Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Basic Philosophy of CIR Explained

Over the next few weeks it is my intention to enlarge on the 14 Core Principles, explain them and reply to any criticism that may have been made.  I will do so by issuing regular press releases and in this blog.  

I do not expect much criticism from either the GSD or the GSLP initially. Each of these parties are so convinced of their respective right to govern Gibraltar that neither will engage with an upstart like me and/or the CIR.  They think that it gives credibility and raises us to the same heady heights that, in their respective delusion, they consider that they occupy. This delusional state comes about because they consider that they have attained that special status of having been elected to our Parliament. The arrogance of adopting this position is demonstrable. It ignores one basic element of democracy. They are there because voters have elected them but ignore that the electorate may reject them in future. Treating putative candidates in this fashion is an insult to democracy and so to each and every voter who has to decide who to vote for. 

CIR’s central principle is that it seeks that truth justice and democracy should always prevail. This principle has led to the circulation by email of a wonderful cartoon of me dressed as superman and surrounded by all the super heros, which I enjoyed no end. That cartoon illustrates beautifully the high hopes that I have. Without high hopes, there is no chance of any improvement. Aiming high will always deliver results even if the results fall short of the objective.

The core principles that I have published represent an accord that each CIR candidate will enter into with the voters of Gibraltar. The accord is to give Gibraltar greater democracy, social justice and in which the truth must always prevail. The first casualty in Gibraltar’s existing political system, when politicians are in government or in the opposition, is the truth. 

The CIR is an alliance of independents, free of the constraints that come about and are imposed on politicians by the self-serving existing bipartisan party political system.  This system that forces the good people of Gibraltar, election after election every four years, to choose between the better of two evils, rather than to elect the best candidates from amongst ALL the individual candidates that put themselves forward for election whether within or outside a political party. The best candidates will deliver the strongest government.

Each CIR candidate, a human being that each is, will be aware that each may have or has made mistakes in their respective private and professional lives. No doubt the “dirty tricks departments” of the dominant political parties will seize upon these. They will do so to discredit the CIR’s attempt to profoundly reform the present reigning political system that leads to a choice of the better of two evils.

Gibraltar has been held for generations in the stranglehold that is enjoyed by elected politicians, which produces a choice of the worst of two evils. Gibraltar cannot afford a continuation of this spiral or at least should not put up with it any longer. The rot that many of us complain of so frequently has to be stopped. The CIR intends to provide to voters an alternative choice of individuals to break a political system that forces voters constantly to choose between the lesser of evils.

The CIR will not campaign for a block vote, nor will it deter voters from voting for their preferred candidates from all the other main parties.  The CIR will campaign for voters to break the block vote so that each will truly use her/his 10 votes.  The objective is that the 17 elected individuals, who voter will have chosen as being the best of the candidature at the election, are forced to choose, from amongst themselves, who will provide the excellent government that Gibraltar deserves. Thus, by its very philosophy, CIR has already adopted, within its fold, the best and most capable candidates of each party.

There has been criticism, which is the mainstay of existing parties, that not voting for a party will not deliver strong government.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The present system delivers government by ONE strong person, the leader of a party.  The leader invariably dominates the weaker elected candidates and undermines the ability of that party's stronger elected candidates from influencing the course that the one strong leader wishes to steer.  Breaking the block vote system elects the more capable and stronger candidates.  This will force leaders to seek consensus from amongst these.  The consensus government that results will always be stronger as a unity and take better and more informed decisions than one individual, however intelligent and capable that person is.

CIR candidates will adhere to CIR's core principles.  Each candidate will retain full freedom, outside the core principles, to campaign for their own preferred policies, including campaigning for minorities in our society.  They will have no obligation to become Ministers and will have a free vote in Parliament.  This is one important factor that detracts from CIR being a party.

Vote for people and not parties it is people and not parties that deliver good government.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Proposed 14 Core Principles of the Coalition of Independents for Reform

The Coalition of Independents for Reform enters into the following accord with the electorate:


1.    It will remain an alliance of independent candidates and does not aspire to become a political party. 

2.    It will permit candidates to champion their own policies subject to these not being in conflict with the core principles.

