Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Caruana confirms GSD/Labour link is moving ahead

By Brian Reyes

Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister and leader of the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats), has confirmed that the proposed link with the Labour party is moving ahead and is now at the “implementation phase”.

In an interview with the Chronicle, he said that the GSD executive had once again endorsed the decision at a meeting last week and that a statement would be issued shortly, perhaps as early as this week.

Mr Caruana offered no detail as to what form the fusion of the two parties would take except to say that the GSD, as had already been publicly acknowledged by Labour party leader Daniel Feetham, would be the dominant partner.

“I think it would be inappropriate for me to pre-empt any sort of statement, be that by us, by them or jointly,” Mr Caruana said. “I think you’ll have to await events.”
“But you know, I think as Daniel [Feetham] himself has recognised, this is not a coming together of equals or anything like equals.”

Mr Caruana said that a “substantial majority” of the GSD executive had backed the move but acknowledged that there were voices of dissent too.

Earlier this year, former GSD deputy leader Keith Azopardi had expressed doubts over the merger, adding that “serious questions” had to be asked about such a move.

Fellow GSD executive member Nick Cruz had also publicly voiced his concerns about the merger and what it meant for the party.

Yesterday, Mr Caruana said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on which party members had expressed opposition to the move and on what grounds.

Neither would he be drawn on whether he anticipated any of them to leave the GSD rather than embrace the majority vote of the executive, as is widely being speculated in political circles.

“These are individual matters for the individuals concerned, and it’s a matter entirely for them,” he said.

"I mean, my own personal preference is that people should just accept the collective majority view and accept that that is how democracy functions, not just in political parties but indeed in governments and in cabinets.

And frankly, to walk off because you don’t have your way does not augur well for any future political advancement.”

The Chief Minister added that the link with the Labour party, whatever its final shape turns out to be, was not about “political landscaping” or “electoral machinations”.

“In a sense, the electoral interests of the GSD are best served by having a third party out there which is a home for the non GSD vote, other than the GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party),” he said.

“If I was machinating electorally and if I had my calculator out and was doing the electoral sums, if that’s the sort of thing that motivates me as a person, I might not be doing this.”

“But those aren’t the things that motivate me.”


Brian Reyes interviews Chief Minister Peter Caruana

Chronicle: Can you tell me what the situation is with the merger? I know that there was a meeting [of the GSD Executive] last week and there’s a lot of rumour and gossip going round. Can you tell us where it stands at the moment?

Mr Caruana: Where it stands at the moment is that, at that executive meeting which you referred to, the executive once again endorsed the decision and we’re now entering the implementation phases of it.

Chronicle: What does that mean in practical terms?

Mr Caruana: Well, it means that the decision has now been taken and we’re in the implementation phases [laughs]. There may be a statement later this week.

Chronicle: What is the actual nub of the decision? Is it the GSD absorbing Lavour?

Mr Caruana: I think it would be inappropriate for me to pre-empt any sort of statement, be that by us, by them or jointly. I think you’ll have to await events. But you know, I think as Daniel [Feetham, Labour party leader] himself has recognised, this is not a coming together of equals or anything like equals. I think that will be reflected, it’s right that that should be reflected, and I think it’s right that they have recognised that that will be reflected.

Chronicle: You say that the Executive approved the decision but we have seen some Executive Members, talking very cautiously, leaving little doubt that there is some concern about what this may or may not do for the Party, whether it’s a good decision or a bad decision. Do you foresee that anyone who is in the Executive at the moment will leave as a result of this?

Mr Caruana: People have to make their personal decisions.

Chronicle: Is that a Yes then?

Mr Caruana: People have to make their personal decisions. Executives make decisions by majority. This one has been made by a very substantial majority.

Chronicle: Would you give me the balance?

Mr Caruana: Well, a very substantial majority is in excess of 75% in favour. So if any individual is not willing to - this is true in all forms of activity in the democratic world - if any individual does not wish to accept the collective view of the organisation of which they form part, as reflected in a decision taken by an overwhelming majority [of] a decision-making organ, then they are of course free to leave that decision-making organ.

Chronicle: Has anybody indicated that they are contemplating doing that?

Mr Caruana: It’s not appropriate [for him to comment]. At that stage it would not be a thing that affects the executive of the party.

These are individual matters for the individuals concerned, and it’s a matter entirely for them.

I mean, my own personal preference is that people should just accept the collective majority view and accept that that is how democracy functions, not just in political parties but indeed in governments and in cabinets.

And frankly, to walk off because you don’t have your way does not augur well for any future political advancement.

Chronicle: What sort of concerns were they raising, this 25%?

Mr Caruana: No, you can’t extract confidential information from me by adopting an affable tone in the way you question me [laughs] … There are one or two people who, as you know, have expressed that they are not in favour.

You know, political parties act in accordance with the views of the majority of their executive, not in accordance with the views of a minority.

Chronicle: One last question and I’ll leave it. How do you think this will change the political landscape, the balance of the way our democracy works? Will it make much difference?

Mr Caruana: This is not about political landscaping, nor is this about electoral machinations.

In a sense, the electoral interests of the GSD are best served by having a third party out there which is a home for the non GSD vote, other than the GSLP.

If I was machinating electorally and if I had my calculator out and was doing the electoral sums, if that’s the sort of thing that motivates me as a person, I might not be doing this. But those aren’t the things that motivate me.

This project that we’re engaged in is about the opportunity for people who now think of like mind with us to join us and cease to be two separate political parties.

That might have positive or negative consequences electorally. I don’t know. I think they’ll be positive. My personal view is that Daniel Feetham has much to offer Gibraltar politically in the future, as do many other people. And I think that young people should be encouraged in politics. They ought to be given an opportunity to pursue their political careers in a politically relevant, realistic framework. That is what has motivated me.

People that have hitherto supported me may disapprove of the decision and people who have hitherto opposed me may approve of the decision and support me. I have no idea of what the net effect of this is going to be. All I know is that I am not willing to make a calculation. Either the thing is right, or it is wrong and you don’t do it. You don’t calculate as to whether it suits you or as to whether it doesn’t.

I have never calculated anything politically in my political life in Gibraltar, I’ve always done what I thought was right and fair. And I hope that those people who feel that that personal philosophy of mine has not let them down in the past will continue to trust me on this one.

Related Article:

04 June 2005 - GSD divisions over Labour merger surface

03 June 2005 - Azopardi airs question mark over labour merger

01 June 2005 - Caruana to formally explore merger with Feetham

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