Friday, March 06, 2009

Caruana between a 'Rock' and a hard place

A strongly worded editorial in VOX News today is highly critical of Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana, accusing him of having made a "boorish gesture which all loyal Gibraltarians will find offensive"!

VOX is referring to an apparent 'snub', when the Chief Minister (and "the City's so-called 'non-political' Mayor", Momy Levy), reportedly, refused an official invitation to join the Princess Royal's welcoming party at the airport, on her arrival on the Rock on Wednesday afternoon.

VOX says "Caruana's boorishness will not be forgotten; and that means not by at least 90% of the electorate"!

The VOX editorial goes on to say this "deliberate discourtesy to the daughter of Queen Elizabeth will not distract from the warmth of the community's welcome to Princess Anne", and adds:

"The loutish behaviour of two of the Rock's most senior representatives will not have gone unnoticed."

As I'm sure you are aware, Princess Anne's visit to the Rock of Gibraltar has stirred up Spanish politicians into their usual lather... often described idiotically in my opinion, as a 'diplomatic row'!

A few weeks ago, following the announcement of Princess Anne's visit, Angel Lossada, the Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, telephoned Denise Holt, the British Ambassador in Spain, to express Spain’s 'annoyance' at the two-day visit.

A Spanish Foreign Office spokesman at the time commented:

"The Secretary of State told the ambassador the visit was inopportune with regard to the sensibilities of the Spanish people."

Jose Ignacio Landaluce, a deputy who sits on the Spanish parliament’s foreign affairs commission, said:

"The visit of a member of the British Royal Family to Gibraltar shows their total support for the sovereignty of this British colony.

This is something to which we are totally against. It is an affront to Spain."

Mr Landaluce, from the conservative Popular Party, said the visit was unfortunate at a time when relations between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar had improved in recent years.

A number of other Spanish politicians also queued up and jumped on their favourite band wagon 'tub thumping' their tongues incoherently, apparently 'infuriated' by the Royal visit.

I've already posted what I think of all this 'tosh' here.

Needless to say, Mr Caruana's apparent 'snub' has been welcomed by one of Gibraltar's most vehement critics. As VOX describes him, "the Spanish rabble-rousing PSOE Senator Jose Carracao" is reported as saying Mr Caruana "has taken an intelligent position".

VOX however, disagrees. They say "observers believe" that "it will - and should - cost him (Caruana) the knighthood to which he so longingly aspires". VOX also believe it will also have cost him "considerable support among members of his own GSD (party)", adding that all Gibraltar "remains determinedly British and loyal to the Crown and all it stands for".

Plea for silence

VOX explains that "those who know how tortuously Caruana's political mind works" will be divided on "the reasoning behind his decision to shun the royal arrival".

They do point out, however, that the Chief Minister did welcome Princess Anne at Casemates yesterday and accompanied her on a highly successful and excitable 'walkabout' through Main Street, but, VOX, returning to their 'snub' accusation say "some argue that it was a gesture to molify Spain, whose protests about the visit have been as loud as Caruana's responses have been silent".

VOX also offer another possible reason for Mr Caruana's 'snub' to Princess Anne. They argue that "others believe that he resents attending any ceremony in which the Governor, Sir Robert Fulton, has the principal role".

At this stage I'm wondering who exactly those 'observers' mentioned earlier are, who these 'others' are and who 'those who know' are... if not VOX themselves... but anyway, be that as it may, journalistic licence maybe!

The VOX editorial goes on to say they did ask for an explanation from No 6 (the Chief Minister's Office) but that "no official explanation of the pair's behaviour was forthcoming". They explain though, that the Chief Minister's Press Officer, (my old rowing chum) Francis Cantos, "urged the Editor of VOX not to mention his boss's slight to Princess Anne"! Mr Cantos "promised to 'find out' the reason" for the supposed 'snub'. In a somewhat haughty tone, which I must say seems to firmly place my old friend, the esteemed Press Officer, in uncomfortable hot water, VOX added that "he had not replied to our query at the time of going to press".

(By the way... yes I know, 'friends in high places' eh? Hardly... but that does not make me or this blog... in any way biased, one way or other! Let's just be perfectly clear about that... I wouldn't be publishing this at all if I was now would I?? No!)

VOX conclude that "where Caruana may have presented a chill response to the royal visitor... the genuine warmth of the community's welcome was apparent throughout her visit". Indeed it was and readers can see a full report, including picturs of the Princes Royal and Mr Caruana's 'walkabout' through the streets of Gibraltar here.

It seems to me, Mr Caruana can't win. What with trying to balance his diplomatic stance with Spain and the UK, especially in the context of the Tripartite Forum Process, and in the face of this strong criticism.... which basically sees him in effect bowing to the wishes of Carracao and his howling pack!

In concluding my comment tonight, I will add that I do not, for one second, agree with VOX's somewhat exagerrated guesswork, believing that 90% of Gibraltarians will view Caruana's decision not to greet Princess Anne personally at the airport, as a deliberate 'snub' to the Princess Royal, for whatever reason... but nevertheless a significant proportion undoubtedly will... and I feel for Caruana for it. He is undoubtedly... between a 'Rock' and a hard place!

Images Credit: Images courtesy of ToRoMedia Gibraltar