3.    It does not support block voting, advocating instead that voters should vote for their preferred candidates from any party, based on individual attributes rather than on party membership.

4.    It will seek that truth, justice and democracy prevails.

Constitution, International Status and Spain

5.    It will not be distracted from concentrating on local issues by pursuing constitutional advances or a change to Gibraltar’s international status. The reason is that it respects the results of the 2006 Constitutional referendum, despite it being misrepresented as being an exercise in self-determination; consequently, it accepts that the UK is unlikely to countenance any change for at least two generations. 

6.    It will pursue good neighbourly relations with Spain without compromising on sovereignty fundamentals.

Governmental Reforms

7.    It will champion democratic reform by increasing the number of MPs to 25 by the creation of 8 districts each of which will elect an MP.  These 8 can only be backbenchers representing constituents and not be appointed as Ministers.  In addition to these 8 there will continue to be 17 MPs, elected as at present by all voters in Gibraltar.  These 17 will be elected, by a reformed electoral system, on the basis of either proportional representation or an alternative vote system, as may be chosen, following advice sought from the Electoral Reform Society.  Only the latter 17 will be eligible to be appointed as Ministers,

8.    It will promote the passing of a Freedom of Information Act and  reforms to Parliament with a view to improving democracy and increasing accountability.  In this regard:

a.      It will seek a requirement for more frequent meetings;
b.      It will seek to have more frequent questioning of Ministers on specific days;
c.      It believes in the establishment of a Permanent Parliamentary Committee to hold the executive arm of government and the public administration to account;
d.     It will seek further systemic changes to increase the accountability and transparency of government;
e.      It will promote the installation of remote control cameras in Parliament to permit broadcasting on the Internet and/or GBC.

Empowerment of Public Administration

9.    It believes in empowering civil and public servants, including authorities, commissions and quangos, freeing them from centralised political control but ensuring their accountability consequent on being so empowered.


10. It advocates the creation of an independent Anti-Corruption Authority.  This authority will receive confidential reports about bribery and corruption.  It will have power to investigate these complaints.  It will be empowered also to investigate any other matters touching upon bribery and corruption of its own volition.

Civil Rights

11. It will promote fundamental rights and greater accessibility to enforcement of these rights by promoting the appointment of a Commissioner of Fundamental Rights.  The Commissioner will investigate any complaints of breaches of these rights.  If the Government refuses to comply with the opinion of the Commissioner, the Commissioner will issue and prosecute, at the expense and cost of the Government, a case before the Supreme Court as permitted by the 2006 Constitution.


12. It believes that to encourage revenue it does not need to reinvent the wheel.  It will continue with the generation’s old policies of promoting Gibraltar as a port, a tourist and shopping centre and a jurisdiction for financial services and gaming.  It will prioritise expenditure on

a.      Social services and the disadvantaged, including the mentally ill, reforming the system to make it more individualised and focused;
b.      Encourage and promote savings and efficiency throughout the public administration;
c.      Improve on the selection of government contractors and service providers;
d.     Reduce capital projects that unnecessarily increase recurring annual expenditure;
e.      Trim existing expenditure wherever possible.

Public Debt and Liabilities

13. It believes in reducing the public debt thus mitigating the possibility of a default.  This action will avoid adverse consequences to the economy, finance centre, and not put at risk British sovereignty.

14.  It will urge the engagement of experts to undertake an in depth study of the future long-term and contingent liabilities of Gibraltar to assess affordability and to provide advice on remedial action.

If you want to help in any way please email:

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Coalition of Independents for Reform, not a Party, What is it and Why?

One person already commented, on that forum of political intellect and knowledge, known as "Talk about Town", that if a group of 10 people joined together to stand for election it looked and felt like a party, so it must be a party. On such a superficial analysis that may be the case but a political party has more attributes than just being a group of disparate people getting together to stand for election. A party has ideologies that are shared (or should be shared) by its members. It has a rigid structure. It has rigid and established policies that, if elected, it gives (or should give) effect to. It has longevity or at least should have longevity.

