Thursday, October 15, 2009


As regular readers of my blog will know I am partial to chewing the cud so when I visit Gibraltar I like to have a coffee and munch on the political fat of the Rock’s politics. Hence I sometimes call in for a chat with Fabian Picardo who, apart from being an emerging big beast with the opposition GSLP, is also a leading lawyer with Hassans.

Back in April I called in to the Hassans offices to see Fabian and instead of being shown to one of the small meeting rooms to the right of reception I found myself directed to a large room on the left. I was rather taken back as it seemed not a meeting room but more likely the partners’ boardroom.

As I waited for Fabian to join me I notice that on the wall at the head of the table was an old photograph, probably of a very young Sir Joshua Hassan. Fabian later confirmed this was so, and if I remember rightly – which I am prone not to do – it was taken around the time that the then Joshua Hassan became a lawyer. As he was called to the bar in 1939 it must be 70 years old.

Now with most portraits they look at you head on. However Sir Joshua’s head is slightly turned to the right so it appears that he is listening in to your conversation. It might have been the effects of the strong black coffee but I would have waged he was trying to catch our words of wisdom on the Rock’s politics of the day. Indeed I am sure he was.

The name Hassans is today international recognised both in the legal profession and the business world as being one of the most respected chambers around. Whilst Sir Joshua was an eminent lawyer and a QC he was also twice chief minister of Gibraltar’s then administrations. His political success was founded on his work as leader of the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights (AACR) – a civil rights movement that fought for the self determination of the Gibraltar people and the establishment of many of its present political institutions.

So it is perhaps fitting that within the ranks of Hassans legal beagles are individuals who are making their mark on the political life of the Rock. When the GSLP leader, Joe Bossano, finally leaves the stage Fabian Picardo could well take his place. However a few offices down the corridor sits Gilbert Licudi who is probably his chief rival for the post. So come the next general election on the Rock it is a possibility that either Picardo or Licudi could emerge as chief minister – with certainly one or the other holding a key ministry in that government.

Not far away is Peter Montegriffo who in the first GSD administration of chief minister, Peter Caruana, was deputy leader of the party and minister for trade and industry from 1996 to 2000. He did not seek re-election but it would take a braver man than me to suggest that his political career is over; indeed I suspect the opposite is the truth, so maybe he too will still be chief minister.

Feetham is also a well known name in Gibraltar politics – Michael Feetham having being a founder member of the GSLP in 1979 and minister in one of Joe Bossano’s administrations. At Hassans you’ll find Nigel Feetham, brother to Daniel who is currently a GSD minister. Now Nigel was a member of the GSLP with Daniel and when he walked out to form the Labour Party Nigel followed in his wake and played a major part in that short-lived party. I always had a suspicion that Nigel might be the dark horse in Gibraltar politics and although he now is seemingly lying doggo who knows he may yet emerge to eclipse his brother. By-the-by before Daniel was elected an MP at the last election and became fittingly minister for justice he too plied his trade at Hassans.

There may be others in the ranks of Hassans’ lawyers who have political ambitions and no doubt others will join in the coming years. However I think it is fascinating that the legacy of Sir Joshua lives on at Hassans both in the legal world but also in the political arena.

Of course “political” chambers are not unknown in the UK but they tend to be aligned to a certain party. Today AACR might beat on in the hearts and even have a place in the souls of the older generation of Llanitos but the party itself does not. I believe at heart Sir Joshua was a socialist but the lawyers in Hassans ranks, who are intent on political careers, seemingly represent a far broader spectrum of beliefs thus ensuring the Hassan legacy is firmly intact.

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