Who’ll be the next GSD leader?

Roy Clinton (left) & Keith Azopardi

Politics is a thankless business. Take, as an example, GSD leadership hopeful Roy Clinton.

A successful chartered accountant and banker, he gave up his position as CEO of a locally based private bank two years ago to work full time with the Gibraltar Social Democrats, of which he’s been a member since 1990.

He was thrown in at the deep end during the 2015 general election campaign when his party chose him to debate money matters on television with the formidable Joe Bossano, and was generally regarded to have held his own.

As an opposition member he’s been a constant thorn in the government’s side. Daniel Feetham named him his deputy last March, and when Mr Feetham surprised everyone by stepping down as leader for family reasons in July it was Mr Clinton who stepped into the breach, becoming interim leader as well as leader of the opposition. He donates that portion of the parliamentary salary he receives for being opposition leader to the party.

Some think, certainly his supporters do, that he’s earned the right to lead the GSD.

And yet the odds are against him: the smart money is on his rival, Keith Azopardi QC.

Mr Azopardi served two terms in government with the GSD, the second as deputy leader, but left in 2003 unhappy about its merger with the Labour Party. He later formed the Progressive Democratic Party but wound it up after it made no significant impact with the electorate at either the 2007 or 2011 general elections.

Some felt the PDP had split the opposition vote and possibly cost the GSD the very close 2011 election. Nonetheless the party has welcomed Mr Azopardi back, and its hierarchy now stands poised to support him.

Well-placed sources have indicated to me that a majority of the 25-strong executive committee, who include the party’s five MPs, intend to vote for Mr Azopardi.

Given that the executive’s vote will be weighted to be worth 40% of the value of the total number of votes cast (the other 60% will come from the votes of ordinary members at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 30 November), it would appear that Mr Azopardi already has a head start.

And that’s not all.

Unless he changes his mind, Sir Peter Caruana, the doyen of the GSD, and chief minister from 1996 to 2011, is set to publicly endorse Keith Azopardi’s candidacy.

When I asked Sir Peter to confirm this he would only say that he would be making a statement about the leadership election in due course. But he added that it’s crucial for the GSD to get the choice of leader right. The electorate, he considers, won’t give the party an infinite number of chances. Get it wrong and a third party could emerge to challenge the big beasts of recent years, much as the GSD itself did when it replaced the AACR as the credible alternative to the GSLP.

Roy Clinton’s qualities are recognised and appreciated. But when it comes down to it, the upper echelons of the GSD feel the party will have wider appeal within the community, and therefore a better chance of winning the next election, with Mr Azopardi at the helm. It remains to be seen whether the membership at large agrees.

UPDATE: 2 November 2017

Sir Peter Caruana has today issued a personal statement throwing his weight behind Keith Azopardi’s candidacy. Below are Sir Peter’s full statement, and Roy Clinton’s reply.

Personal Statement by Sir Peter Caruana in relation to the current contest for the leadership of the GSD
Roy Clinton Personal Statement



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.

23 thoughts on “Who’ll be the next GSD leader?”

  1. While this is, clearly, a matter for the GSD (of which I am not a member), I have to say that my impression is that this attempt to “install” Mr Azopardi, by any means and at all costs, is cynical and contemptuous as it is misguided
    (It typifies all that is so unsavoury and unseemly with local politics). For this reason alone, I sincerely hope that Mr Clinton succeeds. I hope the Membership vote wisely.

    1. What attempt to ‘install’ anyone? There is an election process ongoing in accordance with the rules governing the GSD since Sir Peter was its leader. You make a bald assertion with no evidence to support it.

      1. Mr Vasquez, I believe the comment may relate to the fact Mr Caruana is going to endorse Mr Azopardi, rather than be above the debate and the alleged behind the scene attempts to force Mr Clinton to stand aside to make way for the return of someone who left the GSD in order to fight an election against it and may well have cost them said election. If that is true then it would amount to an attempt at an electionless installation.