The  intention is that those who might come together to make up the Coalition of Independents for Reform ("CIR") will adhere to some core principles but retain full freedom, outside those principles, to campaign for their own policies (like Richard Martinez fought for family rights at the last election).  They will have no obligation to become Ministers and will have a free vote in Parliament.  I would like to see individuals coming forward who would want to fight the corner of , for example,  mental health, the gay community, the anti-bullying at work campaign and other minorities in our society.

I can already hear the gasps of disbelief, how can people fighting for minorities believe that they can get elected?  Well, two reasons immediately come to mind, a belief that the majority have a conscience and will support worthy minority causes and the attraction that the core principles will have.  These core principles will be revealed shortly.  They encompass, the fight against bribery and corruption, dealing with the public debt,  electoral and parliamentary reform, accessibility to fundamental rights and ensuring that the thorny issues of the relationship with the UK, Spain and constitutional matters, for so many years used by politicians to distract attention and so retain power, do not interfere with the ability to achieve the other aims.

The CIR, therefore, will be an alliance of independents free of the constraints that come about and are imposed on politicians by the self-serving existing bipartisan party political system.  Gibraltar has been held for generations in the stranglehold that is enjoyed by elected politicians , which produces a choice of the worst of two evils.  Gibraltar cannot afford this any longer.   The rot that many of us complain of so frequently has to be stopped some day.  The CIR, if candidates come forward, will provide to voters an alternative choice of individuals to break a political system that forces voters constantly to choose between the lesser of evils.

The CIR will not campaign for a block vote, nor will it deter voters from voting for their preferred candidates from all the other main parties.  The CIR will campaign for voters to break the block vote so that each will truly use his/her 10 votes so that the result is that the 17 individuals, who they perceive to be the best, are forced to choose from amongst themselves who will provide the excellent government that Gibraltar deserves.  Idealistic?  Yes and unapologetically so.  Difficult? Yes, but nothing that is good is not difficult.  Is it likely to succeed?  The odds are stacked against this experiment succeeding but this is not a reason not to try.  Even if the experiment does not succeed fully, I believe that just undertaking the campaign at an election will force the main parties to think and make some change for the better.

It may be that in the end only one (me) will stand as an Independent or a few candidates will come forward but there is a huge advantage if 10 could be found.  The media rules, as they now stand, are biased against Independent candidates.  A party presenting 10 candidates gets 10 individual slots on GBC and in the press to preach its policies. Each party, based on this media bias, can sell their policies over and over again to the disadvantage of an individual Independent candidate.  In addition, the party leader gets to participate in the Leaders' Debate on GBC from which all others, not having 10 candidates at the election, are excluded by GBC.  Remember the controversy when the PDP were exclude at the last election.  This ignores the reality that the election is not structured around parties.  The system is a vote for individual candidates.  Parties also have greater numbers to assist in the electoral campaign, including making house to house calls.

An independent gets one shot at it and may possibly be invited to one or two discussion programmes at which he gets a chance to attract more votes.  All this is in addition to the inbuilt skew in the system caused by  years of people being told to block vote for the 10 candidates to ensure that the "evil" alternative party does not get elected.  If CIR can find 10 candidates these disadvantages can be overcome.  It will be able to take advantage of the system in place to convince voters of the wisdom of the core principles of the CIR and the individual campaigns of each candidate.  In this manner the chances of breaking the block vote will be enhanced.  Just getting 2 or 3 CIR candidates elected and preventing the main parties from ending up with a majority of 10 or 9 will provide results.  

Come along to the Conservatory at the rear of the Royal Calpe on Wednesday 23rd February 2011 at 7 p.m.  You will hear a little more.  I promise not to take up too much of your drinking time.  It is a reunion after all and drink will oil the wheels of enjoyment.  CIR believes in enjoyment being brought back into politics in Gibraltar.  Anyone interested in participating in the experiment in any way, not necessarily as a candidate, can contact me on giving me your contact details.  If you just want to provide ideas but wish to remain anonymous just say so. 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Should the Government Rule without Parliamentary Authority?

The system of government that has been bestowed on Gibraltar is a UK parliamentary system in which the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty is embedded, save that our Parliament does not have the supreme sovereignty such as empowers it to change the 2006 Constitution.  In this piece I will explore briefly what this principle encompasses.  I question whether it is actually followed and adhered to in Gibraltar.  I suggest that its breach proves the case for the need of electoral and parliamentary reform.

