I get that the GSLP and its mouthpiece the New People are worried. After all they are seeing people flocking to the GSD, a massive regeneration of it and a desire to stand up and be counted against the politics of lies and spin. This is a real signal of the rejection felt in wider society with how the Government is running our affairs across so many fields from health to housing to how they handle your money.
People want change.
Last week in a sign of how worried they are the New People trash-talked a number of GSD executive candidates as their baptism of fire into politics. The fact that in some cases they “welcomed” them into politics having first undermined them was nothing more than a massive front for what they were really trying to do – put people down for just wanting to get involved – against them. Our 20 candidates are drawn from all sectors of society. Inevitably because of the pure mathematics only 8 of them will get elected to the Executive. That means that the majority of them will not even be in our Executive. And yet the GSLP’s New People tried its sour and desperate best at dismissing as many of them as it could. They are just ordinary citizens trying to make a difference. If anything, it strengthened the individual resolve of candidates and once again shone a bright light on why we need change.
I held back last week from commenting because I wanted the GSD to announce our internal electoral process in a proper way – as we have now done. But now I want to make some observations on this needless denigration of citizens who merely have the temerity of holding their hand up against the GSLP government and want to make a difference.
It is a cause for celebration when citizens desire to participate in politics – in any political party. We need people to come forward. It is a good thing for our community and it will guarantee sustainable change and governance – so that there are new generations to take over and continue to build and secure the Gibraltar we love.
For people to want to come forward also requires courage because of the unfortunate climate in this small place of ours where people are often afraid of taking public positions against a Government that in the past has used all its resources to squash ordinary citizens.
That isn’t an equal fight.
There is nothing wrong or new about people being drawn into politics having first participated in sectoral groups. That doesn’t mean the GSD control those groups although clearly it does show the Party’s diversity of appeal. To criticize some of our candidates on that basis ignores, of course, that some of the GSLP/Lib Ministers themselves made the jump into politics from lobby groups, unions or associations. I don’t criticize that. That someone who wants to make a change first starts lobbying for it and then tries to effect it more directly is not a surprise.
The latest spin and distortion of the New People and Mr Picardo is the attempt to create a false impression of Marlene Hassan Nahon as an arms dealer. That plainly fictional spin is done once again just to trash an opponent in the hope that some people believe it. Robust political criticism of politicians is fair game of course but we have to pause to question where the dividing lines between fair criticism and plain distortion are.
I have in another article expressed concern about the crisis of truth in this community because of the style of spin and half-truths of the Government. The New People has become an indistinguishable part of the armoury of that campaign. The reality of the New People’s style is that it is a mere echo of political lines first drawn by Mr Picardo. So no wonder that many people can fall to believe that some of the sentences in the newspaper are simple regurgitations of Mr Picardo. When people are systematically fed fake news two things will happen. First the truth is lost and second people lose faith in politicians because they no longer really know where the truth lies. This is a dangerous game for the GSLP’s New People to play.
Ultimately a style of denigration and personal character assassination that breeds lies or intolerance that borders on soft intimidation or just plain trash talks about candidates speaks volumes of the New People and magnifies why we need a new style of government.
Welcome as it was for the Chief Minister and the GSLP Chairman to both say on Thursday (on an unrelated issue) that they respect the GSD’s internal processes when it comes to the New People the problem is that Mr Picardo’s historic presentation of deep blue water between the GSLP and the New People doesn’t work. No one believes it. This is just another of those endless twists or spins that we are served up with by a straight-faced Mr Picardo.
The New People is the GSLP’s party organ. There is no doubt about that. To the point that the Chief Minister [as GSLP Leader] is the beneficial owner of the shares of the company owning the New People. The paper represents and supports the GSLP line in everything. But it goes further in an insidious and undemocratic way with the personalization, constant name-calling and singling out of citizens whether true or untrue. A lot of the time plainly untrue. That goes well beyond freedom of speech. It has become no more than an antiquated caricature sheet of days of old. That may have been how politics was conducted in a bygone era but if we are to aspire to progress, to do things differently and to genuinely stand for a new style of government then those old ways need to be ditched too. I am the first to recognise that the GSD and other political parties may have also fallen into the trap of aspiring to have a political paper before. But politics need to be done differently and as long as I am GSD Leader we will not have a political newspaper to systematically do the political dirty work on citizens. I am committed to a new style of Government.
Mr Picardo can’t say he values certain citizens or lobby groups and then through the New People unleash a full-on assault on the same citizens with whom he will subsequently pose for photographs for his endless political propaganda machine. It is a contradiction that will explode in his face come the next election