          1. “…the upper echelons of the GSD feel the party will have wider appeal within the community, and therefore a better chance of winning the next election, with Mr Azopardi at the helm.” The so-called ‘upper echelons’ need to go back and talk to the community as most people I have spoken to see Roy Clinton as more of an alternative than Keith Azopardi. They feel that Keith is too similar to Fabian Picardo. Not to say that Keith isn’t able, he is, but those undecided want something new and different, they are fed up with the male-middle-class-lawyer brigade. Clinton has a more ‘man on the street’ appeal and people like/want that in a politician.

        1. Mick. Are you sure of your chronological supposition ? Keith Azopardi did not leave his Party to contest the GSD at an election, there were other reasons. His challenge at a General Election happened almost 4 years later. The GSD would have lost the 2011 Election even if the PDP had not presented any candidates due to having lost support from the electorate, you cannot simply transfer or convert all PDP votes in favour of the GSD despite your wishful thinking.

  2. I think the choices between Clinton and Azopardi represents some what of a gamble for the GSD, both with their potential advantages and disadvantages.

    When Caruana finally lost an election, it was by a small margin and after many years in office. You could argue it was due to them being a victim of their own success. After being in office for so long, it was inevitable at some point, they’d have to lose an election simply because of being in office for so long.

    One disadvantage this may have given Feetham is that voters were tired of more Caruana era politics, so having a Caruana era politician take over may not have represented as much change as the voter wanted at that point in time. This was more evident in the last election with such a heavy defeat, despite it only being guaranteed to a point of a basic win for the GSLP because they’d only been in office for one term.

    However, the next up coming election will see the GSLP in office terms, being at the same point when Bossano lost – even Picardo highlighted that the GSLP could not rest on the laurels of a large electoral win because of this historical fact. This will be of interest to both parties I imagine.

    So the GSD has two options now – do they go with Azopardi who to some will represent the “good old Caruana era days” which may be more palatable to the public after its absence for nearly a decade (by the time of the next election is held), and the GSLPs favourable views haven arguably taken a hit – or do they opt for an entirely new avenue with Clinton representing potentially an entirely new look and method who comes with his own potential advantages and disadvantages?

    Looks like the GSD will have to go out on a limb, and choose between a previously successful era politician at a point the GSLP historically lost and its own absence many voters may fondly remember or are too young to have experienced – or try something completely different?

    I haven’t seen either candidates “plans” or “vision” for a future GSD under their leadership, so its hard to judge exactly how different Clinton would be from previous GSD leaders, how much different Azopardi’s political views are from his previous GSD days.

    Regardless if who wins, it’d be interesting to see a break down of the votes between the executive and general members to see how the party views the two options between its levels and peculiar internal voting system.

  3. I would entrust a politician who is loyal, dedicated, sincere and selfless to rule and lead our community. To have all these qualities and consistently compassionate to serve the people of his community as well as his party is hard to find. I truly agree with what Rebecca said that Mr Clinton has more ‘man on the street’ appeal and people like/want that in politician. Mr Clinton’s leadership could well be a brush of fresh air in this modern world.

  4. I prefer Clinton, more charisma and a peoples’ person. The future will require an economist more than a lawyer. Azzopardi has been a Nationalist, not British enough and Gibraltar needs to get closer to U.K. For our secure future outside the EU.
    A British Gibraltarian patriot.
    Good luck Roy.

  5. Whoever ends up as leader of the GSD will only be as good and effective as the people behind him. Unfortunately, as seen in many organisations and businesses, there is always a need to regenerate, to bring in fresh new blood with modern ideas and to do away with the old, the traditional and the less adventurous type. In order to look forward one needs to walk away from the past. Some at the GSD need to let go once and for all and allow others to take the reins and rebuild a party which still has a lot of life in it, a lot to give to this community, and a serious alternative to the present govt, which many are crying out for. Both Roy and Keith have the right skills and attributes to lead the party, both singing from the same hymn sheet with regards to re-engaging with the membership and re-lighting the fire! The first step to success, in my humble opinion, is to quickly assemble a team that the membership can relate to, men and women with experience but also young ones who’s inexperience (at the height of party politics), will ironically become a great asset as they will have no baggage and no hidden agendas. Good luck to both candidates.