The importance of this principle is that Parliamentary Sovereignty is a core and fundamental foundation of a parliamentary system of government.  It is an important basis of democracy; without Parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law democratic accountability and transparency is seriously damaged. The sovereignty of Parliament is paramount.  Parliament legislates.    The legislature is Her Majesty and the Gibraltar Parliament (section 24, 2006 Constitution).

The executive arm of government in Gibraltar is Her Majesty but is " ... exercised by the Government of Gibraltar, either directly or through public officers as prescribed by this Constitution or by any other law" (section 44, 2006 Constitution).  The Government of Gibraltar is constituted by Her Majesty, as represented by the Governor, and the Chief Minister acting within the Council of Minister (section 44, 2006 Constitution).

Legislation is what authorises the doing of acts by the executive arm of government.  This is part of what is encompassed by the phrase the rule of law, a second fundamental principle that comes with the parliamentary system .  The rule of law includes many principles.  One is that everyone is equal before the law and, importantly, no one is above the law, which includes the principle that even the executive arm of government is not above the law.

The importance of the rule of law is that it is Parliament that authorises, oversees and supervises the acts of the executive.  The executive and public officers should not act without the authority of an Act of Parliament, especially as Gibraltar is a subsidiary government with no prerogative powers.  In this way the Opposition (in the absence of any back bench Members of Parliament) can hold the Government of Gibraltar to account.  This is a crucial ingredient of open, transparent and accountable government.

Does this happen in practice?  I would question that there is a rigid adherence to the principle of the rule of law by successive Governments of Gibraltar.  There are examples through the years that this has not been the case.  To pick an example that transcends all governments, present and past, where is the Act of Parliament that authorises the Government of Gibraltar to construct government housing?

When I have asked this question of past and present parliamentarians, they point me to the successive Appropriation Acts.  These, however, authorise the expenditure not the substantive acts.  I would question the application of those moneys on expenditure that is not authorised by substantive legislation.  This in turn raises the question of whether those who do apply these monies cannot be surcharged under the Public Finance (Control and Audit) Act.  Surcharging means making them personally liable for the payments made.  The rule of law and surcharging are an important control on the Government and public officers and safeguards against anti-democratic and arbitrary action by any Government of Gibraltar or public officers.

The culmination of the argument that I have had with past and present parliamentarians is that in practice what I am highlighting is a theoretical and academic issue.  The reason they give is that, even were I to be right, the problem can be resolved by any incumbent Government of Gibraltar by it passing retrospective legislation, after all governments have an inbuilt majority in Parliament, made up of exactly all the persons who are Ministers and so are the executive.

That there is a systemic capacity in Gibraltar that permits the unchallengeable use by the executive of the legislative process to pass retrospective legislation is precisely one of the most significant abuses of the Parliamentary system and of Parliamentary Sovereignty.  It is a practice that is widely frowned upon in other parliamentary democracies.  It is anti-democratic.  It is exactly this abusive ability that makes the case for the need of checks and balances, starting with ensuring that there are backbenchers in Parliament.  This will only happen with electoral and parliamentary reforms.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The "Andlaw" Incident and Today's GBC Statement

There has been much controversy over the statement made on "Talk about Town" by Louis Andlaw to the effect that the women's place is in the home and pregnant.  It is correct that Louis should be accorded his full  right to freedom of expression.  It is all the case that all those who have criticised this statement also enjoy that right to freedom of expression and so to criticise him in the strongest terms.  It is not correct to say, therefore, that he is being "victimised", as suggested by Mr Solomon Seruya in his letter published in the Chronic today.   If someone makes a comment that is highly offensive to many women and men he must be prepared to weather the storm that such a comment unleashes.

The Gibraltar Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex.  A statement of the type made by Louis may not be a breach of this prohibition, because it is not an act but an expression of opinion, but, certainly, if anyone acted against a woman, in employment or any other aspect of life, on the principle contained in this statement, it would certainly be a breach.  This comment is harmful and offensive to the vast majority of women (Odette excepted, although she did express disagreement with the view) and to a large number of men (Richard and David excepted also).  In these circumstances should GBC have permitted it to be broadcast?

