by Nick Cruz
There can be no doubt that 2017 will be an interesting year for all including Gibraltar, hopefully less interesting than 2016 but we are living the political and social hangover of an extraordinarily bizarre 12 months of global democratic protest. Or perhaps upon reflection, not so extraordinary when we look at the bigger picture.
In an article I wrote called “Democratic Winter” last April I expressed the view that there was going to be a Brexit vote, a Trump vote and that Corbin would be PM. Thankfully wrong on the last, but this was no prophetic marvel. There is always a consequence, always a reaction, and when the political elite lose contact with those that elect them, sooner or later something gives. In the past the protest manifested itself in marches, riots, civil unrest. In 2016 the proverbial punch in the nose was delivered by the Brexit, Trump vote. Its consequences may be more severe and still to play out.
We all may have our theories as to what has happened and why, perhaps the virtues of tolerance, liberalism that we so much enjoy here, when rushed through with a political correctness that does not allow for proper adjustment and planning, cements distrust, frustration and anger particularly in a less affluent society? Or maybe just stuff happens. What there can be no denying is that a less tolerant, less liberal, more aggressive atmosphere has firmly permeated western democracy. There is a wave (not to call it tsunami) of political, religious and social intolerance coming and we would be wise to recognise what it is and how it can affect us. Whether it’s Farage, Trump, or soon to be Le Pen, they are symptoms of a more worrying trend, that being the cancer of division, distrust, and worst of all, the promotion of disunity for narrow political self-interest.
So it’s with open arms that I welcomed the Christmas message delivered by our Governor Lieutenant General Edward Davis. As an unashamed nationalist, my respectful approach to the messages of those who fill this challenging and contradictory post is normally very sceptical, but certainly this gentlemen has hit the nail on the head when he described what Gibraltar is, can be and what it needs to remember when it faces 2017. His statement, “Gibraltar will be Gibraltar,” may sound like an obvious political soundbite, but not when it is preceded by what he believes makes us special: “The unity of the multicultural Gibraltarian Community combined with the winning power of your ambition, innovation and boldness will overcome these challenges and in doing so will ensure the future spirit, prosperity and reputation of Gibraltar.”
This Governor is spot on and we should reflect on these words a little when we as a community really digest what Brexit and the triggering of Article 50 may mean to us. We should not be fooled into believing that a change in Spanish Foreign Minister or indeed any Minister or Government has changed the script of either foreign office. The risk of bilateral exclusion is real. Moreover we should not lose sight of the fact that the game has not yet really started. The threat and by that token the opportunity comes at the business end. However it is also true that all the players, large and small are jostling for position, including our Chief Minster and his team.
The GSD, who have a political duty to oppose the Government but overriding duty to serve Gibraltar, would do well to remember that no one will thank them for undermining: “ambition, innovation, and boldness” and it is these attributes if combined with “unity” (as the Governor so correctly points out) that will see us retain our wonderful way of life. Their leader, pretending to offer unity, suggests “keeping it simple” don’t be too ambitious? This is the key to negotiations he tells us! He describes the Chief Minister’s tactics to date as unrealistic, overambitious, photo opportunities, not sensible. Moreover he suggests that if we fail, we should fall upon Integration with Britain. What a sorry and concessionary starting point. It is regrettable but the negative political message, devoid of any vision that saw this party all but collapse at the last election, remains their mantra. A whingeing, glass half empty shout that simply does not recognise our achievements, progress, and possibilities. It is intuitive and to our Governor’s credit that, despite being an Englishman who has been here less than a year, he sees lack of ambition, innovation and boldness as folly.
Most of us, on most issues, would not normally care about the GSD’s negativity and its consequences (beyond recognising the danger of a declining opposition to our system of Government). But now the stakes are very high for all of us and unity is important. Ms Hassan Nahon, who is now an independent member of our Parliament (having not lasted six months under the GSD current leadership) has rightfully recognised the importance of unity and criticised the opposition for their failure to support the Government at this moment and their retrograde integrationist sentiments . Mr Feetham may feel “keeping it simple” may be the way to go, but thankfully he is not negotiating our future nor involved in the strategy of such a negotiation. The GSLP/Liberal Alliance Government under Mr Picardo, Garcia, etc will have far more understanding and knowledge and we should welcome the fact that they do have ambition, innovation and boldness.
With Spanish ambition echoing in our ears this is not a time for local political point’s scoring, nor indeed the Lazarus-like resurgence of noises of political appeasement from some quarters, but rather robust universal support for our Government. So as 2017 unfolds, let’s all (specifically the GSD leadership) reflect, listen to this surround sound and ensure that our Government are also armed with much needed unity, so we as a community can continue to boast: “Gibraltar will be Gibraltar”