  6. Mr Neish, I have read your article with interest. Your assertion that “Well-placed sources have indicated to me that a majority of the 25-strong executive committee, who include the party’s five MPs, intend to vote for Mr Azopardi” makes a few questions spring to mind. Surely to reach that conclusion you must have spoken to a high percentage of the 25 strong executives to make the assertion that they will vote for Mr Azopardi? Is that the case Mr Neish? Have you? The mind boggles though as to why they would want to vote for Mr Azopardi, seeing that this gentleman did his best to discredit the GSD and never got anywhere in his campaign with the PDP.

    1. Hi Henry, thanks for your comment. As part of my research I spoke to numerous members of the executive, including MPs, and they gave me to understand that a majority of the executive intended to vote for Mr Azopardi. My assertion is based on this information. Whether it’s correct or not we’ll never know, of course, as the votes by both the executive and ordinary members will be by secret ballot.

      1. Well if that is the case Mr Neish, both the executive and GSD MP’s seem to be completely out of touch with the membership. As speaking with members in the street they seem to favour more Mr Clinton.

  7. What I find totally dishonest and cowardly, is, people who are posting comments in fake names. Gsd members are generally not acquainted with the issue of the leadership yet. Both candidates have to present themselves to both the executive and the membership. It’s important to give them both an equal hearing, and an equal playing field. I will answer Rebecca. On her points. She has stood for election twice, the last under the leadership of Keith azopardi. She decries Keith for leaving the gsd and started a new party, of which she was part of. She herself has been attached to three different parties, so I find her anti Keith comments a little disingenuous, one could talk about any number of politicians that have done the same, changing sides, changing parties, abandoning any pretense of ideology or political loyalty. Gibraltar is small, it requires centrism for it to function well. Those who support one candidate accuse others of dirty politics because they promote their choice, usually on analyses of both. My own choice is based purely on who I think, is the strongest politician and has a better chance of saving the gsd and it’s legacy. Nothing personal. Although I gave up politics a couple of years ago, I still want to see the gsd, recover from the doldrums I gave over twenty years of my life for its success, and what I believed in. I will always speak without fear or favour, and and I could never support a leader that I don’t believe is the strongest option.

    1. Terry, please go back and read my post. I never decried Keith for moving parties. Other people have, not me.

  8. If Keith Azopardi is voted in as leader of the GSD it will show how out of touch the party still is with the electorate. It will be the same mistake as when Danny Feetham was elected leader over Damon Bossino.

  9. Gibraltar seems to be full of political analysts suddenly. A pity they don’t have the guts to put their full name to their comments! Could they be fakes or could they be the same person just making comments under different names or could they be other activists trying to make mischief….

    1. Yes, Mrs Armstrong there are a lot of political analysts who see things as they are. Maybe these analysts only give there first names, as one track mind persons like yourself, shut and ridicule others who clearly see what reality is, or quicker and easier is to remove difficult questions from the GSD page!! Maybe you could ask Mr Azopardi to answer it? As far as I can see it was not your favourite excuse “a fake profile”.

  10. As a result of this election process, some things have become apparent. The GSD have ploughed ahead accepting a nomination which according to their constitution is void. They have wanted to apply an interpretation which is at odds with the spirit of the constitution. That is, “a candidate must have been a member for two years before an election”, the interpretation given is that a candidate “must have been a member for two years in his or her lifetime”. If the same rule were applied to members who have resigned and wished to return at election time, they could effectively vote in the weakest candidate, or even field a GSLP candidate, given the average turn outs at their meetings, this flawed approach would vulnerably open the party’s ranks (supposing someone really gave two hoots what happens with the party)

    This renders the GSD and anyone who believes this process is constitutionally upheld, unqualified to make any assessments or statements on OUR constitution.

    The fact remains that the GSD have played with the interpretation of their constitution in order to achieve their goals. A party which chastises the GSLP/Liberals for playing with rules and laws for their benefit, now sings from the same hymn sheet making it impossible to differentiate them from the current Government they so easily criticise.

