament does not provide the necessary checks and balances to democratise small decisions that affect individuals directly. In brief that Parliament is too high a level of government to adequately protect individuals from small decisions that affect them directly. This situation can be contrasted with that which prevails in the UK where the process at local government level provides for this and that any outcome that may affect an individual directly can be infulenced by lobbying and by participation in the process.

Ghost, on the other hand, holds the view that we elect a government at elections held every 4 years, that we choose a leader (I am not sure where he gets this idea from, leaders are chosen by parties and in some parties in most mysterious ways) and that the leader has the right to defend us publicly during that period of time.

I do not think democracy is as simple as allowing elections every 4 years. 4 yearly elections are simply the method by which a government is chosen in a democracy. It is not itself the end it is only the beginning of a real democratic society.

What makes up democracy is far more complex. It includes the need of a real fear by a government that it might be defeated. The chances of that in Gbraltar, where all elected members of the government benches are appointed Ministers, is virtually nil, unless they want to lose their inflated ministerial salaries. It also requires an effective Opposition which can work also within the possibility of a government being defeated.

There is a crying need for a more extensive and more critical press and representative organisations. I recall when there was much more criticism and activity by representative bodies in Gibraltar. Why this has diminished escapes me.

I also agree with Brown Cow. There should be less secrecy and more transparency. There should be more empowerment of the people in the manner that happens in local government elsewhere. Parliament should engage in "national" affairs. Other countries have this system and indeed other countries have two Houses of Parliament. A Parliament that has to deal with both "national" and "local" issues cannot deliver democratic government or indeed efficient government.

Is there any reason why Gibraltar could not have an elected Local Authority/Government elected every 2 years with powers delegated to it by Parliament? It would not be difficult, each polling station district could be a ward from which 2 representatives could be elected with very specific rules about transparency and the taking of decisions in public ... and importantly a prohibition on parties and permissive of independent candidates for election only.

Let the party begin ...


  1. LW said "I recall when there was much more criticism and activity by represnetative bodies in Gibraltar. Why this has diminished escapes me."

    The answer is quite simple really, Caruana turns them and they either end up as Government ministers or employees of Caruana e.g. Montiel, Netto, Reyes, Golt etc. etc.

  2. The story in todays Chronic on the reopening of Dudley Way tunnel and the manner in which the Both World`s residents have been totally ignored is the perfect example of people being trampled over by Big Brother and little, if any, consultation.

  3. A good example of how the lives of ordinary people could be improved if governance in Gibraltar was a little more open is the loss of parking at Both Worlds.

    The Government did not submit to any kind of planning application process for the new road arrangements / construction so the general public had no opportunity to find out what the implications might be (parking spaces, conservation, etc ).

    If government chose to submit itself to the planning process (which it of course should, it is utterly ridiculous and undemocratic for the Government to choose to operate outside of the law that applies to everyone else in Gibraltar) then the residents would have been aware years ago that they were at risk of losing their parking and they would have had at least some sort of opportunity to make alternative arrangements (either with the developer or Government or whoever).

    With all of the new government developments completing in the next few years how many times will this sort of story be repeated? People find this sort of thing deeply frustrating, yet this government demonstrate little concern - either for their own electoral welfare, or the ability of residents and citizens to participate in the shape of our future Gibraltar. We don’t want to leave it all to the Gibraltarian developers and consultants who spend the majority of their leisure time in the leafy suburbs of sotogrande worrying about whether our new airport should have 2 VIP lounges or 8. (it’s 2 apparently – one for the CM and one for everyone else).

  4. "The answer is quite simple really, Caruana turns them and they either end up as Government ministers or employees of Caruana e.g. Montiel, Netto, Reyes, Golt etc. etc."

    Yes, not forgetting Del Agua of Voice of Gibraltar Group. Will be interesting to see who else joins the GSD line-up next year. Any guesses?

  5. llanita from Gibraltar says...

    P.I.G. & Gianni, let's not forget Mr Holliday from the Chamber of Commerce, either!

  6. Sukh Khiara and from the Union and Isobel Hammond Ellul Breast Cancer committee member and also member of the GHA board are jockeying for position in the GSD.

    If the general topic is Democracy, are Elections Alone Enough the question is What election. for sure within the GSD none. Candidates are selected by the All Mighty and no one dares question his decision. The GSD has been governing us in this manner and therefore the bloggers above are write in that there is no consultation at all.

    I will do the works for the Dudley Ward Tunnel and ask no one of the consequences.
    I will publish the development Plan for Gib cuando nos de la gana.
    I will refurbish the Theatre Royal want it or no want it.
    I will buy the car I want "Y que el dan al Environment"
    I will control National Day and take it away from Volunteers then I can do what I want.
    I will construct an Air Terminal even if we do not need one.
    I will go one day and when I want I will not go to the Cordoba Forum. Dispute or no dispite on the Waters.
    I will now not go to the UN committee of 24 porque me da la gana y punto.
    Who did He consult on any of the issues on which He decided one thing or another? He himself. Democracy is only once every 4 years when I go to put a piece of paper in a box Y despues if Caruana wins he will say he has a mandate to do anything he wants.
    Open and Transparent Government is what the GSD promised.

