More in sorrow than in anger

Dear Sir,

Reading Joe Caruana's latest missive, I am reminded of the Iraqi Information Minister during the last Gulf War, nicknamed 'Comical Ali', on his wildly optimistic spin on military defeats. Leaving aside other historical inaccuracies, I recall that he founded the Integration With Britain Movement, not the Devolved Integration Movement, which would have the unfortunate acronym of DIM!

I write this more in sorrow than in anger as I know Joe from years ago, as I do Daniel Feetham, but when the latter floated the idea of 'devolved integration' after Brexit as a 'fallback' my heart sank, as it was poorly defended when it was predictably attacked.

As for terminology, it was Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland who said 'when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less', and this is often the case when it comes to this issue. Personally, I prefer the term 'autonomous' to 'devolved' because power devolved is power retained, but for some in Gibraltar, 'autonomy' is as tainted a word as 'integration' because they associate it with the Partido para la Autonomía de Gibraltar of JE Triay. Ironically, his father SP Triay was one of the first people to call for Gibraltar to be integrated with the UK and represented in the House of Commons back in 1945.

In fact, while some still resent Joshua Hassan for rejecting integration when Harold Wilson suggested it in 1966, I can understand his misgivings in the context at the time. There was a fear that Gibraltar might be left with a city council again, in which case having an MP would be a sop. And while the Pro-Integration Movement looked to Malta, which under integration would have kept a parliament much like that of Gibraltar now, there was then no certainty that they would have anything like that in 1969, never mind 2006. However, there was agreement that Gibraltar should be under the Home Office, not the Foreign Office.

What I find ironic is that while Gibraltar's integration with the UK entails a small entity becoming a part of a much larger one, which is why so many are dead against it, some calling for it on social media seem unable to see it in a much wider context.

It seems to be less about the UK and more about anti-Spanish or anti-EU sentiment and petty family vendettas. One Facebook group calling for devolved integration has barred politicians, not least the one whose brother-in-law's tennis partner's lawyer's sister-in-law's accountant's great uncle's Spanish cleaning lady's godfather was the local Falange leader in Algeciras, making him a palomo!

Look, I'm sorry, but do you think even those in the UK most sympathetic to Gibraltar care about any of this, least of all those in both Houses of Parliament? You know, the one you'd be represented in, assuming they agree to it because in order for Gibraltar to have an MP in the House of Commons, they have to pass a law to that effect. As one MP told the previous Chief Minister, 'self-determination is a two-way process... we have rights as well'. And given that it would be the UK's taxpayers that would be paying the MP for Gibraltar's salary, aren't they entitled to know what value the honourable member for the Rock might add?

For my sins, I wrote and recorded a maiden speech by the would-be first MP for Gibraltar, to be read in the House of Commons, not only about what it meant to represent that place and its people but what he would contribute. Have Joe Caruana and his colleagues done anything like that? After all, don't you want to give people an idea of what this would entail? Well then, show a bit of imagination! And stop thinking that the sentimentalist codswallop about 'our Mother Parliament in Great Britain' will get you far in the UK - it won't. GBC journalists may treat you like elderly family friends, Sky News and BBC ones would rip you to shreds.

What has been particularly depressing about this issue is the complete lack of intelligent public debate. The Oxford Union would be a fantastic forum for this to be debated given that this affects the UK as well as Gibraltar. Fabian Picardo is an alumnus of Oriel College, but even if he's not up for it, I'm sure there are Gibraltarians studying there now, with one or other taking sides as devil's advocate, as other debaters often do. Sir Peter Caruana once said he was cause to 'plunge into schizophrenia' on representation at Westminster, saying 'part of me would welcome it very much', and in that spirit I would argue for a motion calling for it.

On the other hand, the other part of me, if not of Sir Peter, has asked good friends from Gibraltar: 'Why are you still flogging this dead horse?' But to those long against it, you have my every sympathy, because this has festered for far too long and created misunderstanding between Gibraltar, and the UK, and I would be more than happy to bring it to a or a close. If that means it never happens, we can leave it to the past, move on, and let it be just another 'what if' of history, like what if Benjamin Franklin's idea in 1754 of uniting the American colonies with Great Britain or proposals for a British Imperial Federation in the 1870s had come to pass.


Ken Westmoreland