  11. Last night a question was asked of Mr Azopardi on the GSD Facebook page. The question asked referred to whom would Mr Azopardi appoint as leader of the opposition in Parliament. I looked forward to reading the answer. This morning it seemed the question had been deleted. By who I wonder. The administrators? The person who wrote it? Gatos encerrados? Something to hide? What’s going on in the GSD?

  12. Isn’t Keith Azopardi’s continued membership of Fabian Picardo’s secretive Gibraltar Consultative Council (“GCC”) completely at odds with GSD policy? How does he explain this one away?

    The GCC requires members to sign the Official Secrets Act and this prevents any kind of democratic scrutiny of the GCC by the Opposition in Parliament. A year ago, the GSD strongly protested against the formation of the GCC, arguing that it “reinforces the undemocratic centralisation of power that this Government is pursuing, within a ring of secrecy and on pain of imprisonment.” Daniel Feetham himself described the Bill to introduce the GCC as a “dangerous retrograde step”. Strong words. No ambiguity. This remains GSD policy.

    It was this same GSD policy that Keith seemingly chose to ignore when he attended the inaugural meeting of the GCC in July 2017. This was at the same time as he was publicly announcing his prodigal return to the bosom of the GSD, proclaiming his renewed love for the party and his possible ambitions to be its leader.

    Considering Keith wants to be the leader of a party that is completely opposed to a secret consultative council that it has publicly condemned as undemocratic, elitist and dangerous…. what on earth was he doing attending the inaugural meeting of that very council? Isn’t attendance at the GCC incompatible with the position a GSD leader (even an aspiring one) should be taking?

    At the time that the GSD opposed the GCC bill, Picardo labelled the GSD’s position “infantile nonsense” and “inexperienced and unintelligent”. Yet, Keith chooses to sit on the Council, in effect giving the perception that he is PUBLICLY ENDORSING Picardo’s disparaging remarks on the GSD.

    It would have been laudable if Keith had taken a principled stand and chosen not to attend the GCC meeting, but, hey, he didn’t. At the very least, however, I would have expected Keith to have distanced and recused himself from the GCC the minute he finally went officially public with his GSD intentions just a few days after that first Council meeting. The fact that he did not do so and that he continues to sit on the GCC is something that, in my opinion, GSD members need to question.

    Just saying …

  13. Rather amusingly, the Keith camp argue that Keith has deliberately chosen to run a low-key election campaign. No, I don’t think so. The reality is that Keith was caught cold and flat-footed by the fast and intelligent campaign that Roy has run. The Keith camp under-estimated Roy. They thought Keith could just waltz back into the party and Roy would meekly step aside. What a miscalculation. Keith has so far been out-manoeuvred.
    So now the GSD old-guard are in a state of panic, resorting to public endorsements of Keith by Sir Peter and (more recently Trevor Hammond and Elliot Philips) and desperately trying to pigeon-hole Roy as “just a numbers guy”. I think they’ve finally realised what many GSD members already know: Roy is a natural leader. Put Roy in a position where he can lead, and it should be no surprise that this is exactly what happens. He rises to the top.
    Anyone who, so early on in their political career, is confident and sharp enough to take on Joe Bossano, head-to-head on live TV and come out of it with his reputation and credibility enhanced has the cojones and intellect to lead the party. No worries there.
    When I compare both campaigns, Keith relies heavily on his past experience and associations with Sir Peter and prefers to play on the grand statesman image but leaves you none the wiser in terms of any real actions he plans to take. His tactic is to dangle the “I will give you back the glory days” carrot on the basis that this will appeal to a broad spectrum of people. Roy’s campaign is very different. Straight out of the blocks Roy was promising a GSD party conference and a review of the constitution on the basis that the GSD needs this in order to be relevant to that broad spectrum of people. Roy offers real, practical solutions that give the members a voice. Roy’s message is one of forward change and renewal.
    So, in assessing whether to vote for Roy or Keith, I strongly believe that a GSD member needs to ask one simple question: based on track record and actions so far, which candidate do you trust to have the GSD members’ best interests at heart?

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