Bringing Change to the Political Arena
In his article #Thinking Allowed in the Gibraltar Chronicle of 31st December 2018, James Neish makes a valuable point; this year will bring a welcome and added dimension to Brexit, with a General Election in Gibraltar.
As foreign affairs once again take pride of place at the cost of our domestic development, people feel that there is a need for a fresh approach and are looking for a party in whom they can place their trust.
James describes the difficulties Brexit and the precarious state of our finances will bring in the years to come with a metaphor about the Three Kings Cavalcade and its ׳straightforward route’ in contrast to the labyrinth of complexities and challenges that Brexit and our finances will undoubtedly bring in the next couple of years. Gibraltar cannot afford to wait for people bearing gifts and instead we need to effectively prepare both our economy and our society for our future. This is what makes the next General Election all the more significant.
Later in his article, James looks to the past in his reference to Marlene Hassan Nahon and her Together Gibraltar party looking to buck the trend of a new third party. While his comparison to the PDP and other failures of third parties are understandable, they miss several important points.
Historically, the fall and collapse of established parties giving way to a new, dynamic party connected to its people has been a matter of timing.
The GSLP’s accession to power for the first time in 1988 marked a new era in Gibraltar politics largely enabled by the retirement of the longstanding leader of Gibraltar, Sir Joshua Hassan and the subsequent collapse of his party, the AACR. Similarly, the GSD’s failure to secure a fifth term in government in 2011 led to the departure of another political behemoth, Sir Peter Caruana which as is evident, has to this day left the party struggling to create a new identity, unity and leadership. The PDP’s attempts to make inroads occurred in the midst of Sir Peter’s dominance and with strong GSLP opposition. The timing was all wrong. The two principal big cheeses were still very much in the zenith of their political power and there was simply no space or appetite for a third entity.
As Fabian Picardo prepares himself in the next few years for his own departure from the political arena, the questions to pose should be ‘Will there be a credible substitute in the GSLP?’ and if not, ‘Which party can Gibraltarians place their faith in?’
Together Gibraltar believes that the new energy we are bringing to the political arena brings a much needed fresh approach. We believe each one of us is much more representative of the electorate than the narrow spectrum of lawyers presented by other parties with limited civic experience outside their spheres of work. We understand the everyday grievances of the people and we also feel the frustrations of those at the harsh end of social injustices. We know what it is like for people’s expressions of concern to be met by brick walls. Together Gibraltar has been listening since its grass roots beginnings, ensuring that every Gibraltarian has a voice at a time when people feel they do not have one and are being sacrificed for a favoured few. The cries for greater transparency and more accountability are ringing louder by the day. As a response to this call for change through grass roots activism, Marlene Hassan Nahon formed the Together Gibraltar Party and my colleagues and I stand at her shoulder. These are the principal reasons why I joined Together Gibraltar.
The strength of a party’s leader cannot be underestimated in local politics. In the last election, Marlene achieved the second highest number of votes within the opposition (narrowly behind the then GSD leader). Marlene also ran GSLP candidate, Albert Isola, very close at the 2013 by-election where the differential was a mere 700 votes, at the height of the GSLP’s political honeymoon. Marlene’s integrity and her ability to unite people and to employ progressive and fair, ethics-led politics provides the party with the backbone upon which our policies will be built. Her competence, honesty and ability to listen make her a very plausible future Chief Minister of Gibraltar.
A REAL ALTERNATIVE
We exist as a viable alternative to what both parties currently stand for. Together Gibraltar is offering a real departure from tribal politics and is looking to give everyone a voice providing a platform where people can be listened to, at a time when people are searching for something different.
The GSLP/Liberals and the GSD are not century-old establishments with deeply rooted traditions as seen in other European countries. One of Gibraltar’s admirable strengths in our young and rapidly advancing democracy is our ability to adapt to political change as well as our ability to embrace the new.
A recent poll in the Panorama, 2nd January, reflects a community that is growing tired of the current state of affairs and is looking for a credible alternative. It is important to emphasize that the poll was conducted only days after Together Gibraltar was formed, displaying the party’s considerable traction in an extremely short space of time (Together Gibraltar 19%, GSD 25%, GSLP/Liberals 56%). Only eight months ago, even before the party’s formation, leader Marlene Hassan Nahon was polling at 10% and has almost doubled the project’s appeal in under a year. Conversely, the GSD and the GSLP are both on the decline since the last poll.
Together Gibraltar understands the challenges and responsibilities involved in loyally representing the community, as we prepare to stand at the forthcoming General Election. We also believe that the people are beginning to understand who is actually listening. As James Neish states in his article, “In politics, anything can happen.”