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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.

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