GBC may be forgiven for the first incident, when it was first broadcast on "Talk about Town".  This is a live programme.  It is difficult to prevent, in these circumstance, such impromptu statements being broadcast. The statement made by Mr King today in that context would provide an explanation and would distance GBC from the statement.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  Two whole weeks after the first broadcast, already faced with mounting criticism, GBC positively permitted Louis to restate and reaffirm his belief in the sentiments expressed and, to add more damage to an already appalling incident, allowed Richard, David and Odette to defend Louis.

Mr King now says that Louis' statement do not reflect the views of GBC.  I believe a bland statement to this effect is not enough.  GBC allowed a reaffirmation of the statement.  Implicit in this permissive and conscious act is that, some may well form the view that, perhaps, it does reflect the view of GBC or of some at GBC.  Therefore, and under the principle of fairness espoused by the BBC, the right of reply should be given on "Talk about Town" to a representative of those who have so strongly objected and expressed contrary views.  It is not enough, surely, to have allowed someone to phone in.  It is not enough, surely, for Mr King to say that those who do not share Louis' views " ... are just as free to express contrary views ... on such GBC programme as they might be appearing on", without offering them the opportunity to do so.

The fact that "Talk about Town" is one of GBC's most popular programmes is irrelevant , as is the fact that Louis may be the catalyst that makes it popular.  This is especially so as, other than for the News, "Viewpoint" and one religious programme, GBC does not transmit any other scheduled programmes that it produces.  Harmful and offensive statements will always have some supporters.  The balance on this one is clearly against the transmission of the second programme containing Louis' reaffirmation and defence.  It was not a measured, polite debate, which GBC might wish to host, which would be perfectly acceptable, to argue the merits or demerits of what women might do or not do in today's society.  It was a rude, harmful and offensive statement spoken rudely and offensively, what if its content had been racist or critical of sexual orientation?

It is not just the content of the statement but the manner and fervour in which it was made that has caused so much harm and offence.  A public service broadcaster needs to take care not to cause gratuitous harm or offence.  Behaviour on "Talk about Town" needs to be moderated.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

How Exposed is Gibraltar to Economic Pressures?

Put simply, this piece examines some possible effects on Gibraltar's finance centre and political status, were the government of Gibraltar to face liquidity and deficit related problems in its public finances such as would require the UK (or another jurisdiction) to come to our aid.   Gibraltar becoming economically vulnerable has far greater, wider and more detrimental consequences to it than would result to other jurisdictions.  Some of these consequences are frightening.

Recent events in Ireland are indicative of a risk that has come to the fore.  A risk that is unique to jurisdictions that are economically reliant on fiscal, legislative and regulatory leverage to attract economic activity to their shores.  This activity, in turn, provide and  shore up government revenues.  Gibraltar is in this position.  Events in the Turks and Caicos Islands, recently reported in the Chronic have brought these closer to home.  These islands are more comparable to Gibraltar, both being United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs),  than Ireland, which is a fully independent country.

Ireland has been hard hit by the banking crisis, public finance deficits, liquidity crisis and the recession.  Hit so hard that it had to resort to the European Central Bank (ECB) for massive amounts of financial assistance.  Assistance of this type comes with many strings attached.  Strings that are, on the whole, economic, for example, cutting deficits and imposing huge austerity measures to redress the financial situation.

These economic terms that are imposed, in themselves, have internal political consequences.  For example, in Ireland it has led to civil unrest, the resignation of the government and a general election.  What is of more concern is that these situations open up the possibility that external forces can use the circumstances to impose  political conditions on the economically weakened country, on the basis of the application of the age old principle that beggars cannot be choosers.  In the case of Ireland much was made of Ireland being bailed out by money provided by countries (primarily Germany) who suffered economic consequences resultant on the competitive fiscal policies followed by Ireland.