  7. Bay of Gibraltar3 November 2010 at 16:23

    My dear Robert

    Thank you for this blog… un poco de aire fresco!

    I believe that 'tanta culpa tiene el que da como el que se deja'.

    Who among us raises their voice in protest against questionable decisions?
    Who among us names and shames when situations of abuse are in our faces?
    Who among us roles up their sleeves and gets stuck in when needed?

    Just a few…

    Bottom line... ¡tenemos lo que la mayoría quiere!
    ‘Qui tasit consentit’ El que calla consiente.

    I believe we have collective responsibilities, but we also have individual responsibilities too.

    “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. Plato

  8. Glad Bay of Gibraltar believes we are ruled by an evil man!! or so Plato said. The fact is that anyone who dares protest, complain, or say anything will be shot at dawn! That is way many like me think like you Bay of Gib ie it is a breath of fresh to have this blog because we can say things and no one will know who we are. Que pena though since it will be an excellent day when all of us commenting here can actually put our names down without any repercussion. hope that it will happen sooner rather than later.

  9. Ghost says:

    Robert thank you for dragging me into this one; not that I wouldn't have be drawn into it in the first place, but I think you knew that already.

    To be perfectly honest I do not disagree with the core substance of your piece. Essentially we are saying that transparency and openness is a good thing in government and allows for more freedom and accountability. The question remains to what level this is required and might there be an argument to suggest that too much accountability can be deemed as over kill and effectively an administrative burden. Only recently we had representatives from Jersey (I believe) looking to learn from our very own system of Govt because they had in fact fallen into the trap of a town council system where accountability and check / balances were a key feature, but where decisions became harder to execute. It is a fine balance that we play with when tuning the principles of what we want our democratic system to deliver.

    You might also take the American system, the founding father’s held freedom as paramount in the creation of the republic, the reality today is that these freedoms have been taken to such extremes all in the name of democracy that even the Economist deemed it worthy of an article titled…wait for it “When too much democracy threatens freedom” (you’ll all be up in arms now I am sure), I attach the link http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/12/when_too_much_democracy_threat And so my view as mentioned before is, yes let us pursue more accountability and transparency, but let’s be sensible about it and in doing so accept that we elect a party and a LEADER (regardless of Roberts views on party and leader are), to lead and take decisions for us based on the principles of their beliefs and their approach on how to take a community forward. With rspect I find your views as rigid and idealistic and with no account for the many grey areas that politics and life itself throws at us.

    I do not disagree with those seeking for accountability and I have stated this in past postings; where I have concerns is to what degree we should take what some might construed to be extreme and idealistic and in essence not practical. On a similar note, one might also suggest that our parliamentary system already affords us the checks and balances necessary to hold govt to account, the reality is that we end up with an opposition listing a million and one questions on issues that go beyond the absurd and questions which are far best addressed by letter and dealt with by civil servants. This therefore gives way to real and intelligent debate between opposition and government, something which in my opinion is central to a parliamentary system of democracy and which we see regularly in England for example. Is this not something that we really ought to be talking about and which in my view shows the current state of affairs in parliament as farcical to put it mildly?

    Robert your comment on the press is a valid one, if there is one aspect of our societies ability to check and balance which delivers miserably it is indeed the press and the lack of critical journalism in which quite apart from independence, it can show muscle toward Govt and opposition. I could not agree more on this. With respect to representative organizations, I agree that there may be margin for more and in my view the existing ones have already created a powerful voice which has proved to have done more than any opposition initiative in 16 years. One example is the ESG, not only has it created awareness, it has respectfully held Govt to account and won – in my view.

    With regard to last comment in reference to Plato, is he referring to Bossano or Caruana?

    So, enough for now! I expect that Robert and others will relish at the opportunity to try and bring me down a peg or two.


  10. I do not beleve that the quote from Plato contained in the coment by anonymous at 16.23 is directed at any individula politician or leader in Gibraltar, past or present.

    It is simply a repetition of the quote that I have had in the right hand column of this blog under the index since inception.

    Ghost, I intend to reply to you in greater detail later but do not think that we are that much apart. I wrote this piece widely and in not too great a detail precisley to elicit people's reactions.

  11. Bay of Gibraltar3 November 2010 at 22:05

    Dedicated to all of you fearful of repercussion for speaking your mind and or acting on it:


    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    William Ernest Henley

    This kept Mandela going for many, many year.

  12. Ghost

    I agree that too much democracy, in a certain sense, can be stultifying and not result in good government. At the opposite end too little is not democracy at all. In my eyes Gibraltar tends on the scale of democracy to be way into the "too little" end.

    There are myriad examples of this. Dependence by the news media on government benevolence is one. The methodology of appointments to supposedly 'independent", which are invariably by the Chief Minister. Dependence by supposedly "independent" quangos and committees on government (read Chief Minister) financing.

