In a recent Facebook post the leader of the GSD, Keith Azopardi, criticised GBC for its readiness to describe the leader of the Spanish socialists, Pedro Sánchez, as the leader of the opposition whereas the corporation does not afford him (Mr Azopardi) the same title.
Mr Azopardi complained that GBC recognises “democratic reality” in Spain, but not in Gibraltar: “when deciding who replies to (chief minister) Mr Picardo’s broadcasts etc.”
Unfortunately for Mr Azopardi the democratic reality is that he is not the leader of the opposition. That post is held by Elliott Phillips, his erstwhile colleague in the Progressive Democratic Party.
Should he need reminding, these were the words of the speaker of parliament Adolfo Canepa at the start of the first meeting of the House after the GSD leadership election, on 5 December 2017:
“In a parliamentary democracy such as ours it is the long-established convention that the post of Leader of the Opposition is held by that elected Member of the Opposition who commands majority support from his elected colleagues sitting on the Opposition benches.
I have also been formally notified in writing that the elected Members of the GSD decided yesterday morning that the Hon. Elliott Phillips should, as from today, discharge the duties of the post of Leader of the Opposition. Accordingly, I now formally recognise him and congratulate him as such. Consequentially, this Parliament will also now recognise the hon. Member as the Leader of the Opposition.”
Furthermore GBC’s regulator, the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, rejected a GSD proposal to replace in the Broadcasting Code the term “leader of the opposition” with “leader of the opposition party” or “leader of the largest opposition party”.
If adopted, the changes would have made Mr Azopardi, and not Mr Phillips, the contact for broadcasters to offer the opposition the opportunity to reply to ministerial statements and national interest broadcasts by the government. However, the GRA concluded that the term “leader of the opposition” is “appropriate and correct” and the Code should not be amended.
Mr Azopardi himself acknowledged when he put his name forward in the GSD leadership election last November that victory might result in this type of situation. He cannot now blame others for the consequences of his actions.
XANIT OUT OF FAVOUR?
A year and a half ago the government claimed that many patients requiring specialised medical care that couldn’t be provided locally preferred to be referred to Xanit hospital in Benalmádena rather than the UK. This, it said, was because it was much more convenient especially for family and friends to visit. The arrangement also suited the taxpayer as flights, accommodation and allowances were paid at lower levels than if the patient were sent to a British hospital.
Does this no longer apply?
In parliament health minister Neil Costa gave details of the number of in-patients being treated in foreign hospitals or clinics. He revealed that the number of patients being treated in Xanit has dwindled to almost none. Between December 2016 and November 2017 the monthly average was 66, peaking in March 2017 with 87 patients. The figure fell sharply last December to 14, and just five and two respectively in January and February this year.
The last time I looked Xanit was still in the same location, so it’s presumably just as convenient for patients and visitors, and economical for the government, as it’s always been.
Why, then, this dramatic decrease?
It may be that the government has previously given an explanation but if not I was surprised that the GSD opposition, which in the past has claimed that patients were being sent to Xanit even for “relatively simple procedures”, didn’t pick up on it.