Part of this argument went, Ireland has low taxes in order to attract business away from us, who have higher taxes, yet our tax payers' money is being used to bail out that economy.  In turn Ireland had loose regulatory practices that contributed to the onset of the banking crisis.  To boot its attractive fiscal environment stole, based on unfair fiscal competition,  deposits from our own banking industry which also had an adverse effect on our economy and consequently tax revenues.  Time will tell whether, either by reason of unpublicised political terms and conditions imposed on Ireland or because of the pressures of having to meet the economic obligations imposed on the loans, Ireland will be forced to become less fiscally competitive and fall more in line with mainstream EU countries.

The increased vulnerability of UKOTs to political pressures and criticisms , which unlike Ireland are not independent countries, can be seen from recent events in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  The government there has not fallen simply because the UK imposed direct rule due to the rifeness of corruption undermining good governance.  In addition. however, the UK has recently had to assist the Turks and Caicos Islands with a £160,000,000 package (see the Chronic, Friday,11th February 2010) to assist it to pay salaries of public servants, including doctors, nurses, teachers, police etc.

As the Chronic put it, "The decision to provide support for a country that levies no income tax or capital gains tax, particularly during a period of severe austerity in Britain, has bought criticism ... the loan was dependent on evidence that the country was taking steps to reduce its deficit.  The [UK] Government has sent in Caroline Gardner as the new Chief Financial Officer.  She has the task of eliminating the deficit by 2013.  She can impose tough austerity measures and has power to strip the islands of their tax-haven status".   In the Chronic report there then appear quotes from several persons highlighting the incongruity and unacceptability of the UK providing this type of aid to a tax-haven that lives to take away UK revenues and that loans should be conditioned on these practices ceasing.

The Chief Minister has assured Gibraltar that our overall borrowings are highly manageable and that Gibraltar runs, not a deficit but a current account surplus.  I do not know whether this is the actual cash position or is based on receivables.  If the latter, the cash position may differ, which would be a concern.  I am also not clear whether these figures cover all contingencies or budgets for future increased recurrent  expenditure that will be inevitable from government capital projects like the new Air Terminal.  What seems clear is that Gibraltar has much lower, if any, reserves for contingencies than before.  What is also a fact is that a new Power Station has to be built and paid for.

Joe Bossano of the GSLP opposition has expressed reservations and concerns on the financial front, about the public debt levels and about future contingent financial obligations that have bee increased by the GSD Government.  Let us hope he is not right in his analysis.  If he is, and the financial strength of Gibraltar is compromised,  the consequences for Gibraltar could be more serious than for the Turks & Caicos islands.  Gibraltar cannot go forward believing in that it is immune from the world economic downturn.  Aside from undermining our finance centre, they do not have a neighbouring country  that seeks sovereignty.  Would they consider filling any financial breach, were the UK to refuse, and if so what would be the political consequences for Gibraltar?  That scenario does not bear thinking about.   

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Corruption and Bribery

For decades now Gibraltar has been plagued by rumours that corruption and bribery is rife in public life.  The reality is that no one has been prosecuted, let alone convicted of any crime in any way connected with this type of behaviour (that I recall anyway).  Rumours of this type are destructive and give Gibraltar a negative  image.  They give Gibraltar generally and public life in Gibraltar, specifically, a bad name.  That being the case it has always struck me as odd that politicians and governments over the years have not wanted to do anything to dispel these negative and destructive rumours.

The problem/issue of corruption was recognised in Hong Kong as long ago as 1974.  On the 15th February of that year the then Governor of Hong Kong, Murray MacLehose, established the Independent Commission against Corruption.  Admittedly the situation that reigned in Hong Kong at that time was very different in that corruption was rife and it was known to be rife.  This is not the case in Gibraltar.

The situation in Gibraltar is different.  The situation here is that we are plagued with rumours "de buena tinta".  The reality is that there is no proof of any wrongdoing.  It is all borne of a culture of "wink wink nudge nudge" we all know what is happening but lets not rock the boat.  However, this is by far the best reason why Gibraltar should have a similar Commission to establish once and for all that these rumours have no foundation.

