BETTER TOGETHER: Marlene Hassan Nahon speaks to the Olive Press about her new social movement in Gibraltar
Set up to fill a void created by a lack of dialogue between politicians and the electorate, Together Gibraltar is a welcome third political force for Gibraltar.
Based out of its humble new office on Main Street, this is the brainchild of independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon.
Looking to enact some meaningful change on the Rock the former GSD politician is busily putting the final stages to her manifesto.
It only launched at the end of last month, but Nahon is already gaining traction and positive public support, she tells me.
It is perhaps not a surprise, Marlene being the presentable, erudite daughter of former leader Sir Joshua Hassan.
Elected to Parliament with the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD), in 2015, she resigned last year after falling out with its then leader Daniel Feetham over the party’s authoritarian, divisive manner.
However, she has no bad feelings towards the GSD – in fact quite the opposite.
“The GSD honestly did very good things for Gibraltar. They put Gibraltar in a very good place and cleaned up Gibraltar when they took over power.
“The reasons why I left were mainly because I had issues with the leadership within the party and my situation became untenable,” she comments.
Gibraltarian politics has been largely dominated by the GSD and the current ruling party the GSLP/Liberal Alliance since the conception of the Gibraltarian Parliament.
Marlene believes that this has resulted in local politics becoming stale and led to politicians in power becoming increasingly disconnected from their electorate.
In an exclusive interview, she first told the Gibraltar Olive Press how she was planning to launch a new party just days after resigning last year.
By setting up Together Gibraltar, she believes she has founded an innovative, grassroots movement which allows Gibraltarians to openly discuss their life on the Rock.
Marlene believes she can then relay issues raised to Parliament and ensure appropriate changes are then brought about.
“I think Gibraltarians are becoming really despondent and disillusioned with the two-party system which serves those within the party structure rather than those in the community.
“There are many gaps in representation and this is what we are trying to do at the moment.”
A former auctioneer in London, Marlene believes communication and dialogue are the two key principles for ensuring a better quality of life on the Rock.
“Rather than declare myself as party leader of something new, what Gibraltar needs right now is unity and participation and a grassroots movement that is going to invigorate and spark dialogue,” says the former graduate of Manchester University, where she studied History of Art and Architecture.
Her fledgling think tank is still very much taking its first steps and Marlene intends to take things slowly.
Rather than appointing MPs to stand for her on a specific manifesto she intends to hold regular public discussions leading to increased understanding of matters ranging from health to housing.
“I think many issues in the GHA can be resolved by increased communication and reform, while there is a huge lack of communication between the housing agency and its constituents,” she insists.
Marlene’s father Sir Joshua Hassan was the first Chief Minister of Gibraltar
Following these meetings, which are being set up for later this month, Marlene feels she will then be in a knowledgeable position to lobby for changes.
In terms of becoming a political force to be reckoned with, she intends Together Gibraltar to develop naturally.
“If you run a truly democratic project you have to let democracy take its course and so I would put a lot of emphasis on the wishes of the membership and their views.
“If the membership feels the moment has come and they want to build a movement to run for election I won’t discount that at all.
“We want to lead by example and start from the bottom up.”
It is vehemently clear that Marlene believes her movement should be one run by the people and for the people.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of this principle is the assurance that Together Gibraltar will not take donations from specific individuals or organisations.
Instead her movement will hold a crowdfunding initiative and an anonymous donations scheme to maintain that its operations are impartial.
“I think you have to practice what you are preaching otherwise there is no integrity,” she says with a wry smile.