Monday, December 20, 2010

PICARDO’S CHALLENGE - And will there be a challenge to Picardo?

There are no certainties in politics. When I started writing my Gibraltar Viewpoint column back in 1993 it was in the last years of the Bossano Government. The chief minister Peter Caruana first won power back in 1996 so when the election is held next year many of the first time voters will only have been aware of his GSD administrations.

If you’d asked me back then who were likely future chief ministers I would have said Keith Azopardi and Peter Montegriffo – indeed their days may yet come. Despite his recent horrific injuries at the hands of a knifeman Daniel Feetham may still aspire to and achieve the top job in Gibraltar politics. In contrast Fabian Picardo’s arrival as a potential leader of the GSLP and hence after the next election the Rock’s Chief Minister is by contrast a recent affair.

Joe Bossano has stated both to the electorate and his party that he will not lead the GSLP in to the next election. If that is the case then a new man or woman must be at the helm by the time the GSLP goes to the polls. The seeming front runner is Fabian Picardo – yet politics has a habit of seeing the front runner fall at the last fence.

If I asked you early this year who would be leading the British Labour Party after the defeat of Gordon Brown I wonder how many would have come up with the name Ed Miliband. Certainly not his brother David - the former foreign secretary and heir apparent.

Currently the opinion polls show wide spread support for Fabian Picardo as the next GSLP leader and a coalition co-led by Dr Joseph Garcia would offer a strong challenge to the GSD and an exciting alternative for the voters. It worries the GSD as can be clearly seen by their attempts to rubbish it this early in the game.

So why did Fabian Picardo throw his hat in to the ring? He explained: “I decided to say publicly that I felt I was ready to stand when Joe Bossano confirmed last year to the AGM that he would not be seeking the post of leader this year when the post is due for re-election. I have had only encouragement since then from members of the party and its executive and a vicious response from my political opponents who have not passed up any rumour in an attempt to denigrate my candidature.”

So is he looking to step in to the job or fight off an opponent or opponents in an election?

“I don’t believe in coronations and would very much welcome a contest for the leadership of the GSLP.”

The problem for observers like me is it is difficult to see where the challenge would come from. One name that has been mentioned in the past is Gilbert Lucudi although of late he has slipped out of the public eye and down the opinion poll ratings. However his hat could still be in the ring. Lucudi told me: “Under the GSLP constitution, the leader has to stand down every two years. We did not have the election of a leader at our AGM at the beginning of this year. This means that there will be a leadership election in the New Year. Our constitution requires that this be the case. I have not yet decided whether I will be putting my name forward for this leadership election.”

Joe Bossano has been a colossus on the Gibraltar political stage and of course was the founding father of the GSLP so I asked Picardo how he thought this transition should be handled. He told me: “I have no doubt that whoever becomes the next leader of the GSLP will be respectful of the contribution that Joe Bossano has made and I know will continue to make to the GSLP and to Gibraltar generally.

“Not even Mr Bossano’s detractors can deny the massive contribution he has made already and will make in a new GSLP/Liberal administration as we put our common energy and fresh ideas at the disposal of the people of Gibraltar. The "transition" will be no more than a generational evolution at the top of the party that will consolidate its policies for another generation.”

(The above appeared in the Monday December 20 edition of Panorama).

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