Undoubtedly there are already common law and statutory offences covering crimes of both bribery and corruption.  The responsibility of investigating such offences falls on the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP).  The reality is that the RGP are already overly burdened with all types of other more in ones face crimes.  Corruption and bribery require a more specialist type of investigation, a more focussed look.   It would also be wise to revise existing laws and ensure that they are brought up to date and meet international standards.  This is presently happening in the UK.

It would be ideal to have a commission of the type established in Hong Kong which would need to be  fully staffed and have full investigative powers.   It would receive and investigate confidential complaints.  It would be entitled to investigate of its own motion.  Over a period of time it would establish definitively that no corruption existed in Gibraltar.  Alternatively it may find that the rumours are not unfounded, as I believe them to be.   In the latter eventuality the transgressors would need to be delat with appropriately and prosecuted.

In short it would be a win win for all.  Greater faith in public servants and ministers would be instilled as the destructive effects of rumours are dispelled.  If any transgressor are found, faith would be restored in the establishment by cutting out any such despicable behaviour.  I can see no downside for government, public servants or the public in general arising from the establishment of such an independent anti corruption commission.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Limits on Democracy?

The excuses are coming in fast and furious from GSD supporters, obviously, to explain away damaging statements made by the GSD representaive on the GBC program "Viewpoint" transmitted on Thursday and repeated on Saturday.  He said, "We should not give too much power to the people because if we do, the Government cannot then make crucial decisions" and "we can't have a system that has so many checks and balances, so many freedoms within society, that it doesn't allow government to make decisions, crucial decisions, because you're actually giving too much power to the people, so to speak".  He also said "It is highly unlikely that we are going to have intelligent cross-party debate".  Conjoined these statements indicate a disdain for voters and a disdain for the views of others on pure party political grounds, also a disregard for the need adequate representation in Parliament.

Whatever the excuses what was said remains said.  Also, the statements have to be interpreted in context of the recent history surrounding the GSD administration:

  • Is it delivering the open, transparent and accountable government that it promised? Is it delivering collective responsibility, as it promised?  
  • Has it decentralised government so that all is not stopped on the Chief Minister's desk, as promised?  
  • Have they met basic manifesto commitments, like everything will go to tender and Parliament will be reformed, as promises?  
  • Are they protecting minorities, as promised i.e. gay persons?  
  • Have they got rid of the culture of fear that they said existed under the GSLP administration, as promised?   

The list goes on but you get my drift, each of you will have her/his own view.

The point is that what the GSD representative said, in my view, mirrors exactly the manner in which the GSD administration has ended up behaving.  It never happens at the start of any new administration.  It evolves over time. It happened to the GSLP administration toward the end of its second term.  It is this effect that the present system has on politicians that I so despise.   It is a systemic failure that, in turn feeds each character trait and each ego of each politician.

A systemic failing can only be corrected by a change in the system.  It is this that I am campaigning for.  I do not intend to stop until it is achieved.  I believe fervently that a change in the electoral system and some reforms of Parliament will deliver to Gibraltar perfectly strong but much improved government, with greater democracy.  It will go a long way, also, to curing the fear and repression, real or imaginary, that so many people in Gibraltar feel.  Democratically elected representatives, Members of Parliament, owe to the electorate a duty to take steps to dispel the causes of such fears.  The existence of a lack of fear of reprisals underscores all the Fundamental Freedoms contained in Part 1 of the 2006 Constitution, without that these freedoms are mere statements of principle with no significant substance or value.

I agree with Dominique Searle who said, on that program, elections are not the be all and end all of democracy.  Elections are only beginning, the method to choose a government.  Democracy has many more ingredients.  Tomes have been written about what makes up democracy.  It is pointless to write about this subject in depth here but as Vernon Bogdanor said (The People & the Party System Cambridge University Press):

"For electoral systems must be judged by a number of different criteria, and these are unlikely to prove totally compatible with each other.  High priority amongst conflicting criteria would generally be given to such considerations as the extent to which a particular system promoted stable and efficient government, fairness of representation, a wide choice of representatives, and contact between the electorate and its chosen representatives. But there will be disagreement on the relative priorities to be attached to each of these aims. Frequently a balance will have to be struck between them.  Fair representation is a valuable aspiration, but not perhaps at the expense of encouraging the growth of too many splinter groups which would weaken the effectiveness of government.  On the other hand, it would be foolish to pursue the aim of strong government so single-minded as to prevent the natural diversity of opinion amongst the electorate from being reflected in the composition of the legislature."

