Strait Talker January 13, 2022

2021 ended in a bang! Quite literally. In what seemed like a pyrotechnic display worthy of a big capital city’s new year’s display, Gibraltar lit up the sky with thousands of fireworks. Welcoming 2022 in this manner, however, had me thinking; what should we be keeping an eye out for over the coming year? Are there any dramatic displays waiting to be put on show over the course of the next 12 months?

Undoubtably, the entire population will be closely monitoring the actions taken by the GSLP/Liberals who are now in their third year of government, in their third term. The vast majority of that term, in fact, has been spent managing the most serious threat to Gibraltar’s public, social and economic health in centuries – the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the domestic agenda, outlined in the last manifesto, is starting to be delivered and it is hoped that if we can catch a break from this deadly pandemic, progress can continue on a rapid pace over the next couple of years.

The public, no doubt, sees through the callous and shallow criticisms raised by Together Gibraltar (or more like Divisive Gibraltar) in Marlene’s New Year Message. Criticising the Government for not delivering on all of their manifesto promises of the last election fails to appreciate the gravity of both the Brexit negotiations and the global pandemic which started merely a few months after the election. The people of Gibraltar see through this populist rhetoric and the fact that conniving Marlene and her merry men, and women, failed to make reference to the pandemic being a reason why the domestic agenda has reasonably been held back over the last couple of years.

2022, on the other hand, seems to be heading in a new direction. The boosters have offered a high level of immunity and protection in the community. This is categorically proven on the fact that comparatively low hospitalisations and deaths are being seen now when compared to the last major wave at this time last year. There is an element of optimism being seen among the public and a realisation that a new normality is being forged in the process. If the world is finally able to escape from the harshest grips of the pandemic, we can expect to see some key themes and events play out this year.

The first, of course, has to be the Brexit negotiations and any deal that arises from that complicated and protracted process. 2022 could finally be the year that Gibraltar’s standard and quality of living is immeasurably improved through the vehicle of a deal with the EU. Such a deal would have wide-ranging implications on the economy, our day to day lives and the way we have become accustomed to living in Gibraltar.

It brings huge opportunities for all of us whilst ensuring that life becomes easier on so many levels. Take the frontier for example, over the Christmas break how many of us travelled to Spain? I would imagine that the answer to that question would be in the thousands. As much, or as little, as we admit it, us Gibraltarians travel to Spain for a plethora of reasons. Shopping, leisure, business, health, holidays, skiing; the list is long and varied. It therefore severely inconveniences us that upon re-entry to Gibraltar we have to roll a metaphorical dice and chance a five, or fifty, minute queue to return home.

The reality is that a deal could remove such an obstacle whilst also providing for wholesale rejuvenation of our financial services sector and confidence in our market. This does not mean that any of the above is worth compromising on our sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. Those are three pillars of our identity that are sacred to our way of living. However, given that the Chief Minister has repeatedly drawn his red line explicitly protecting those pillars, we can expect no compromises to be made on that front.

As such, Brexit and the conclusion of any deal (or not) will certainly be a key theme this year once again.

Of course, as I have alluded to above, the reality is that there are many other domestic themes to keep an eye out for. The progress of the affordable homes, the creation of Victoria Keys, the removal of the rubble mountain on the east side. All these are pivotal processes in 2022.

It would be unfair though to focus solely on the Government, and I will therefore analyse what we should look out for when it comes to the GSD and TG.

TG has already shown us all what to expect in 2022. Marlene’s New Year Message was nothing other than populist diatribe extracted from the minds of her inner circle who seem to feed her with flawed notions on how Government business should be run. Focusing on Brexit, ignoring the pandemic, insulting Ministers, and then asking people to join her incredibly joyful movement (with up-beat music infused into that section of the video). It seemed like something out of a comedy roadshow. A classic example of ‘picking and choosing’ themes, failing to interweave them in any meaningful manner and then Messianically professing to be the solution to all problems in life.

Since Marlene’s drastic U-turn in the budget of 2021 where she went from allegedly being a ‘constructive’ politician to a divisive populist, her press releases seem to become ever more vitriolic each time. Egged on by her inner circle of two or three resentful individuals, desperate for recognition and clamour from their supreme leader, 2022 will be key to once again show the public Marlene’s true colours. The theme for TG, as it has recently been, is ‘populism’ and, no doubt, with each and every press release issued by the purple populists over the coming year, the public will increasingly associate TG with these damaging and dangerous virtues.

Then we have the GSD. Arguably, since Daniel Feetham resigned as leader, we have not really seen any theme whatsoever from the GSD. Feetham’s ideals and arguments were inherently flawed, but at least there was some ‘fire in the belly’ of the GSD, as the Chief Minister reminded us of last budget session. Both 2019 and 2020 were drab, dry and boring for the GSD and there is no indication that 2022 is going to change that under their current leader.

In fact, probably the most important key theme for us to keep an eye out in 2022, when it comes to the GSD, will be their internal power struggles. We know that as things stand, they are ineffective as a party. The highlight of their year is their few hours of fame during the budget session where ‘kill-Roy’ delivers his painfully repetitive and erroneous summary on Gibraltar’s financial health. This fame is always short-lived however, as it is followed by the humbling response of the Chief Minister.

Nevertheless, it is sad that the main opposition party offers nothing more to our electorate. This, undoubtably, is also seen from within the party and there are strong rumours emerging of a power struggle in the GSD. As 2022 progresses and the party once again realises that they are unelectable, it will be interesting to see if any of the four (or potentially more) wannabe leaders commence a coup.

I for one will keep a close eye on all of these themes and hope to bring you more on these, and much more, as the year progresses. For now, we will have to sit back and watch what unravels over the course of the year.

Wishing you all the best for 2022 and hoping to bring you many more articles over the course of the next 12 months!






Staff January 13, 2022