    More fundamental, the lack of a separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, which is a recognised basic and essential tenet of democratic parliamentary government. In Gibraltar the entire executive, the Council of Ministers, also constitutes the legislature. This means that the concept of the Rule of Law can be and has in the past bee completely ignored. If the executive in Gibraltar wants to do something and it is not authorised to do it by law, all it needs to do is use its mirror image majority on the gobernment benches to pass that law and authorise itself to do that which previously it was not in law capable of doing. This is exactly what happened in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. It is not the position of the UK parliament due to the existence of backbenchers and of the House of Lords. For this reason alone, I cannot and do not agree with you that Parliamnet provides the necessary checks and balances. It so blatantly does not.

    To aggravate this situation, there is no local authority/government to whom there has been a delegation of certain "local" as opposed to "national" issues that affect individuals rights and obligations directly.

    Add to this the lack of transparency and accountability, which you admit exists, and clearly my view that the scales of democracy are clearly in the negative zone in Gibraltar is proven.

    So it is not idealism that I preach or speak about. I preach and speak about the right of citizens to be empowered, within reason and practicability and balancing the need to ensure good government. The lack of such empowerment by delegation of functions is so blatant that it surprises me that you cannot see it. The main complaint of many for decades is that all power is yielded by the incumbent Chief Minister from time to time. That cannot be and is not right in a Western European supposed modern constitutional democracy.

    You may be able to kid others but you cannot kid me, just look at the number of anonymous commentators on this blog alone.

  13. "Bay of Gibraltar said...
    Dedicated to all of you fearful of repercussion for speaking your mind and or acting on it"

    Funny that. You are criticising us but yet you are in the same boat. Unless your parents in a fit of Patriotism took a fancy to naming you Bay Of Gibraltar!

    We all have our reasons for remaining anonymous. We unfortunately live in a large village and if you go against the Ring Master you had better pack your bags and take off!

    On another note, not surprised by the rumours regarding Isobel Ellul Hammond wanting to join the ranks of the GSD. She always had a soft spot for PC and it's always been very obvious that she has always wanted to play a bigger role in Society. If she joins the GSD I hope she remains true to herself, and that if and when elected to Government she is just as vociferous when she realises that all is not what it seems and all are not whom they seem when she sees things up close and personal, warts and all!

  14. Dear Llanito World

    I am not a GSD voter however if Isobel joined the GSD, the GSD would receive my ten votes.

  15. Anon 23:10

    I would understand why. I only hope that if she DOES join the GSD she remains true to herself and make known her disapproval when she sees things with her very own eyes. I consider her a person who always wants to do right and good, so I hope she keeps that as an important part of her person, even if it means arguing with PC when she does nt approve of things!

    And your statement that if Isobel joins the GSD they wuld then get your ten votes despite your not being a GSD voter is the very reason why PC will probably ask her to join the party. The GSD needs "likeable persons" and unfortunately she will be recruited for her "popularity " factor rather than for any talent she could have or positive contributions she could make! Its sad that parties locally recruit on this basis and it also clearly points out the manipulation they perform!!!

  16. Fred says:

    Ghost, you confuse autocracy with leadership. Then again Machiavelli said something about it being good if a Prince was loved, but if this was unacheievebale it is best that he be feared.

    Furthermore, it does not help that there are so many lackeys, and apparatchicks that are fundementally supine and/or prostate.

    I am afraid that I must side with Robert and say that there are issues we need to address.

  17. Fred says:

    That other Italian chap Mussolini was also about efficiency and ensuring that the community moved forward and was led, whether it liked it or not.

  18. Ghost says:

    Robert I thought you said we were not that far apart. There I was all excited at the prospect of our very own guru finally agreeing with me...:)

    Your crew I see has come out in force - although I am amazed to read some of the comments not least your very own reference to Mugabi, I can only imagine that like me on my reference to North Korea in your last blog that you are using the comparison to highlight your concern of where our democracy might end up and in doing so, you are therefore admitting to the fact that you do indeed believe that our system is that chaotic; that's quite an imagination!

    I will reply to your last post later and if my wife allows me to (my very own dictator) - she is not a fan of LW for obvious reasons:)

    For now I leave you with this link:

    Fred refers to our very own Nicolo and uses "The Prince" as an argument to show Caruana as a........ What exactly?machiavelli wrote this book to show the many different forms of leadership which he describes in the form if a Prince.

    Maybe Fred can enlighten us as to which category of prince Caruana falls into and which one Bossano aspires to be in. You can find the examples in the summary section of the link.

  19. In relation to the rumour of Isobel i think she is a nice girl who might have her heart in the right place but as mentioned above that its sad that parties locally recruit on this basis. Lets not forget that Daniel (hope he recovers soon) was also a man who people thought was going to change things in the GSD and so was Keith Azzopardi. I think that these two characters have not been able to change anything in that party I doubt very much Isobel will.
    I fear its all called public relation and not politics.

  20. Francis Buttigieg4 November 2010 at 23:04

    To Spartacus et al:

    Bay of Gibraltar = Francis Buttigieg.

    You are right, we need to be coherent. Now I freely swim with the fish. I invite you ALL to do likewise.


    By the way, Spartacus, I understand was a great and brave man, was he not?

  21. Dear Francis,

    Thanks for the invitation. Unfortunately I am not in a position to reveal my name as yet. Maybe next year things will be different.