Both the GSD and the GSLP/liberals have admitted that the balance is not right in Gibraltar.  Both of them in their respective Manifestos for the 2007 Elections.  The former by saying that they would undertake reforms of Parliament (also importanatly in the 1996 they campaigned heaily on the need to introduce checks and balances), the later by saying that they would empower people.  I believe that enough people express this view so frequently, that it is also right to rely on this anecdotal evidence to express the view that voters do not believe that the right balance has been struck.  The balance is heavily skewed at present towards autocratic and unrepresentative government.  In fairness, for the last 16 years the GSLP have not had an opportunity to make any changes, only the GSD has ... so come on get on with it and enact the required reforms.

Friday, 4 February 2011

After GBC's Viewpoint, What?

Well we move on.  The day after the day before when, hopefully, following Viewpoint last night, the comfort felt by some will have been shaken at least a little bit.  What to write about?  Well I will develop a subject that I touched on last night.

Democratic politics is about real live issues.  It is about finite resources being applied evenly and for the benefit of our society as a whole.  It is about minorities having their rights protected.  It is about the more needy in every field being looked after, without the creation of a nanny state that looks after those who should look after themselves.  It is about a lot more than that but one thing that it is certainly about is the delivery of manifesto promises.  It is also about the future.  Let politicians stop dwelling on the past and fighting elections on what happened 16 years ago.  We all know it was bad, no, appalling.  The perpetrators have been punished, let us look forward now.

The past has a bearing but not to the exclusion of progress.  Those involved in politics cannot continuously dwell on the past; especially if the primary reason for doing so is to perpetuate their own selfish sojourn in politics and their own well paid positions.  I would be ashamed if I was being paid what our elected politicans are being paid doing what many do.  The majority do very little to earn it.   Their primary task seems to be not to get on the wrong side of their party leader  so as  not to be out of favour, which may result in them being excluded at the next election.  If she/he can stay on the slate by hanging onto the coat tails of his leader the "party" will continue. 

I sit and write pieces for free, about which I do not complain (in fact it keeps me happy!), and  achieve much much more than some of our politicians, shame on you.  You should be embarrassed.  You know who you are, give up, show some respect for yourselves and for those who elect you.  Alternatively wake up and do what you were elected to do: make a diffrerence provide people with the change that they yearn for:  make Gibraltar more democratic. 

The GSD Government promised this.  It has not delivered on this promise.  All GSD Ministers and MPs should be screaming to achieve this before the next election.  It is not a cross-party issue, as suggested by Louis Montegriffo, representing the GSD last night on Viewpoint.  It is a GSD manifesto promise that so far is broken.    Each MP owes it to the electorate to use their ability to achieve for the electorate what they promised.  What is it that always happens that, in the end, promised reforms to improve democracy is not what the electorate gets?  It cannot be the fault of anyone other than the elected members on the government benches.

I am not impressed by boastings of economic success by any government.  Gibraltar is successful because it is entrepreneurial by nature.  A government provides the stability and basis for the success of the private sector but, as I have argued in earler pieces, there is little else it can do on this side of the equation.  I have acknowledged, in the past and do so again, this has been well done by the GSD.  Gibraltar's economy is not rocket science, we have legislative leverage, fiscal leverage and regulatory leverage.  The money then comes in or does not.  Fortunately it has been coming in, people and businesses earn and taxes are paid.  The government then has its revenues. 

The next but prime responsibility of any government is to spend it well.  It is in this area that there is room for politics.  It is in this field that political parties can and will be judged.  Those who have been in government, by having what priorities they have had and how well they have met these and how much and well the money has been spent questioned.  Those who seek government, by how they promise in their manifesto to spend and use this money in the future.  Always remembering that it is not their money.  This money belongs to the peiople whom they represent.  It is received from payment of direct and indirect taxes.  Any government at any time is merely the custodian of that money.  They have to account for it to the electorate at all times, especially at elections.  Let us judge this isue at the next election as well.