“Why would you want to do that?”
“You need to have a thick skin.”
“Are you sure? You’re going to have your named raked through the mud!”
These were the most common replies I got, in the weeks leading up to me throwing in my lot in the political stage. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a little distant, but receding, voice inside my head keeps repeating, “what have you done?”
And herein lies the exact reason why I have been compelled to take this decision. We are living in a time where trust in the institutions that underpin our way of life is at an all time low. I dare say that this is endemic throughout most developed societies, but particularly here in our Gibraltar. The end result of this is that a wave of populism and the cult of personality is sweeping across many societies and is squeezing out reason and common sense from the political narrative. The centre ground forges consensus and progress is being lost, even in here in our community. I simply could not stand idly and be a passive observer.
However, the most worrying consequence of all this is that you, the person reading this, is probably feeling disconnected, disempowered and distrustful of politicians. This is a sad state of affairs. Sad because in my 35 year career in Social Care I have worked with some inspiring individuals across all shades of the political spectrum who have been incredibly committed to our community. We desperately need to challenge the growing perception, whether true or false, that politics is a corrupt, opaque and elitist business.
Together Gibraltar has been born out of a groundswell of individuals who, like myself, are dissatisfied in the direction Gibraltar Politics is taking. When I attended my first Together Gibraltar meeting I was apprehensive of what I would find. However, my concerns were very quickly put to rest, by what I saw there. I met a dynamic group of persons with integrity, enthusiasm and the ideas for an even better Gibraltar that includes all and works for all. I quickly realised that Together Gibraltar is more than the sum of its parts and is definitely not just about Marlene Hassan Nahon.
In our midst we have a formidable wealth of experience, commitment and individuals who represent the best of what Gibraltar can offer. I daresay that it is the ONLY political option that is truly representative and inclusive of all sectors of our community. Importantly, I am impressed how our party machinery extends well beyond just our candidates who stand before you for selection.
Some persons are trying to unfairly brand us as irresponsible, inexperienced hotheads bent on destroying our society. I resent this. This could not be further from the truth. If anything we espouse what makes Gibraltar such a unique place, with its rich and diverse history, where peoples from many parts of the world to this day choose to make it their home. Gibraltar has always been a diverse and inclusive community, and we intend to build upon this. The breadth and depth of our candidates speaks for itself.
I am extremely proud of our country that has consistently punched above its weight thanks to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of its people. How many cities of 32,000 can boast about this? Together Gibraltar intends to tap into this.
I believe that credit needs to be given where credit is due, this is part of our constructive style of politics. Gibraltar has been transformed in a generation by successive administrations. Many are better off than ever, but this is also creating inequalities, perceived or real, where there are an increasing number of you are not feeling that these benefits are reaching them, and where the talk is of nepotism and favouritism. We intend to reverse this by how we conduct our politics, in a spirit of openness and accountability that will permeate throughout everything we do. Another overriding philosophy at the core of Together Gibraltar will be the environment in all its forms. After all, what use is a successful economy if we bequeath our future generations, a Gibraltar where our open spaces, our traffic and natural resources, and our health are compromised. These are not just empty promises; Together Gibraltar is working on an exciting, inclusive vision of Gibraltar, with specific and achievable polices that will be presented at the forthcoming general elections.
I believe in Parliament that is truly representative.
I believe in an economy that can diversify further and achieve more.
I believe in a vibrant private sector that can generate greater wealth.
I believe in a strong, independent and sustainable public sector.
I believe in unleashing our full potential in key areas such as tourism.
I believe in inclusive and progressive social policies.
I believe that you can make a difference.
Together, Gibraltar can achieve all this and more.
I started this piece by alluding to needing a thick skin to be in politics. I challenge this concept outright. A thick skin allows for the truth to become opaque, a thick skin leads to cynicism, a thick skin is a comfort zone where one can hide much and create barriers. I can assure those who place their trust in me that I will operate with a thin skin, where honesty, clarity and approachability will be my calling card. I will not pretend to have the answers to everything, make unrealistic promises, or try to be all things to all people. However, I do commit to working indefatigably for our constituents and bring back the essence of what being a Member of Parliament is all about representing their interests before any other loyalties or political expediency.
After all, what matters are not eloquent speeches, scoring political points, and smart sound bites but that the ordinary voter feels part of a system where their dreams, hopes and aspirations are truly represented and where they can truly be part of the change Gibraltar is demanding.