    And yep, Spartacus was a great and brave man. It is believed that Spartacus though was NOT his real name! He was also outlawed, captured and sold into slavery for standing for his beliefs and rights. Ding Ding!

  22. Spartacus would you be even more surprised by the rumours regarding Isobel Ellul Hammond wanting to join the ranks of the PDP and not the GSD?

  23. Quill said.....

    Spartacus would you be even more surprised by the rumours regarding Isobel Ellul Hammond wanting to join the ranks of the PDP and not the GSD?

  24. Ghost says: Part I
    Robert in reply to your last piece.

    I believe that our differences lie between the theory and the practice. You know full well that I cannot refute the basic principle of separation of powers in the way that you present it.

    Your argument is based on the fact that the executive (in the English parliament) is checked by the legislative power and in doing so creating more accountability. You might further argue that the House of Lords too creates a greater balance and you would be right to argue this case as it is part and parcel of their constitutional structure through the many conventions, royal prerogatives, court judgements etc.

    The practice of this great system pans out somewhat differently, so much so that the inability of the 2010 election in the U.K to deliver an outright majority i.e. more that 50% of the seats in parliament, created so much insecurity that it knocked out double digits on the FTSE, affected the pound, created political instability, weakened the nation internationally and almost brought Adam Boulton and Alastair Campbell to blows on national T.V........thank god for checks and balances.

    So, the theory and the practice or the idealism and the reality are fundamental to our disagreement. The U.K is far more stable with an outright majority Govt and whips parading the corridors of westminster; their checks and balances have limited bearing on the practical and real method of political life. This works for them and has done for centuries...the result is strong leadership.

    Interesting that it was the Americans and the founding father's that decided on a democratic republic, precisely because they felt that the British way was too tyrannical and offered no checks or balances because of what I have just described above; so they went the extra mile on this one, they separated everything, they called all to account and have ended up with such political maneuvers in the name of leadership to make the founding fathers spin in their graves. Odly enough it works for them too.....the result is strong leadership.


  25. Ghost says: Part II

    My point: that all wannabe successful nations require strong leadership. You are forgiven for asking yourselves; what type type of leadership? Mugabi's, Mussolini's, Chavez's, Amin's?

    These are all leaders elected under democratic principles, but whom decided that power was too great to release; and therefore this brings me to our friend Machiavelli and his prince, in which we consider not just the system but the leader and the type of leader that you are dealt and under the many circumstances that may prevail.

    These leaders mentioned above were not great or even adequate and delivered no form of progress or future, so please let us not compare ourselves or our current status to that which was/is the case in Zim, Italy, Venezuela or Uganda. It is an insult to our intelligence and quite frankly unnecessary!

    So based on the pretext that we agree the above comparable to be unrealistic, it is (in my view) crucial that we understand not just our political system and how it can best work for us, but also the size and structure of our community and the practicalities or not of having the legislative power that Robert refers to, the fact that our community is so highly opinionated and that our electoral turn out is probably the highest in the world, that we have pressure groups galore, clubs, associations, that we are peaceful and free to speak our minds, although the last time we collectively deemed that necessary was back in 1995............... need I go further?

    We are a democracy people there can be no doubt about that. The fact that we choose to question a leader who has been in power for four terms is perfectly normal, and it is exactly because of our democratic instincts that we raise these issues. There are also those that raise issue with why an opposition leader with four election losses is still in the running and who question what good this may have brought to our democratic spirit and our future

    The only one thing we truly lack is good critical media; this in my view stems from the fact that we are such a small community, it presents a social problem and hinders the ability of the press to be aggressive.


  26. Anon 23:31 I didn't mention about Isobel just commentjed on the "rumour" that someone else posted.

    That she might join the PDP and not the GSD would surprise me to a point as she has always been very GSD..but then again, the PDP is another party recruiting "personalities" and I can see her meeting the PDP criteria. A personality, representitve of various issues, female, dedication to her community....

    It will be interesting when the parties start to make offical announcements regarding their line-ups.

    Quite frankly in our town it has been seen more than once that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE lol

  27. Quill

    Would make more sense for Isobel to join the forward-looking PDP than the GSD, which is a spent force.


    Heard nothing further since you tweeted that Marilou was standing for election with the GSLP. Any further developments?

  28. I note with interest the comment made by Spartacus regarding the local selection process of candidates by the political parties. Like it or not, this is democracy in action and Gibraltar is not unique in this respect.

    The cult of personality has become enormously powerful thanks to modern media access, examples of this are apparent in every democratic society. The endorsement of high profile actors and musicians is sought by politicians not because these people have any capacity for discharging the function of a minister, or even that they have anything of value to contribute, but purely because they are popular.

    These personalities have gained great influence in society and frequently espouse on subjects they feel strongly about. Is their opinion more relevent than that of a Llanito world blogger,no, does it carry more influence, yes, because of media access and publicity of course it does.

    Political parties have to select candidates for their ability to attract votes. Charisma is the most important quality in a politician. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegge are classic examples of this, George Bush Jr is the exception that proves the rule. The party selection process, whether it be by committee or other means must always have an eye on who will attract votes, who is electable.

