Bossino return?

Is ex GSD opposition member Damon Bossino planning a comeback sooner rather than later?

When he explained his reasons for not contesting the party leadership last year, the one-time deputy leader of the Social Democrats gave the impression that a return to frontline politics, if it happened at all, was still a long way off. He spoke about re-entering public life “in the future” and of “one day” having the opportunity of making his contribution to the “firm, brave, realistic and practical leadership” Gibraltar needs.

Surely the fact that he decided not to stand against Roy Clinton and Keith Azopardi, unlike in 2013 when he did unsuccessfully challenge then leader Daniel Feetham, meant he’d put any political ambitions firmly on the back burner?

I’m not so sure.

Mr Bossino said he took his decision for personal and political reasons. He was unsure how effective a party leader could be if he was outside parliament.

Another possible reason in my view is that if he’d fought and lost the leadership election it could have damaged, perhaps fatally, any prospect he had of someday taking over the reins.

Mr Bossino can now afford to wait in the wings and see how the GSD fares at the next general election. If it doesn’t do well he can set himself up as an alternative without being accused of disloyalty. In the statement ruling himself out of the contest, remember, he pointedly said he’d decided not to put his name forward “on this occasion”.

But if you’re playing the long game, why go to the trouble of recording a political video blog and posting it on social media, as he did a fortnight ago?

In a six-minute address, Mr Bossino outlined his Brexit concerns and suggested he was unconvinced by the assurances chief minister Fabian Picardo and deputy chief minister Joseph Garcia gave in their New Year messages. He even beat Mr Azopardi to the punch, the new GSD leader echoing some of Mr Bossino’s views when he delivered his own New Year message several days later.

Mr Bossino was clearly keen to reach as wide an audience as possible, as the text of his video blog was also published in full as an opinion piece in this newspaper. A conscious attempt, it seems to me, to elevate his profile.

Could he be thinking of standing at the next election and if so, with whom?

Might he form a new third party, possibly recruiting independent opposition MP Lawrence Llamas who’s increased his political activity of late?

Or join the other independent and ex-GSD member Marlene Hassan Nahon’s Together Gibraltar movement?

Maybe even return to the GSD fold if Mr Azopardi, his old colleague in the Gibraltar National Party, can persuade him?

I asked Damon Bossino all these questions.

His reply, I’m afraid, was just an enigmatic smile.

Is slapping children acceptable?


Should parents/guardians be allowed to smack their children?
3 answers



Congratulating the Child Protection Committee and its sub groups for the work they do in raising awareness of the importance of safeguarding children, health minister Neil Costa said recently that “safeguarding is everybody’s business”.

One significant measure the government could consider in pursuit of that aim is making it illegal to discipline children by smacking them. Although strictly speaking this constitutes assault, society by and large accepts the right of parents and guardians to exercise what a lawyer friend of mine described as “reasonable chastisement”. The problem is what’s reasonable for one person may be totally unacceptable for another.

According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 53 countries have introduced a total ban, including slapping children in the home, and at least 56 more have expressed a commitment to full prohibition. In the European Union 21 of the 28 Member States have banned the practice.

One that hasn’t though is the UK, but that could change as prime minister Theresa May comes under pressure to amend the relevant legislation. The Scottish government has already said it will back a private member’s bill to remove the defence of “justifiable assault” thereby giving children the same protection in law as adults.

Meanwhile, the government of Wales has launched a three-month public consultation with the hope of also imposing a ban.

The minister for children and social care Huw Irranca-Davies, himself the father of three boys, said it’s now known that physical punishment can have negative long-term impacts on a child’s life chances and that, furthermore, it’s an ineffective punishment. He claimed that while physically punishing children was accepted as normal practice for generations, it’s increasingly being seen as less acceptable and parents feel less comfortable with it.

The Welsh consultation ends on 2 April. If the outcome is favourable to the government a ban could be in force before the end of this year, as it might in Scotland with Holyrood due to vote in 2018, and the bill expected to pass and become law.

The drive to make corporal punishment illegal enjoys the support of Britain’s leading children’s charity, the NSPCC, with a spokesman describing it as “a commonsense move, which is about fairness and equality for children”.

Not everyone agrees though.

A Welsh group called Be Reasonable argues that the law already protects children from abuse and says the authorities should focus on enforcing those laws instead of wasting time on trivial cases and criminalising “good parents”. It’s organised a petition against the proposal.

For her part, author on the family Jill Kirby says critics of smacking misrepresent what parents do, and wrongly confuse the difference between discipline and child abuse. She urges the House of Commons to resist what she considers an attempt to intrude further into family life.

And for the moment the Mother of Parliaments appears to be holding firm. The Department for Education has said there are no plans to outlaw smacking in England, with officials maintaining that it’s wrong to turn good parents into criminals.

So, should we in Gibraltar leave things as they are or follow the Scottish and Welsh examples, as indeed that of Spain, which imposed a complete ban on corporal punishment in 2007? Something for our politicians, and the wider community perhaps, to ponder.

