Thursday, June 02, 2005

Feetham confirms contacts with Caruana

GSD-Labour merger

Labour Party leader Daniel Feetham has confirmed that discussions with Chief Minister Peter Caruana on a merger of his party with the ruling GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) will be taking place “as early as circumstances permit.”

In a statement yesterday Mr Feetham said that the aspirations of the Labour Party would be more effectively realised through a merger than seeking separate representation in the House of Assembly in future elections.

Mr Feetham, son of the former GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) Minister for Trade and Industry Michael Feetham, made a failed leadership bid for the GSLP in 2001, later left the party to form the Labour Group which later became the fully fledged Labour Party, and unsuccessfully contested the 2003 elections.

Mr Feetham a known advocate of integration also supported the Integration With Britain Movement and at the last European elections declared his support for the UK Conservative Party MEPs.

GSD party sources have declared that there is considerable division within the GSD both at grassroots and at Government level regarding Mr Feetham’s entry into the executive. It is Peter Caruana himself who is Mr Feetham’s principal advocate and the Party Executive gave the GSD leader a mandate to explore a merger with Labour after holding a two hour session on Thursday evening.

The decision has also caused controversy among the ranks of Mr Feetham’s own party, most of whom are disgruntled former GSLP members. Some of these have already expressed their disappointment and opposition to the move.

In recent years Mr Caruana has raised Mr Feetham’s profile by co-opting him into the House of Assembly select committee on constitutional reform, and taking him along to the United Nations sessions of the Committee of 24 in New York.

In a statement to the Chronicle yesterday Mr Feetham said:

“The decision of the GSD Executive, which I welcome, now allows me to confirm that Labour’s Executive has fully discussed and approved that I should enter into formal talks with the Leader of the GSD with a view to the merger of our two parties.

I look forward to meeting Mr Caruana formally to discuss the issues involved as early as circumstances permit.

It was the strong view of my executive when discussing this matter that since the election, there had been a significant degree of convergence in the policies of our two parties, and that the aspirations of the Labour Party and those who supported us would more effectively be realised through a merger than seeking separate representation in the House of Assembly in future elections.

The courtesy with which my fellow candidates and I were treated by GSD candidates and supporters, during and after the last election, in spite of the stresses at the time, was an important consideration in my executive’s deliberations. It now remains to be seen whether this goodwill can be translated into formal agreement.”

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