The Average Gibraltar Voter
Trying to choose a ten-strong political ‘Dream Team'
He, she or it - for, given the almost equal demographic division of the sexes, our Gibraltarian would be androgynous - would have 3.8 children; live in a half-rented half-mortgaged home with 2.29 bedrooms; the family would own 1.45 cars, 0.98 scooters and half a safety helmet; would attend one of the Roman catholic churches, but would not eat pork; would believe everything/ nothing that they read in the Gibraltar Chronicle or Vox; and, though viewing Spain with jaundiced antipathy, would consider the Andalusian TV channels more accurate and reliable than GBC.
Some aspects of his her or its make-up are more realistically recognisable, of course...The shared pride in the Rock and its history; an on-going loyalty to our links with Britain and a determination to retain them - despite a gut-feeling that the UK has let us down in its dealings with Madrid over Spain's claims of sovereignty; and a shared skepticism about most politicians - what ever their party allegiances.
Yet it is to this amorphous figure that all the parties and their candidates must appeal as they prepare their manifestoes for next month's election and, later, as they back-slap and hand-shake their way down Main Street or across Casemates.
The die-hard GSLP supporters will vote for Bossano's ‘ticket' regardless, as will the ever-dwindling band of grass-roots GSD for Caruana's lot. So it is the ‘other' average voter, weighing up achievements and promises, who will decide the outcome on October 11.
How do they think that Caruana and his ministers have fared in the 11 years that he has dictated Gibraltar's political course? What are their concerns?
Without access to that amorphous and androgynous "Average Gibraltarian" (AG) VOX has canvassed the views of a range of voters across the age groups - and including the new tranche of young voters who have become eligible to cast their ballots since the last election. The latter proved considerably more politically aware than we often give them credit for...but appear particularly concerned at Caruana's neglect of the Rock's younger folk in arrangements for the recent National Day celebrations and the Government-ordered absence of their traditional entertainment. He and his GSD clearly will not be receiving much support from the Rock's younger voters.
Many of the responses of AG echoed comments and views expressed by respondents to the opinion poll conducted by VOX last year - and whose results and methodology were vehemently attacked and dismissed by Caruana. These reflected a growing dissatisfaction with the Chief Minister and his autocratic form of rule and - following the introduction of the new constitution and his steamrolling through Parliament of the Judicial Services Act - this antipathy has intensified. (Early responses to a new VOX poll, whose results will be published in a fortnight, show a continuing and growing resentment of Caruana's dictatorial arrogance, and anger at unfulfilled former electoral promises.)
There's an echo of Caruana's fall from electoral popularity in William Hogarth's scathing pictorial satires of life in 18th century England. The Rake's Progress shows the decline of a young aristocrat while Marriage a la Mode reflects devious social negotiations which could easily be applied to Caruana's unpopular "achievements" in Cordoba last year.
For the Chief Minister was swept into Government by an electorate that believed the promises of a new style with a level playing field in which the wishes of the people of Gibraltar would prevail and the tarnished image of the jurisdiction would be refurbished and given a new squeaky-clean international image. And AGs agree that, with the aid of his deputy Peter Montegriffo, Caruana made a good start - transforming the Finance Centre, encouraging inward investment and changing the jurisdiction's "brass plate companies" image.
But the promises to improve housing stock and provide affordable housing for the new generation of Gibraltar's would-be home-owners went by the board, as did most of the carrots dangled before pensioners. Nothing was done about environmental issues and, during the GSD's first and second terms in power caruana is seen as being too busy attempting to look like an international statesman than looking after the needs of the electorate as a whole...while taking care of those who - in one way or another - earned his favour.
There were new projects, of course, which benefited the community as a whole. The refurbishment of Casemates ( a Montegriffo initiative) and the new sports stadium earned Caruana a lot of "Brownie points" as far as AGs were concerned; but even here their accolades were tempered by concern at the Chief Minister's obsessive need to control everything and take decisions on trivia - even several times choosing and changing his mind about the colour of the tiles to be used in the stadium's toilets.
"Everything has to cross his desk at No. 6 and, until he has looked at something and approved it, nothing gets done. That seems to be the reality of the Caruana regime," say the AGs. "It's a reputation that will not help him on polling day..."
His failures over the airport and refusal to call a referendum on the Cordoba agreement; his apparent cosiness with Spain; and his heavy-handed approach in ramming the new Constitution down many reluctant throats are all likely to cost Caruana votes next month. As will his release of land to developers - which gained temporary windfalls for the Rock's revenue at the cost of the needs of the man and woman in the street.
Nor will the AGs' antagonism be off-set by the financial carrots the Chief Minister dangled before them in the last budget - for they know that these are ‘one-off' benefits funded by land sales and unlikely to be sustained...
And if there's no such person as Mr or Mrs Average Gibraltar Voter, are we any more likely to find an "ideal" ten-strong ticket which would serve Gibraltar in a Government that would put the people and their needs ahead of personal advancement and shun the egotistical self-aggrandisement suspect in many of our politicians?
As with complaints and concerns, VOX canvassed a range of residents in a cross-section of ages in an effort to create an "ideal dream team" - a cross-party combination of proven or anticipated talents that could form an effective coalition ticket. The outcome - and one which to VOX made sound sense - included some unexpected names. Our "Average Gibraltarian", though strongly of the opinion that there should be at least one woman in any Gibraltar Government, also found it difficult to come up with a name to fill that particular bill.
"Obviously Yvette del Agua has made such a hash of the Social Services portfolio that she doesn't deserve re-election, let alone to be given a ministerial post again," say the AGs. "And the way that whistle-blowers have been made to suffer is unforgiveable."
"At one stage it looked as though MarieLou What's-her-name might be a good choice...," said another AG. "You know, the woman who ran the GFSB and then joined Keith Azopardi's party...only to jump ship when she disagreed on a point of policy. One needs team players...so rule her out."
Clearly there's a lot of ‘wishful thinking' in the cross-party team that our AGs selected. Some, despite their experience - or perhaps because of it - would not be willing to stand; others have not shown any interest in the political arena. At least six of their choice will be seeking election - though not on the same ticket.
And, perhaps most significantly, neither Peter Caruana nor Joe Holliday were chosen by any member of the AG panel. Anyway here (in no particular order) are the names of the ‘dream team' they chose - names, too, which VOX would have no problem in supporting if they stood on a single coalition ticket:
Judge Alcantara (the respected former Speaker of the House of Assembly); James Levy QC (senior partner in the international law firm Hassans); Joe Bossano, former Chief Minister and current Leader of the Opposition; Fabian Vinet (young effective minister in the Caruana Government); Fabian Picardo, young effective opposition member of parliament; Gilbert Licudi, aspirant candidate for the GSLP; Keith Azopoardi, former Caruana deputy who has remained untarred by the Caruana brush and leads the PDP; Joseph Garcia, leader of the Liberal Party; Peter Montegriffo, one of Gibraltar's few proven statesmen on the international stage; and, of course, the elusive mystery woman...someone yet to be discovered?