On Friday the public learnt that Joe Bossano, the dominant force in politics, the left wing and in the GSLP, would be stepping down as leader of the GSLP. What is extraordinary is that there has been little or no analysis of the effect this will or may have on politics generally in Gibraltar. I imagine there will be over the next days. My opinion is that it will be a seismic event only if this event is a precursor to political change within the GSLP and not just a change of identity of the leader.
The change of identity of leadership will have some effect in itself, but I believe, also, that much needed more fundamental political change will follow if Fabian Picardo is elected as the leader of the GSLP. If such change does not follow, a unique opportunity for Gibraltar politics will have been missed. It is this challenge that will mark out Fabian as a leader. He will not have much time to implement this change in the GSLP before the next election. It is a change that he must achieve in order to consolidate the lead that the GSLP have in opinion polls and convert it into a win at the election.
The fact that Joe is bowing out as leader alone has its effect. One would hope, for example, that the GSD will now look to the future by participating in real politics rather than the negative politics of fear that they have wheeled out at every past election. The person that the GSD view as the pariah who allowed (and for some encouraged) the fast launch culture (but who in reality laid the economic foundations on which the GSD government has built Gibraltar's economy) is gone. Let that fear factor, whether you believe it or not, at last stop warping our democracy. Let rational analysis of policies take over from the destructive politics of personality. It is time for our politicians to allow the restricted form of democracy that exists in Gibraltar to work, as best it can, by resorting to proper political argument rather than appealing to the base emotion of fear in people.
Fabian Picardo will have much of the responsibility to ensure that this happens. He has to lay the ground upon which the GSLP will fight the next election. We know what the GSD will fight it on. It has told us in its recent party political broadcasts. The GSD has "given" us, rather than we have paid with our taxes, all the benefits and material assets that we enjoy. However, politics is not in what government's believe they have "given" us.
Politics is more in whether the decisions taken are good or bad decisions. Politics is not in how much tax has been recovered. Politics is in how and whether the right taxes are been levied, which incentivise economic activity, and on how these monies are spent. Politics is not in how an imperfect system is used by those temporarily in power to impose their will on voters. Politics is in how politicians develop and allow the electoral and parliamentary system to evolve and be improved for the benefit of the community.
If Fabian, as I believe and hope he will, takes the GSLP and so the election to political argument, the seismic change that has been presaged by Joe's departure as leader will be achieved. The electorate can and will be given a choice that will deliver real political and democratic change to Gibraltar. It will uncover the lack of ideological politics inherent in the GSD. It will discover the GSD for what it really is, an administration by one person and not a government. It will be indicative that administration will be returned to an accountable Civil Service that will administer Gibraltar under the Rule of Law. This is essential if real democracy is to be returned to Gibraltar. We will see if my hope is fulfilled over the next few months. Gibraltar needs such change.
Will the GSD rise to such a challenge by making changes? It needs to take a deep breath and seriously think about the changed scenario. If it were to do that and re-emphasise many past broken manifesto promises with guarantees that can be believed by the electorate, then it might redeem itself. It would also take politics to where I believe it should be. The improvement in Gibraltar would be palpable and vibrant were my hopes to become a reality. Unfortunately the history of politics in Gibraltar indicates that this will not happen ... oh well I will carry on trying anyway!