Here’s to 2018

My heartiest congratulations to everyone honoured in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

Joe Bossano, in particular, joins an elite group of distinguished citizens to be knighted for services to Gibraltar. In typical fashion, he played down the significance of the award saying it made him happy because it had made many other people happy. Let’s hope being able to use the letters KCMG after his name helps him in his stated objective of attracting more inward investment to the Rock during 2018.

Sir Joe may not have a Royal Round Table to sit at but he does, of course, occupy a seat on the government bench in parliament. With a bit of luck his presence will ennoble proceedings and eliminate the need for the Speaker to call members to order for behaving like children. That would be really gratifying.

As too would a requirement for government projects to be authorised by the Development and Planning Commission. At the moment they only go to the DPC for guidance and advice but in their 2015 election manifesto the GSLP/Liberals said projects would “be subjected for approval once the new Town Planning Act comes into effect”. Maybe this will finally happen this year. A sewage treatment plant would also be nice.

Have you ever been driving somewhere only to find your path blocked at the last minute by a no entry or diversion sign? If only they’d warned you earlier you would have taken a different route, saving time and reducing vehicle emissions. And what’s the point of roadwork and roundabout signs that you only get to see when you’ve reached the works or roundabout themselves? Place them a little further away and you’ll have time to slow down. This, after all, is what the signs are for! Yes, a better thought out road sign placement policy would be most welcome.

These are a few other things on my 2018 wish list:

Meaningful progress and protection for Gibraltar in the Brexit discussions with the UK.

Unlikely I know, but early elections in Spain and a change of government. Perhaps the Catalan situation will precipitate this.

Better buses for route number one. The present ones break down too often, possibly because they have manual transmission, and the centre aisle is too narrow for passengers to get on and off easily.

More consideration by motorists, motorcyclists and yes, cyclists, for other road users.

Improved customer attention at public counters. In my experience most counter staff are professional and polite, but I’ve also come across some that badly let the side down.

Adequate parking facilities at the parcel post office in Waterport. The compound is shared between several government departments and agencies, each with their own designated parking spaces, leaving precious few for everyone else.


My final thoughts are for my GBC colleagues.

For too long they’ve had to endure cramped, run down and totally inadequate premises at South Barrack Road. Now at last there’s light at the end of the tunnel following the announcement last month that our local TV and radio station will be moving to purpose built accommodation at South Jumpers Bastion, hopefully by 2019. I know this has been a huge morale booster for all my friends at Broadcasting House and it’s no more than they deserve.

I wish them, and all of you, a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

The perfect G&T

What was Gibraltar’s most popular Christmas spirit I wonder?

If the UK is anything to go by there’s a good chance it was gin. In a YouGov poll for 2017, 29% voted it their favourite, ahead of whiskies (25%) and vodka (23%). The equivalent of 1.3 billion gins and tonic were drunk in Britain in the course of the year just ended.

But what constitutes the perfect G&T?

Whereas not that long ago you would happily settle for whatever combination the barman served up, nowadays he’ll expect you to have a preference. Not just for the gin, for the tonic too sometimes. Even the garnish. Stare blankly back at him and be prepared for sideways looks from the cognoscenti.

There’s a drinks blog I like to read that features more than 450 distilled gins. How on earth do you determine which is your favourite without ruining your liver and burning a hole in your pocket? Do you go for a London Dry or a Plymouth? A tried and tested brand, or one of the new kids on the block? Will you sample one that contains just four botanicals (the flavours that make gin, gin; without them it would be vodka) or 31, as one Scottish distillery boasts? There’s even gins that are ‘aged’, like wine!

And choosing the gin’s just half the task. As one leading manufacturer’s sales pitch states, “If ¾ of your Gin & Tonic is the tonic, make sure you use the best”. Until recently, I daresay, not many G&T enthusiasts were too bothered about who supplied the bubbles in their beverage. With gin’s resurgence in the past few years though, all that’s changed. Besides the standard ones, the market now offers a bewildering range of ‘premium’ tonics, with prices to match, that are themselves flavoured with botanicals like elderflower, hyssop or hibiscus.

So not only must you select a gin. Ideally, you’ll experiment with various posh tonic waters to see which one is the perfect accompaniment. My choice? Schhh I’m not telling, but I like something neutral that doesn’t mask the already complex flavour of the spirit.

Traditionally the G&T has been garnished with a slice, or wedge, of lemon or lime. Simple, straightforward and nice. But is that good enough for today’s sophisticated palates? Of course not. You just have to adorn yours with bits of pink grapefruit, strawberry and basil or rosemary and black pepper. One self-styled ‘unusual’ gin has even popularised the use of the humble cucumber, infusing the distillation itself with an extract of the vegetable and encouraging imbibers to add a slice or two in place of more conventional garnishes.

Even the glassware gets in on the act. For decades I’ve been perfectly happy to sip my mother’s ruin from a tall glass. Alas, that’s so yesterday.

The rage now is the balloon glass, which admits more ice and is said to better trap the aromas in the drink. For all its airs and graces though, it’s just a take on the Spanish ‘copa’. Spain, surprisingly, is the biggest consumer of gin in the world and bars have taken to serve G&Ts in glasses historically more accustomed to containing Riojas or Riberas del Duero.

It’s all too much for me I’m afraid. Where’s that scotch and soda?