Office of Governor 'an anachronism', says Ken Westmoreland

Dear Sir,

It has been interesting to read the exchange of views between Joe Carseni and Tito Valerga on the Governor and the Chief Minister in your letters page. I agree with Mr Carseni that the office of Governor, at least in its present form, is an anachronism, and having known two former occupants of the Convent, the former of whom was a mediocrity in his previous job and the latter a fawning individual who had ‘gone native’, I can see a case for doing away with the post. However, I don’t think the UK would save any money were it to do so, as it would still need to be represented, be it by a UK Government Hub, High Commission, Embassy or Consulate-General.

For the record, I have always believed that the Queen and the UK government should be separately represented in Gibraltar, as has the Liberal Party. In 1998, it proposed that the former be represented by a ‘Queen’s Representative’ instead of a Governor, with the latter being represented by a ‘UK Government Representative’, who would take over the functions of the Deputy Governor, with the Commander of British Forces becoming the ‘UK Defence Representative’. It added that the ‘Queen’s Representative.... ideally should be a member of the Royal Family [but] need not take up permanent residence in Gibraltar’.

This is similar to Andorra, where the two Co-Princes, the President of the French Republic and the Bishop of Urgell in Spain both have personal representatives in their capacity as joint heads of state, but neither actually resides in the Principality. Leaving aside the overtones of joint sovereignty, this is inappropriate as the Queen should be represented in Gibraltar by a Gibraltarian resident in Gibraltar, whether he or she be titled ‘Queen’s Representative’ or, as was also proposed ‘Lieutenant Governor’, as in the Crown Dependencies, or the Canadian provinces, with the office of Mayor being incorporated into the new post.

In fact, the Cayman Islands, another British Overseas Territory, recently proposed that its Governor be appointed on the recommendation of its government instead of that of the UK, just as the Governor of an Australian state is appointed on the recommendation of that state’s government, not the federal government in Canberra. Mr Valerga, therefore, is incorrect in referring to Australia having a ‘British Governor’ when he was living there - the Governor-General of Australia was by then an Australian appointed on the recommendation of Gough Whitlam, the very Prime Minister he would later sack, as he would have done were he President instead.

Mr Carseni made an interesting point about how a Chief Minister should be limited to two terms in office, much like the President of the US, but Gibraltar, following the Westminster system, does not have separation of powers with a separately elected head of government. That said, such a system might work better in Gibraltar than in larger jurisdictions, given that it is not divided up into constituencies, similar to Israel, which briefly had a directly elected Prime Minister with the President remaining ceremonial head of state. However, best to start small, and the Chief Minister, like his opposite number in Anguilla, should ask for an upgrade to ‘Premier’.


Ken Westmoreland,