    While I cannot comment on the capability of Ms Ellul-Hammond as a politician, or even as a minister as neither has yet been tested, her work in the community and the profile this has given her would make her an appealing candidate for any of the parties.

    Certainly make a change from another lawyer.


    Ghost, the number of comments on this blog that speak of a genuine fear of persecution are limited. That people choose to remain anonymous for reasons of self interest is, to my mind, more a reflection of living in a small community and a genuine wish not to criticise others publicly - whether that be the powers that be or the latest theatrical production.

    It is therefore disingenuous for you to frame your comments on this topics in terms of whether or not Gibraltar enjoys the fundamental rights of a basic democracy. We do. Indeed we enjoy them as constitutional rights, protected by law.

    So the question is not – does Gibraltar have a democracy? as you, by referencing the basic ingredients, frame the question. The question is what is the quality of that democracy and how does it compare with other western countries? In my view we do not compare favourably for the following reason;

    1) Once elected the Executive have a parliamentary majority;

    2) The Executive can therefore create the legislative framework to enable it to do pretty much anything – something the present Government have increasingly been inclined to do (see for example recent legislation which is the foundation of the age of consent case before our Supreme Court, or the legislation which permits the all night work at the airport);

    3) If the Executive have a parliamentary majority, parliament is not an effective check of executive authority and therefore we do not enjoy a parliamentary democracy;

    4) In any event many important and substantial decisions that effect day to day life do not require legislation or any parliamentary participation;

    5) As a result of the above, and despite a new constitution negotiated at length with the involvement of the opposition, our basic system of government remains colonial in nature – it is just that our Executive have now assumed the role of coloniser (albeit subject to the burden of a general election);

    6) A general election is democracies bluntest tool and it is self evidently undesirable for it to be the only effective check on executive authority;

    7) The Government often does not as a matter of law have to submit to other non-parliamentary PROCESSES which might subject them public scrutiny and control, and as a matter of practice the present Government have always chosen not to submit (see for example town planning matters). The result is a “government does what it wants because it can” mentality – both in government and without (see for example our Government’s approach to Rosia tanks where they threatened to take over the project so that it would not have to be subjected to the nuisance of a planning process);

    8) The examples of transparent, participative yet effective governance elsewhere are numerous – one need look no further than the British system of local governance but there are many others;

    9) For a variety of reasons – from inadequate legislative framework, to the promotion of spineless civil servants, to the concentration of ministries in one person, to the appointment of sympathetic quangos, to the fact that we are just a small place where we all rub shoulders – government has a finger in every pie. That leads to the perception (if not the exercise) of improper influence, it undermines confidence in our systems of government, and leads to stagnation in leadership, innovation and productivity;

    10) The result is that Gibraltar is not the dynamic, participative jurisdiction or community that we could be as we rely increasingly on a smaller no of people (or indeed person) to do everything. Even the simplest of things take ages to implement (new bus routes to take an example featured in today’s news). Even the most fundamental elements of our infrastructure (electricity generation for example) seem to teeter perilously close to collapse. Gibraltar becomes a frustrating place to where only a small number of people (the executive) have effective control.


    Whilst I have used the present government to illustrate some points, the general thrust of my opinion is completely non-partisan. In my view it stands regardless of the party in power, how long they have been in power, or how many elections the leader of the opposition has lost. Gibraltar would benefit immensely if citizens where better able to contribute constructively to the governance of our small land (example the process by which new underage drinking laws were introduced), rather than being forced to heckle from the sidelines once policy and projects have been created and are being implemented.

    If I were grading an end of term report on our SYSTEM of democracy (not the practice of our present government) I would comment “Blasé at times could do better. 6 out of 10”. You on the other hand Ghost, appear to be awarding a near perfect score.

    We will have to agree to disagree.

  31. Ghost:

    I am glad that you feel that you cannot refute Dicey's principle of the separation of powers. The manner in which you state this implies that in practice you would have liked to. This inclination also comes through loud and clear from the rest of your comment. I can only assume that you are right wing in your political leanings, which is fine, i have a far more left wing liberal leaning. I also have far more faith in people and their ability than that which you display.

    I accept that there are practical limits but not such as should be allowed to undermine a basic democratic system providing transapareny, accountability and checks and balances. Gibraltar's system sadly lacks these to a greater than desirable degree.

    I accept that strong political leadership is required. I disagree that thie should be conecetntrated in one individual as you suggest - astrong leader. My mention of Mugabe was not likening Gibraltar's present or past to that country. It was said only to point out the extremes of where a system that lacks basic checks and balances could take a democracy. Your strong leader would not find it difficult to achieve the status of a Mugabe in Gibraltar if he so wished. I could do it if i was elected save that it is gainst my principles. That is the point none of Gibraltar's leaders have transgressed so far as Mugabe has. There has been a creep in the centralisation of power but not such as can be overly criticised but that it has not gone tooo far is not down to systemic safeguards it is down to the principles and benignity of the leaders that we have had to date. this is not good enough.

