Direct Democracy Again

 

I wonder how reassured Gibraltar Defence Police officers were by the Chief Minister’s comments on GBC Television’s Direct Democracy programme a couple of weeks ago? Fabian Picardo was quizzed about the state of negotiations for the transfer of the force from the Ministry of Defence to the Gibraltar Government.

He pointed out that what’s being talked about at the moment is a transfer of ownership, but not yet an amalgamation with the Royal Gibraltar Police as the GDP Federation is seeking. While stating that the youngest officer in the GDP today will retire as an officer of the RGP Mr Picardo offered no timeframe, suggesting that for older officers the merger may come too late.

The Chief Minister claimed that a “forced” merger now would be a disaster because by pushing two organisations together you put people’s careers out of joint. Maybe though it’s GDP officers’ noses that will be put out of joint by delaying the amalgamation: because of the ongoing MOD pay freeze, they earn 40% less than their RGP counterparts and Mr Picardo made it very clear they would not get a 40% pay rise the day the GDP came to be owned by the government.

CAR OWNERSHIP

In a recent column I highlighted an international survey that suggested attitudes to car ownership might be changing, with more and more people seeing ride sharing and summoning a taxi with their smartphone when they need to as viable alternatives to owning a car.

It’s a slow process though. Two-thirds of those sampled preferred to have their own wheels and I’m pretty sure that in Gibraltar, which has one of the highest car densities per capita in the world, that proportion would be higher still.

On Direct Democracy, it was put to Fabian Picardo that the time for tough decisions on car ownership and pollution would have to come. He partly sidestepped the issue by focusing in his answer on vehicle emissions. In five years’ time, he mused, cars may not pollute as manufacturers switch to electricity as the main means of propulsion. Problem solved.

But that still leaves traffic congestion. Whatever cars are powered by, they occupy physical space and that’s not going to change because they’re “cleaner”, or even driverless. By not addressing this aspect of the question, Mr Picardo drove me to conclude that we should not, as a community, expect to see radical measures to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads anytime soon.

BLUEWATER UP THE CREEK?

Direct Democracy also served to confirm that a development once hailed as the largest ever inward investment into Gibraltar is dead in the water.

When it was launched in 2015, Blue Water Gibraltar was to provide more than a thousand affordable homes, 450 high-end apartments, a five-star hotel and a Super Yacht marina, among other amenities. Not to mention payment by the developers, Camoren, of an £83m premium to the government.

That’s all now gone to pot.

The Chief Minister said he believed the East Side project would still go ahead but in a different “incarnation” with the government itself developing a (presumably smaller) plot, perpendicular rather than parallel to the Rock as Blue Water would have been.

Brexit, it seems, has made Camoren vote with their feet. Dragging them so much they never made it here.

Camel here I come!

After an interlude of 15 years, and provided both they and I make it, I’ll finally get to see my favourite band once again next year!

By the time I went to uni in 1976 Camel had replaced the likes of Genesis and Yes as my progressive rock idols, which they still are to this day. I got to see them during my first year as an undergraduate student in Bristol and managed to get a ticket for their gig in Paris in 1978, where I was undergoing the first part of my year abroad.

It would be a quarter of a century before another opportunity arose this time, oddly, in Granada of all places.

As you can see from the T shirt it was billed as their farewell tour. And for some years it seemed it might be just that. Camel’s founder, lead guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter, Andy Latimer, became seriously ill in 2007 and his future, let alone the band’s, hung in the balance. Happily he recovered and is back on the road.

Camel’s breakthrough came with their third album ‘Snow Goose’, an excerpt from which I included in my Classic Rock Instrumentals post in August (scroll down to read it). But their masterpiece, in my opinion, is ‘Moonmadness’ which came out in 1976 and was the soundtrack to the long hot summer of that year as some of my cohort and I prepared to embark on our university careers.

And it’s precisely this album that the latest Camel incarnation (only Andy Latimer remains from the original line-up) will be playing in its entirety next September in the Royal Albert Hall!

Needless to say I couldn’t resist, and was sitting expectantly at the computer, finger poised over the ‘buy’ button, at eleven on-the-dot this morning when the tickets went on sale. Thankfully I was able to complete the purchasing process in the three minutes I was given and emerged with two tickets, for me and my son who shares my love of classic rock.

Do give ‘Moonmadness’ a listen, and if you like what you hear tell me. I’ll recommend other gems from the Camel catalogue.