Serious concerns about the direction Gibraltar was taking in the later years of Sir Joshua Hassan's reign prompted a youthful Gilbert Licudi to enter the complex world of Gibraltar's politics. And similar, though even more critical, cares about the direction in which Caruana has taken our country have prompted the older and wiser Licudi to offer himself for selection as a GSLP candidate in next month's general election.
It is not the first time that Licudi has offered himself for electoral candidacy, but where almost two decades ago he was pipped to the GSLP "ticket" by Joe Moss - a development that changed the direction of his life (in a switch from commerce to law), this time round his experience is likely to prove invaluable to Joe Bossano when the Opposition leader forms the next government.
"With hindsight, I was probably not ready for a ministerial position in Government which would have followed had I been chosen for the ticket, for the GSLP won that election," Licudi admits. Instead of becoming a professional politician, as a married 28-year-old mature student Licudi quit his job, resigned from the executive of the GSLP, and enrolled to study law at Chelmsford in East Anglia.
"I was fortunate in that the GSLP changed the old points system for providing student grants to a wider system guaranteeing scholarships to anyone who was accepted by universities to study core subjects, so I was able to pursue law as a career," he says reflectively. " Mind you, they [the GSLP] didn't do it so that I could study law," he adds with a laugh. "It was part of their pre-election manifesto and, unlike the Caruana Government, we keep our pre-election promises."
Sincere and with a clearly defined social conscience, Licudi's political commitment to the GSLP and its policies were formed in the early 1980's when he realised that Sir Joshua's ACR "had lost touch with the people"...a situation that he sees echoed now by Caruana.
"I had the highest, the greatest respect for Sir Joshua and what he had done, but the people of Gibraltar were being let down - as they are being let down again," Licudi told VOX after announcing his decision to put his name forward as a potential GSLP candidate.
"The direction in which we have been going under the GSD in which all decisions are centralised and down to one man, is bad for Gibraltar, bad for democracy. If Peter Caruana doesn't decide on something, it just doesn't get done."
PRIORITIES ARE WRONG
Licudi is too courteous to use words like "totalitarian" or "dictator" to describe the Rock's Chief Minister, but the sense of his dissatisfaction with one-man leadership and the course on which that has forced Gibra;ltar to embark is a strong under-current to his remarks.
"Caruana's priorities have been wrong, particularly in recent years, when he has become preoccupied with his assumed role as an international statesman. This has led to a lack of focus on his part and a patent disregard for local concerns and needs.
"For instance, it is extraordinary that after 11 years in Government we still have no affordable housing ready for occupation - and this in spite of the fact that in his 2003 ‘victory' speech in the John Macintosh Hall Caruana acknowledged that the close result was a ‘wake up call' and that something needed to be done about providing affordable homes for young Gibraltarians."
A strong sense of patriotism, as much as his social concern, colours Licudi's approach to Gibraltar's growing housing crisis and the fact that private developers have been allowed to build ‘expensive' homes while young Gibraltarians have been "unwillingly and reluctantly" driven away.
Pointing out that the site of the new Waterport Terraces has been available for more than four years and that there had been neither political nor economic reasons for delay in development there, Licudi stresses that had work been started after Caruana's ‘wake up call' the homes would be complete and occupied by now.
"It is a tragedy that young Gibraltar families have been forced to move out, to find homes in Spain and thus - in theory at least - to lose some of their rights and break fundamental links."
Though he comes from an a-political background - his father was a career civil servant and shunned political allegiances - Licudi's commitment to what he believes to be socially and politically right runs deep. And, in a sense, reflects the sort of independence that saw him leave school half way through A-levels...because he wasn't sure what career path he wanted to take. He had considered studying for a degree in Spanish and French, but then wondered "just what I would do with a degree in languages." "I always new that I would continue with further education when the time was ripe...it just wasn't ripe or right when I was 17. So I left school..."
Licudi was in the first intake at Bayside - where, today, his two sons aged 12 and 14 are also pupils - a contemporary of fellow students Peter Montegriffo and Dominique Searle.
"We were lucky," he recalls. "the school was brand new and for the first year we were the only students; then, as each year saw a new intake, we moved up and were still the senior class...but by the time we were studying for A-levels, I still hadn't decided what I really wanted to do."
His grades were good and he would have had no difficulty in passing his exams, but he opted to leave school and joined Blands and GB Airways, gaining experience at the airport which was to stand him in good stead when, in 1979 and now married, he and his young wife moved to Britain where he took a job with the Russian airline Aeroflot at Heathrow.
"They were exciting times," he recalls. "I was at the Aeroflot counter during the Moscow Olympics, when there were demonstrations and people wearing blown-up heads of the Russian leader Brezhnev...and though there was no violence , there was constant sense of excitement."
After two years in Britain Licudi and his wife returned to Gibraltar where he joined Joe Holliday's Castle Marketing group and, disturbed by the direction that the AACR government was taking, joined the GSLP. Soon after the 1984 elections he was invited to join the party's executive and also began to write a weekly column for The People.
He continued as an active party member until he left to study law in the UK, resigning from the executive but maintaining his interest in politics not only when he returned here on holiday but as a "keenly interested" observer while engaged in his studies. After graduating from Chelmsford - "three years which I thoroughly enjoyed, both socially and in the subjects I had chosen" - he finished his legal studies in London at the Inns of Court Law School and was admitted to the Bar in both London and Gibraltar in 1992.
He joined Hassans' litigation department and was made a partner of Gibraltar's biggest international law firm in 1998, remaining in the litigation department until last year when he joined Peter Montegriffo in the firm's private commercial department. After years of dealing with contentious work and disputes, I decided that I could put this experience to work in an area where perhaps I could help avoid the situations that created the disputes before these developed."
"For much of that time I concentrated on my career, though by the time that the GSD was returned for a second term in 2000 I started tio become more and more concerned about the direction Gibraltar was taking and the lack of concern for people's problems at a local level and I returned actively to the GSLP.
"I recall explaining to a meeting of party activists that while the fundamental values of the GSLP had not changed, that there was still a belief in social justice and equality, the same could not be said of the GSD. Since then, if anything, the gap has widened and I think it important that I do anything I can to help the GSLP to return to government.
"I'm not in this for the ego trip or personal advantage. I want to see the GSLP in government. That's my sole aim."