    The weakness that you complain of in the UK, namely a hung Parliamnet, resulting in a coalition, is not the fault of athe UK system of checks and balances and separartion of power. It is down to the electorate. This can happen anywhere but unlikely in Gibraltar due to our deficient electoral system about which I have written in the past.

    Add to all this and all that I have said a media that is not sufficiently critical, as admitted by you, and where are we. We are in not a good place. In a place where there is a democratic deficit.

    With apologies for all typos as I have had to reply very quickly in between meetings!

  32. Can we please move away from the legalistic jargons ie Dicey etc. It is obvious that Ghost is a lawyer and we all know that Robert is
    one also, but the beauty of this blog is that everyone is able to participate and getting into legal jargon is not helpful. I am also a lawyer but I wish we can all speak in laymans language. It is slowly becoming a bit boring to have conversations in this blog which has to tread on all that is legal!!
    When I first commented in this blog I was told by one of you lawyers that it is better to put paragraphs for easy reading, then another that I had made spelling mistakes and also some fo my comments have not been published I put it due to straight talking. By the way I have not written anything libellous. But it is obvious that Robert thought the contrary or he did not like the straight talking. Be that as it may democracy is about having your say even to the extent that it offends others.

  33. Anonymous at 15:34

    Dicey was not a lawyer he was a journalist and constitutional theorist. What others and I are writing about has got nothing to do with law. It is layman's language that we are writing.

    Whatever anyone says, please feel free to write with whatever spelling, so long as it is understandable and you commuicate and also do not use paragraphs if you do not want to.

    Feel free to talk straight. I do. Libel is not what you think it may be. I have to judge and I try and judge on the safe side because I am always responsible and so would you be but you choose to remain anonymous. There are als other rules that one eeds to abide by.

  34. I take your point LW and hope that we can be free at least here since freedom is not present in Gibraltar until we get rid off the present admin. Democracy as you said above is about transapareny, accountability and checks and balances. We were promised that in 1996 since many were under the impression that the GSLP were dictatorial in the way they governed. There were definately elements of that, but the reasons were different. Now the present admin is dictatorial due to the CM's attitute, arrogance and despotism.
    Nothing to do with the fact that in 1988 we were on the verge of bankruptcy and the economy was in dire straits. now there should be no need to be neither dictatorial, arrogent, a despot or have an attitute since according to CM the economy is booming???

  35. It is amusing to see mention of the constitutional theorist A.V. Dicey in this forum. Dicey spent years extolling the virtues of the principle of parliamentary supremacy but when the Parliament in London wanted to give home rule to the Irish, Dicey, an Ulster protestant took up the armed struggle. I just wanted to say this in case anyone went away with the idea that he was just a boring old theorist.

  36. Ghost says:

    Brown Cow, I feel as if I know you - this blog is great if not just because we most likely all know each other, but choose to write on matters of politics behind a vail, not for fear but because it's GIB and its small and like the media we find it 'awkward' (the best word I could find) to express political opinions; I think based on this we agree? I do not know where you got the impression that I thought otherwise.

    In our case its not a matter of agreeing to disagree, as with Robert, I do not believe we are far apart, its more a matter of how far one wants to take checks and balances. My opinion is that in such a small place it would be hard to create effective govt. by implementing the many required changes to our constitution that would translate to your 10/10.

    I have said on many occasions that more transparency and further checks could benefit our community and therefore by implication suggest that I do not award a near perfect score. I do however accept the realities of our complex and democratic community and believe that your suggestions are in the main well intended but emulate communities with no similarity to that of our own. I like that you deliver your thoughts in a non-partisan manner....very PDP...:) Sorry that was a low blow, forgive me its a friday.

    Robert I believe the above covers your counter too - were you really in between meetings or on route to El Patio..:) I trust that you will not mind my reference to your friday lunch getaway, I often see you there - I may introduce myself one day and buy a drink, although given that we are still apart on many issues it may not be wise at this stage, forgive the personal intrusion I mean no harm.

    Oh one more thing, you should rethink your position on the British system and your reference to the hung parliament, the fact that a coalition was necessary was because there would have been no effective leadership without it and in doing so they effect the 50% + seats required to rule, lead whatever you want to call it, the whips are apparently having a hard time though and they may need to bring in psychiatric help; its proving much harder than they thought to keep everyone in line.

    Good weekend to you all.


  37. Ghost

    In between meetings and lunch at El Patio :)

  38. Quill said...

    Brown Cow questioned the quality of our democracy and its comparison with other western countries? In his view we do not compare favourably.

    I agree with his view/statement, but not because of the 10 points raised, which are valid points. I feel that our democracy does not compare favourably with other western countries simply because we are too small to be compared to other larger democracies. Here the opposition parties in parliament have been historically weak! In fact even the governing parties themselves have also been histoically weak as a party (not individuals).

    Only a couple of candidates from each party are ever of enough calibre to carry out proper and effective politics, the rest are simply cosmetic, making up the numbers required for the individual leading each party to either make it into government or opposition. It is only when the governing party lossers favour with the public that the opposition gets into government in the next elections, but not because the opposition has been an effective opposition against the government over the provious parliamentary term, but simply because the public want a change for the sake of change. Policies seldom have little or no influence on the electorate (except when it comes to foreign policy regarding Gibralta/Spain/UK). In other words in Gibraltar parties do not win elections by winning over the electorate, but rather it is the party in government that losses the elections of its own accord.

