It’s general election year in Gibraltar once again and the politicians are understandably starting to feel tense. The size of the Rock means a lot of the candidates, ministers and would-be ministers are known personally to a great many of the electorate, so the criticisms can feel that much more personal.
Is isn’t intended as a look at political debate, however. When there is an election on the way a lot of interest groups start making suggestions as to what they’d like to see from the new administration, in much the same way as the Gib government itself has been making noises about the UK staying in Europe.
So, what have the Gibraltarian interest groups been asking for?
First on the list is the Heritage Trust, which comes first because it’s been frank enough to issue a list formally. Reported in the Gibraltar Chronicle, its main points include investment in heritage (naturally enough) and tightening up on what might be called “brand Gibraltar”. It is asking for a “heritage champion” as well, to safeguard the reputation of the territory.
The Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce has also published a list. Chamber President, Christian Hernandez commenting on the publication of the Chamber’s wish list said in a press release: “My board has been developing this document over several months having taken soundings from members in various business sectors. We believe that the suggestions which are contained within it make good economic sense and would also help Gibraltar to become more competitive and more resilient. The Chamber will be engaging with the leaders of all political parties in the weeks and months ahead and we hope to convince them to adopt all of the measures proposed by the Chamber for their own manifestos when they are published ahead of the general election.”
The suggestions are a little more politically coloured than those of the heritage people. For example, a wish for economic growth to be led by the private rather than public sector will chime with some and not with others; a corresponding wish to see more employment in the private than public sector is consistent but again, agreement or otherwise will depend on the reader’s political views.
In terms of published wish lists, environment group ESG has published a PDF that usefully incorporates previous wish lists and the government’s performance against them. Aims include better management of climate change issues, careful consideration of the placement of phone masts and notes on air quality in the North West of the Rock, as industry and residential properties proliferate.
Smaller groups have offered their views too. Action for Housing is independent of any political party and wants more accommodation for single homeless men, ongoing construction of government funded flats for renting and antisocial behaviour legislation.
No doubt other views will proliferate. A general election is serious of course, and not always the place for levity. However, we can’t help but feel that if the general political discourse were as polite and constructive as the groups around the politicians, we’d end up with a more civilised debate than we’re likely to get.