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Thursday, July 31, 2008


The Labour Government is in deep trouble, its summer, Parliament is on holiday so the conspiracy theorists have come out to play.

Will Brown go or stay? Will Jack Straw succeed him as an interim measure? What of David Miliband? Enough there alone to keep us going till the autumn.

Memories are long in Gibraltar and the prospect of Jack Straw taking over, even as an interim measure, is causing concern.

My eye recently fell on an article in the Gibraltar daily ‘Panorama’. I suspect it was penned by the paper’s respected editor, Joe García.

He wrote: “As a senior Labour minister, Straw is seen as the most likely person to be pushed into a leadership stake.

“If he were to take the plunge and succeed, Britain would have a prime Minister who wants Gibraltar’s sovereignty to be shared with Spain. When he visited Gibraltar at the time of the 2002 sovereignty plan, he was jeered in the streets. Later, it emerged he was leading what the Tories labelled a sell-out.“Straw spent a year in secret conclave with the Spanish working out the joint sovereignty deal.

“The then Europe minister Peter Hain was close to clinching the deal, but at the last moment the Spanish pulled back on instructions from Prime Minister José María Aznar, who was to sack his foreign minister Josep Pique.“We have made significant progress towards a solution, Straw told Parliament in July 2002. He was foreign secretary at the time.

“The planned joint declaration would have been a comprehensive package to include a new draft treaty which would be ratified after a referendum in Gibraltar.“But Britain had its ‘red lines’ that needed to be upheld by Spain, including the referendum and particularly that joint sovereignty would not extend to the military base.

“There were cries of ‘sell out’ when Straw referred in Parliament to the deal including that Britain and Spain would share sovereignty over Gibraltar, including the disputed territory of the isthmus.”

Well the world has moved on since then and much that was offered as a carrot to Gibraltar to share sovereignty has been gained under the Córdoba Agreement and Tripartite talks between Spain, Britain and the Rock.

With a relatively short period between now and the next British election, the prime minister, be it Brown or another, has enough to concentrate his (or her) mind without offering joint sovereignty on Gibraltar. Also was Straw pursuing his own policy or merely doing what he was told by Blair? I suspect the latter is far more likely.

If I was a betting man, and I’m not, I suspect that Brown will cling on and lead his party to the election.

If he is ousted, I can’t see the electorate rallying around Jack Straw – the man of straw – who shook hands with Robert Mugabe not realising who he was. Hardly a safe pair of hands.

Miliband and others may want the leadership, but with Labour odds on to loose power, he and they will probably keep their powder dry and pick up the pieces after Brown has overseen the electoral disaster.

Would the voters rally round a Labour Party under yet another leader anyway? I suspect not – this game is up.

And what of the much loathed Peter Hain? Known for his perma-tan this was probably due to his Southern Africa genes and his holiday home in the Costa del Sol town of Estepona rather than a sun bed. Ironically now he is spending ‘more time with his family’ he can sit on his Spanish terrace, sip his gin and tonic, look at Gibraltar on the horizon and dream of what could have been.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Some 25 years ago I knew a man who was a Conservative councillor. The slight problem was he was a socialist and probably still is. He knew that in the area in which he lived a Labour candidate would never be elected so he joined the Tories, became local branch chairman, then a District councillor and then a County Councillor.

As he may still hold that post I will say no more as I do not want to embarrass him. In truth I have to say that the people he represented have not done badly by him. He lives in the heart of his ward, has defended their interests and has only abandoned them to tow the party line when it was wise to do so.

All this came to mind because the mayor of the inland Málaga town of Ronda is a member of the Partido Andalucista. I was going to say he was a leading light in the party but as it was decimated at last year’s local and regional government elections that might be overstating his role.

Now the Partido Andalucista, as its name suggests, is dedicated to promoting the interests of the people of Andalucía. Hence when those same people totally reject the PA at the polls leaving it with no MPs in the Andalucía parliament then the game is up.

Recently the party elected a new leader and is thinking deeply about its future. The mayor of Ronda, Antonio Marín Lara, has another solution. He has suggested that he, along with some of his PA councillors, might quit the party, become a ‘mixed group’ on the council, before joining with the socialists of PSOE.

Now it so happens that Marín has recently formed a coalition in Ronda between his party and PSOE, so they jointly govern with the socialists holding some of the top posts. That came about after he surprised one and all, and especially the councillors of the centre-right Partido Popular, by breaking his coalition with them. They had been in coalition with Marín both before the local elections and after - they also had held some of the key positions.

Before those elections Marín had suggested that perhaps he and his councillors might quit the PA and join the Partido Popular. However the prospect was not warmly welcomed by the PP. As it happens the PA are probably more ideologically aligned with PSOE rather than the PP, a party that is a staunch defender of a centralised Spain.

Of course coalitions are formed so that a party can keep power and other smaller parties can attain power, which they’d never achieve in their own right. In politics power is everything. Politicians will jump in to bed with some unlikely partners to achieve it or retain it. They will explain this by saying they are acting in the interests of the local electors. Of course, they are acting solely in their own interest. They know that, we know that, but being politicians – they wouldn’t dare say it.