    Democracy does work in Gibraltar, but its democracy a lo Llanito, just like democracy may also differ in Spain or in UK. Each has its perculiarities, its +'s and its -'s and there will always be room for improvment in every democracy. That is the very essence of the democratic process, when we need to improve on it we can, because democracy is not fixed in stone, but its principles are.

  39. Quill

    I agree that size and available talent is one more issue but this factor is one more reason why the system needs reform. It needs reform to ensure that the available talent is enabled to offer themselves. The system needs to be more inviting, more empowering more capable of involving more people.

    The present system excludes precisely because it militates in favour of the "leader". It is usually the "leader" who excludes the competition. The cult of personality has always been predominant in government in Gibraltar. It is destructive, dangerous and anti-democratic.

    Empowerment means trust in people. It means ensuring people are fully capable to undertake their responsibilities. Taking away initiative, which is what happens when an individual person becomes the overpowering presence, undermines the ability of a society to govern itself properly. It creates an atmosphere of over dependence on the thoughts, objectives and abilities of one person. One person can and does make mistakes, even if he relies on a close circle of advisors. He chooses the advisors and often they are the wrong characters or are motivated by the wrong principles, aims and objectives

  40. Quill said....

    Oh by the way now that Ghost has let the cat out of the bag by his reference to Robert's Friday lunch getaway, as he often see's him there..... I too have a Friday lunch getaway but I don't think I seen either of you there in a long time.

    Maybe one day indeed you could both introduce yourselves and buy each other a drink, just like the good old days of Ye Olde Rock eh Robert? Though being apart on many issues is a poor excuse not to do so Ghost.

    I remember one day as a child I told my dad that I was afraid of the dark and of the ghosts that could be lurking in there and and he said to me "No te debe dar miedo de los muertos pero si del daño que te pueden causar los que estan vivos!" So there you are Ghost your chance to reveal yourself to Robert, no creo que le vas a dar un susto de muerte lol.

  41. The last Eurobarometer survey showed that 78% of European citizens consider corruption to be a major problem in their country.

    Is corruption a threat to democracy?

    What do Gibraltarians think about corruption?

  42. Quill said....

    I agree with what you say Robert and that Gibraltar has always been governed by an indiviual (Hassan, Bossano, Caruana etc), except when we had a coalition government. I would further add that I believe that none of the above have ever seriously appointed advisors, simply because they have never in their minds believed they needed advisors or trusted anyone enough in the first place. In other words they may have chosen advisors for the rest to believe that they do listen to mere mortals, but in reality all they ever wanted was to hear themselves through the voices of others to re-assure their own egos. Don't get me wrong I'm not pointing the finger merely at those mentioned above, but to all serious politicians. They are the same animal with different clothing.

    However I have always had trust in the wisdom and maturity of the Gibraltar electorate and whenever an individual has overstepped their mark he has simply been ousted at the next election.

    At the end of the day what really makes Gibraltar tick is not the egoistic and power hungry politicians that may exist on the day, but the collectiveness of all those individuals outside politics that make our socirty. Those who trully believe in doing good for Gibraltar and our society in general, all those from all walks of life who quietly and constantly volunteer in sports, charities, the arts etc. The government merely steers us hopefully in the right direction and if they steer us the wrong way then we simply vote them out. So in that respect democracy does work in Gibraltar.

    The danger that I see is when the electrorate one day will not be able to find a good calibre alternative leader to steer us and in that respect they will rather have to devil that they know than the one they don't. Therefore as long as we have good quality individuals who wish to play politics, then democracy a lo Llanito will continue. It is only when the calibre which I spoke of earlier dries up and we will bw in trouble. But that is the same in any democracy, a poor leader = a poor country in many respects.

  43. Quill

    I see where you are coming from but the danger that you point out is inherent in the system, in my opinion.

    Is the choice for the electorate at the next election a great choice?

  44. Quill said....

    The danger is inherent in all democratic systems yet the choice for the electroate is a democratic choice nevertheless...but who ever said democracy was a perfect vehicle. At least we have a choice, it's the day we stop having a choice that worries me.

    Have a good night LW for today unfortunately we have not yet solved the world, let alone our little corner of it, just yet lol.

  45. Reading all these clever posts I recall the words of Carl Sagan: "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

  46. Ghost says:

    Robert who is this Quill? I thought I was the only character allowed on this blog with any inclination toward realism - it is wholly unacceptable that you simply allow someone to just jump in and steel my thunder - outrageous!..:)

    Quill you make some great points, thankfully I disagree with some points that you make (there is a place for me yet in this blog), not least your reference to weak Govt. I think we have always had the benefit of good leadership (Govt) and I include Hassan & Bossano on this score, they both defended our rights to the hilt and added huge value to progress in our society, as has done Caruana. As mentioned on many occasions now, it is our system of Govt that allows for strong leadership and our communities democratic instinct that will take it away when we deem it necessary as we did in 1996 and after that exercise of our democratic rights to protest collectively.

