Well you heard it last night, the Chief Minister's annual "State of the Nation Speech". "State of the Nation Speech" and not "New Year Message" because it really was not a message for the festive season. It was an unapologetically party political and electioneering speech. I do not believe that such an opportunity is given to the Prime Minister of the UK. It seems unprecedented that a Chief Minister should be given, on such an occasion, an unchallenged right to make such an overtly party political statement on a public service broadcaster, which is what GBC is.
A festive message should be permitted, perhaps, even then I believe that such a message is more appropriate from a non-political source. In Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Her Majesty the Queen, at a local level, H.E. the Governor, who did it admirably in his Christmas Message. It was very heartening to hear the plea for people to put forward names for more State and local honours. The rather low number of awards has been a matter of comment amongst people in Gibraltar for some time.
What was astounding in the CM's speech was his personalised and vitriolic attack on the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition itself. Such attacks should have no place in politics at all and even less so in a "New Year Message". Describing the Opposition as having an "... instinct to lie and deceive ..." on a matter in which a value judgment is called for is really unacceptable behaviour by anyone let alone a Chief Minister, especially in what is styled a "New Year Message". As the Chief Minister himself has said much of what he is doing is about having a vision for the future so only time will tell. Perhaps his vision is not as 20/20 as he so stridently asserts.
Undoubtedly much good has been achieved by the GSD Government throughout its terms of office and also in 2010. It is for each political party to analyse each item of expenditure and decide whether it is or is not as beneficial as the CM says that it is. The reality is that spending money where there is money is easy. The politics is about what priorities are set. Has the GSD got it right? Is there a need to prioritise matters that have stayed behind, power stations, mental health homes and more expenditure on social services? Each person can judge for himself.
The reality is that for Gibraltar to succeed economically, it has one valuable natural resource. I call it leverage, fiscal leverage, jurisprudential leverage and regulatory leverage are examples. Fiscal leverage is the ability to have a direct and indirect tax system that makes Gibraltar an attractive jurisdiction. Jurisprudential leverage is ensuring appropriate laws to make Gibraltar an attractive jurisdiction. Regulatory leverage is not having a less strict regulatory regime in all areas (including gaming) but having a fast, efficient and easily accessible system. All these are always capable of improvement. On the whole, the GSD government has got it right.
Get the leverage right and Gibraltar's economy will prosper. Thereafter it is all about the manner in which the custodian of public (our) money, our elected government, spends it and what it prioritises. Without much room to manouvre on how revenue is produced in Gibraltar, political parties should perhaps concentrate on explaining, in their manifestos, how they will spend the money generated. It is in this area that there can be clear blue water between the policies of each party. The opposition parties might well want to consider this aspect of politics, if they are to seriously challenge the GSD at the forthcoming elections. A party with expenditure based on a greater social conscience might prosper at the ballot box.
All in all and thankfully, Gibraltar moves forward but the vitriolic confrontational style of politics that has developed is destructive, even as seen in comments made in this blog as a reaction to the CM's "message". We need to get over it. The only way to do so is for there to be electoral reforms that will encourage more people into politics. The party political system that has now evolved into the policy of personality cult has to be reformed. A system that encourages individualism will improve even the party system that exists today because it is not a party system built on political ideology. It is one that encourages gangs of individuals behind a gang leader. Parties, in an electoral system that encourages individualism, will mainly prosper if they are based more on political ideology rather than ambition.