Yesterday I blogged on the debate that is going on in Gibraltar over the need or not to bring the age for sexual consent for homosexuals in to line with that for heterosexuals. The minister of justice, Daniel Feetham, seems to have one view on this issue, whilst the chief minister, Peter Caruana, has another.
Dr Joseph Garcia, the leader of the Liberal party who are in coalition with the GSLP observed: “The view of the Minister, who is a lawyer, was that the equalisation of the age of consent in Gibraltar was a legal obligation. The Chief Minister, who is a QC, maintained that it was not necessarily a legal obligation.”
Today I want to take a closer look at the two individuals involved here – Caruana and Feetham.
Like us start with Daniel Feetham. Now I am sure that in the real world he is a greatly loved man both by his family and his friends. I say this because I suspect that in the political world the opposite is true. If there is one quality politicians like in their colleagues it is loyalty whereas Feetham is a carpet bagger.
Daniel Feetham is a highly skilled lawyer. He returned to Gibraltar from the UK where he had been a member of New Labour and promptly joined the GSLP. His father Michael, is renowned on the Rock for being a civil rights activist, helped found the party in 1979 and later was a minister in Joe Bossano’s GSLP administration. The problem was that Daniel Feetham is a man in a hurry and Joe Bossano who is strictly Old Labour was in his way. Now the GSLP was and to an extent still is a Bossano fiefdom so there was only going to be one winner in that tussle. Hence our young lawyer stomped out the door with some supporters and formed the Labour Party which he led in to the 2003 elections.
Predictably the Labour Party failed to win a single seat. I then wrote several columns in which I predicted that the Labour Party would not survive to fight the next election or certainly not with Feetham at the helm. This earned me several angry emails from Daniel in his Lion’s Den insisting that he and the Labour Party were forever so taking me to task for doubting his word.
Come the next election in 2007 there was no Labour Party and Daniel Feetham was a candidate for the governing GSD. He had angered the GSLP, had no friends in the Liberals, had let down his colleagues in Labour and now caused a split in Caruana’s GSD because he was seen as both a threat and an opportunist. Keith Azopardi, who had been deputy chief minister, left the GSD in disgust with fellow member Nick Cruz and formed the PDP. Curiously the chief minister, Peter Caruana, had courted Feetham by consulting him on various issues, using him as a bag carrier on overseas trips and finally appointed him as his minister of justice.
Now Caruana seems not to attract affection either except from members of the GSD. He has been called a small town lawyer who is interested in only speaking to the British and Spanish foreign ministers and accused of ignoring the leaders of the Campo de Gibraltar. However he has won four elections on the trot so even his political rivals have to doff their cap.
In the debate on the age of consent Feetham brought a private member’s bill to Gibraltar’s parliament seeking to equalise the age at 16. It was a private member’s bill because whilst Feetham argues that it is a legal obligation his boss says it isn’t and anyway he couldn’t vote for it on religious grounds. Hence the move was defeated with Caruana voting against Feetham’s bill but now the matter is being sent to the Supreme Court for a definitive ruling.
Now the court is either going to back Feetham or Caruana so one will be the victor and the other the vanquished. I admire Daniel Feetham for one thing – he is determined to be chief minister and doesn’t care which party he leads to achieve that goal. He could be very successful in the role. In contrast Peter Caruana is already a four times winner and seems to take the view that his God will tell him when its time to step aside. Presumably that God is the same one that states that lowering the age of consent for homosexuals hasn’t got a prayer and that God certainly isn’t Daniel Feetham. So what we are seeing here is a tussle between the pretender and his lord and master. It will be interesting to see if Feetham has learnt anything from his battle with Bossano because Caruana will go at the time of his choosing and there are other GSD heavyweights lined up to succeed him.