And Then There Were Five…

As Harold Macmillan is purported to have replied when asked what a prime minister most feared: “Events, dear boy, events”. Well, it’s events that have prompted me to interrupt my summer break and put pen to paper again earlier than planned.

Back in April in this column I mused on what I saw as the near impossibility of an independent election candidate winning a seat in parliament. I argued that the block voting system that has become so entrenched in our collective psyche militated against it. A vote for an independent, I reasoned, would be more than neutralised by the other nine votes an elector is entitled to cast.

It turns out my analysis was wrong.

An independent may, indeed, become an MP and the way to do it is simple. Just reverse the process: instead of standing for election on your own in the hope of winning sufficient votes, stand as part of a party’s line-up. If you get in, resign from the party but don’t renounce your seat. Hey presto!

I’m not suggesting either of them joined the Gibraltar Social Democrats with the intention of doing this already in their mind, but we now have two MPs, Marlene Hassan Nahon and Lawrence Llamas, who became independents in this way. They were elected as members of the Gibraltar Social Democrats in 2015 but left in order to plough their own parliamentary furrow.

Not for a moment do I doubt their sincerity about wanting to continue to serve the people of Gibraltar “freed from the shackles” of GSD membership, as Mr Llamas put it in his personal resignation statement.

And legally they’ve done nothing wrong. The Parliament Act speaks about “candidates” not “parties”, so electors are technically choosing individuals, even though the tendency is to vote for most or all of the individuals in their preferred party or alliance’s slate.

But is it morally right?

In my view the honourable thing to do in these circumstances is to seek a direct mandate from the electorate. Resign not just from the party, but from parliament too. The ensuing by-election would determine whether voters support your views, policies and actions. It would also give the party you’ve left an opportunity to reclaim the seat you vacated. After all, it would be understandable if GSD voters felt betrayed.

Given that MPs currently earn a minimum of more than 35 thousand pounds a year, this course of action would also serve to dispel any suspicion that the decision to remain in parliament is motivated more by financial self-interest than a desire to serve the community.

Incidentally, both Ms Hassan Nahon and Mr Llamas cited Daniel Feetham’s style of leadership as a major factor in their decision to quit. With Mr Feetham no longer in charge, might they return to the GSD fold?

(This post is slightly amended from the version first published as an opinion piece in the Gibraltar Chronicle)

Author: gibsteve

Broadcast journalist for 31 years 20 of them as news editor with GBC, the local radio and TV station in Gibraltar. Now retired and finding ways to keep busy.

3 thoughts on “And Then There Were Five…”

  1. The electorate surely are right to assume that all ten parliamentary candidates making up the GSD slate stand for the “values and principles” of that party and the electorate has the right also to assume that THEY and the party they support will be fully representated until the next election.
    As a GSD supporter and one of the many helpers who worked on behalf of the 10 GSD candidates before the election I feel utterly betrayed.
    What is the point of voting for ten candidates BECAUSE of the Party they represent as many voters do? The point is because that is the system in Gibraltar and because, being a GSD supporter, I hoped for a GSD Government. If a GSD Government wasn’t to be then at least I can be confident that a GSD Opposition will be holding the Government to account.
    I didn’t “lend” these two candidates my vote to be “temporary” GSD representatives. I didn’t “lend” Ms Nahon and Mr Llamas my vote so that they could throw it back at me and “do their own thing”!
    They SAY they no longer agree with the Party and have found the GSD leader difficult to work with. I SAY the party hasn’t changed ……. they have (or maybe they never did agree with the Party from the beginning); I SAY that these two candidates had more than enough time, particularly Ms Nahon, to know whether or not they could work with Mr Feetham. I SAY that neither of these two MP’s possess the humility needed to work as part of a team, and it is THEIR arrogance that prevents them from accepting the decisions of the elected Leader. Team members will question, they will argue, sometimes discussions will be heated, but ultimately THEY are there to do what the Leader and their parliamentary colleagues think is best.
    If they don’t like it then yes they should, if they are honest to themselves, resign and, if they are honest to those who entrusted them with their vote, they should do the honourable thing and resign their seat.
    Voters will then be given the opportunity to elect two more candidates who WILL represent their chosen Party ………. the GSD.

  2. The process followed by the electorate, in principle at least, is to make judgements on who will represent them based on a manifesto presented at the time of a general election. Both these individuals have not done this as independents, so how can we effectively judge what they stand for and what their programme is given the circumstances. Effectively they cease to represent those that elected them and should submit themselves to the test of a bi election. My thoughts would be the same for any individual irrespective of what political party they originally represented.

  3. Disloyal to the gsd members, supporters and activists that worked so hard for them to be elected as part of the GSD team.
    Very disappointed and quite honestly, disgusted and the betrayal. How can the Electorate ever trust these two again?

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