Rambling by people who were completely out of their depth

Dear Sir,

Watching the Representation in Westminster Movement's interview on GBC Viewpoint was one of the most painfully embarrassing things I have seen since its members were prancing around outside 10 Downing Street delivering their much vaunted petition earlier this year, an event which, mercifully, went unnoticed in the UK media. It was mostly incoherent and inarticulate rambling by people who were completely out of their depth, dripping with sentimentality and reeking of misplaced entitlement, or what the Chief Minister recently called the 'a mi me pertenece' culture. 

As a UK resident and voter, I find their antics an insult to the memory of people like the Suffragettes who fought, and in some cases died, for universal suffrage, though at least they have not equated their cause with that one. Having the right to full British citizenship does not give people from Gibraltar the right to be represented in the House of Commons in London any more than having the right to Irish citizenship gives people in Northern Ireland the right to be represented in Dáil Éireann in Dublin, at least not automatically. And that includes Gibraltarians like Albert Poggio born to evacuees in Ballymena!

Indeed, it is not strictly true that other European countries with overseas territories give all of their citizens identical voting rights to those living in the metropolis, as while Aruba in the Caribbean is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, its residents do not have the right to vote in Dutch general elections, a position upheld by a court in The Hague. The court's argument against giving them that right, namely that there were too few 'kingdom' matters reserved to the Dutch government in The Hague to justify it, was identical to the argument put forward against Gibraltar and the other overseas territories voting in Westminster elections.

Instead, the parliaments of the Dutch Caribbean countries, each as legislatively and fiscally autonomous as Gibraltar's, send delegates to the lower house of parliament in The Hague when it discusses matters of concern to them, on which they can speak, but cannot vote, though they rarely do so anyway, as their ministers-plenipotentiary exercise that right in addition to sitting in the 'kingdom' cabinet. This is much more flexible than having their own MPs, which would lead to charges of representation without taxation, or representation without responsibility, as happened when Malta's representation at Westminster was being discussed in 1956.

There is already a Joint Ministerial Council, in which ministers from Gibraltar and the other overseas territories sit alongside their UK counterparts, so there could be a Joint Parliamentary Assembly, which could meet in the chamber of the House of Commons. A precedent for members of other legislatures doing so was set last November when the chamber was used for the Women MPs of the World Conference, though this was only attended by those from other countries, not by those from overseas territories or crown dependencies, though, sadly, Gibraltar only had two woman MPs who could have been invited.

If the problem with those who voted 'leave' was that they didn't know what they were voting for, the one with those who signed this petition is that they do not know what they were asking for, and only did so because they did not want to hurt anyone's feelings. Those who declined to do so are to be commended for their honesty and their consistency, including those who are members of the Gibraltar Parliament, in which this petition is to be debated. On the other hand, none of those members who chose to do so including the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, has spoken publicly about why they did so, and if they think it is a good idea.

On the other hand, while the Representation in Westminster Movement may be a happy clappy kumbaya Pollyanna and Dad's Army outfit, at least it says what it believes, and is prepared to face negative reactions, even if it is being used as a canary down the coalmine by others not yet prepared to go down there themselves.

Yours etc

Ken Westmoreland

20-09-2019 PANORAMAdailyGIBRALTAR