    Robert makes one point that I believe to be of notable interest and I quote "Is the choice for the electorate at the next election a great choice?" Absolutely not its abysmal, I've been saying it for too long now; but the point in my view relates more to the inability of the opposition to effect proper politics, to refresh their position, something they have failed to do on the past four elections. Caruana, arrogant as he may be has and continues to achieve progress whilst at the same time continues remain at the helm against our democratic instincts; I think he would even agree to that. Our problem here is good opposition, it is for them to chase, create ideas, policies, hold to account, regenerate. Nothing of the sort has been witnessed to date and so we are left in the quandary of whether to vote for change for the sake of change or remain with what to date has delivered a successful economy, no or little unemployment, growth in GDP in times when the world has been falling to pieces.

    We hear the GSLP make references to the airport as if it were a noose round our financial necks, they refer to anything that may seem positive such as the new buses (some years ago), or the growth of the port and the cruise liner industry as negative and unachievable at worst and hopeful at best, they continue to undermine the trilateral forum in order to nibble at any doubts that there may be in the community with respect to our rights within the forum, they did much the same during the referendum on the constitution which they took part in creating; the policy and intent being to divide with no real ambition. If you analyze what we are being told by the opposition, it would suggest that they do not believe that Gibraltar can aspire to anything at all and that any aspirations of growth and grandeur are impossible and unrealistic, not that there is enough comparable and historical example to suggest otherwise.

    In the words of the great FDR “only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

    The message we should be sending to both parties is that we are not afraid to aspire to greater things, not least because we have shown that we can overcome the tough prospects and are more than able to flourish. Our political parties should show that they too are able to flourish from within.


  47. Quill said...to Anonymous

    You were up bright and early.

    Sit and read, enjoy and absorb what opinion others may have, so that you too may be enlightened to participate in rich discussion, without fear of being laughed at. For if it is that fear that holds you back, then forever remain silent, for no one will ever know if you are a fool or genius, nor will they care?

    Oh! Don't bother looking up the quote, you won't find it....I've just made it up....lol

  48. Ghost

    I neither know who Quill is or who you are. One persons realism is another's fear. Realism is in the eye of the beholder. There is realism in every shade of politics from dictatorship to democracy. You make a self-serving and subjective argument by your very use of this description for the excuse for democracy that we have in Gibraltar.

    That all our leaders past and present have defended Gibraltar's rights against international assaults is not the issue. The issue is how to increase democratic rights as effect more local and mundane decisions that affect individuals so direct. A divorce between "national" and "local" issues.

    I am glad that you concede that I am capable of making one point of notable interest. I had hoped that what I wrote was the catalyst for so many readers and comments, which would show that I am capacitated to make rather more points of interest. :).

    You avoid answering my contention that it is in great part the system that has led to the leadership vacuum that persists and the lack of volunteers to participate in our democracy. This is the fundamental issue that needs resolution in order that a new political class evolves.

    I will let Quill reply in defence of himself but all are welcome and I trust that you will get more competition on this blog. Perhaps there is the making of a new party here?

  49. Ghost says:

    Robert your point on realism is noted and accepted - como el que dice, cada loco con su tema.

    My reference to the leaders was directed at Quill, not at you and I accept that it had no bearing on the topic of discussion, I was merely pointing out that in my opinion most leaders and Govts have been strong not weak, but accept that opposition parties are weak, particularly the current one which is dismally weak.

    We differ on reasons as to why there is such weakness, you attach this to a lack of proper accountability driven by democratic floors in our system. I on the other hand take the view that it is the nature of our system (similar to that of the U.K's) and I know that here we will lock horns, so I will not persist. I attribute weak opposition to just that, it is what it is, in our case a party with a leader who has lost four elections, and you say you want a new political class to evolve; it's not the system holding it back it's the party leader.

    A new party I hear you say; there's a thought..;) We could call ourselves the Anons! I fear that there is way to much to bridge in terms of our political views though.


  50. Zapatiesta: These discussions are becoming frightfully repetitive, dears. Deja vu and the film Groundhog Day come to mind. Some of the contributors sound awfully smarmy and it seems that the Blog master is a bit timid when it comes to addressing real issues. When are we going to get to the hard core??????????!!!!!!!!!

  51. Zapatiesta:

    What is it that you say is the hardcore? Please feel free to express your opinion, avoiding any libelous statements, please.

  52. Zapatiesta: your suggestion that I would stoop to libel is an insult to me and Iw ill never write to you again.

  53. Zapatiesta:

    You are free to do as you please but you misread my reply to you. No libel is a pre-requisite before anyone's comment is published. My reminder was only because of your reference to hardcore. In any event no one knows who you are so why take so much umbrage?

  54. Zapatiesta:
    Sir! you add insult to insult. You now imply that by hard core I meant that this blog should indulge in lewdness. Nothing could have been further from my intent which was to coax you out of your shell into the territory of hard core (meaning based in hard facts) debate. My point is that Gibraltar is going to the dogs and none of the issues are being aired!!!!!!

  55. Zapatiesta:

    You are now being plain silly ... go away!