Sunday, May 31, 2009

Britain should show more resolve in defence of Gibraltar territorial waters

Three months ago I complained about the lack of support for Gibraltar in the British press over Spain's relentless bullying of Gibraltar.

Not that the press has given us much support since, but today I see, the Mail Online (who else) is having a bit of a go... talking about what they term as the Gibraltar ambush: Spain grabs miles of British waters to carry out 'environmental protection;.

While this 'news' broke at least three months ago, (I blogged about it at the time: Gibraltar territorial waters and sovereignty once more under threat from Spanish bullying) it's good to see that at least one British newspaper has finally decided to say something about this!

Before anyone has a go at me telling me that there have been other reports in the British press recently about the recent infringements by Spain of Gibraltar's territorial waters... I am aware of those reports. But those reports have simply mentioned the incidents of Spain's transgressions into our waters... some in rather 'gung ho' and alarmist fashion. None (to my knowledge) have looked at the issue on the way Spain has managed to trick the EU into granting Spain legal rights over our British sovereign territorial waters surrounding Gibraltar. Simon McGee, writing in today's Mail Online highlights the issue rather well. Thank you Simon... and 'middle England'!

He even tried to contact the European Commission and the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry for comment but... surprise surprise... the EU Commission declined to comment and the Spanish government failed to respond to phone calls.

There have been reports in the British press over the last couple of weeks, that Britain was sending some warships out to Gibraltar, following the recent incidents. I haven't been able to corroborate or confirm the veracity of these reports from any reliable source (other than the UK press) but I can tell you... NO new warships have arrived in Gibraltar... as yet.

There is however, the substantial presence of the British nuclear submarine HMS Trenchant which was observed in the Bay of Gibraltar last Thursday. However, the submarine was only there to carry out a crew transfer and was on its way elsewhere. It was met by units from the Gibraltar Squadron, who in addition to providing an escort also ferried the transferring crew rom submarine to shore. It is reported that the transfer was carried out in the bay "because of poor weather conditions" in the Strait of Gibraltar. In any event, whatever it is up to, a nuclear powered submarine, whilst powerful in any regard, is very ill equipped and totally unsuitable to deal with the types of incidents that have occurred lately.

The brief visit by the nuclear powered submarine drew the usual and predictable response from 'Blanca Luz', Spain's Popular Party opposition MP for Cádiz, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, who repeated (as he does parrot fashion) his concerns about "safety" and urged the Spanish government to "take a tougher line"... bloody cheek! But speaking of Governments taking a 'tougher line', I agree... but it's Britain that should be taking a much tougher line!

As far as I know, the defence of our territorial waters, in this important issue and with the worrying atmosphere of rising tensions, is still up to the two units, the small patrol boats HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar, belonging to the Royal Navy's Gibraltar Squadron.

In the light of a recent Defence Management report, which argues that support in Westminster for the Royal Navy has become so bad that the service now has a mere nine ships allocated to protecting Britain's territorial waters. The Royal Navy cuts mean less maritime security for the UK, so this does not augur very well for the Royal Navy's capabilities and the defence of Gibraltar's own British sovereign territorial waters!

As I've said before... so far, all concerned have been able to show restraint in these incidents, both on the Spanish Guardia Civil maritime patrol boats and on the British side, by the Royal Navy and the Gibraltar Police's maritime units... but I can see how these confrontations could easily go awry. Let's hope further escalations can be avoided and the matter can be resolved soon... before someone is hurt and we are having to deal with a much more serious 'international incident'!

I am a little comforted that both the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Ministry of Defence in Gibraltar are trying to ensure that their personnel know exactly what they have to do if faced with yet another Spanish incursion. In the wake of these recent tense incidents at sea off Gibraltar, police and military planners have reportedly revisited the operating procedures for marine crews patrolling British waters and that is comforting to know but one would expect them to be checking and reviewing their procedures.

More importantly... if further confrontations are to be avoided, I for one would feel far more comfortable if the British government were to send more substantial naval units to Gibraltar and, if nothing else, show Spain in no uncertain terms, that unlike in the lead up to the Falklands conflict with the pulling out of a substantial naval presence then, in this instance Britain is resolved to defend its territorial waters vigorously, by stationing one or two frigates or destroyers, at least, in Gibraltar now! Trouble is... does the UK have the will or the capability?

Where is Drake when you need him?

"So please your Majesty, to singe the King of Spain's beard; it has grown somewhat too long."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tighter laws on child pornography urged in Gibraltar

I'm pleased to see Brian Reyes writing today in the Gibraltar Chronicle, has highlighted the concerns hundreds of local people have expressed in a group on Facebook recently, about Child Pornography Laws in Gibraltar.

The group, created by my good friend and well known Gibraltar saxophonist Nick Gonzalez, urges that 'Child Pornography Laws in Gibraltar Should be Changed NOW'.

The Facebook group, was set up following a recent court case that highlighted a glaring hole in Gibraltar’s legislation.

A man who admitted distributing nearly 5,000 pornographic images of children, including some extreme photos, was jailed for 18 months for publishing obscene material. But he could not be prosecuted for having the images in the first place because possession of child pornography is not a crime in Gibraltar.

Nick Gonzalez, the group’s creator, echoing the sentiments of many of us, said "I set up this group out of anger".

"I wanted to create awareness and put pressure on the government and the judicial system to change this situation as soon as possible."

In just over a week over 650 people have now joined the group. In the Chronicle, Brian Reyes says that many of the comments on the group's pages are "often emotive and angry, but mainly express underlying bewilderment as to why Gibraltar has such an inexplicable shortfall in its laws", and adds:

"Change, however, is on its way, though the timetable is not certain."

The Gibraltar Government has drafted a new law covering computer misuse and including penalties of up to 10 years in jail for possession of child pornography.

But as Brian Reyes points out, although the Bill has been ready since last year, it has not yet been tabled in Parliament and passed into law.

A separate legislative proposal covering sexual offences has also been drafted. It includes provisions for a sexual offenders’ register, which Gibraltar does not currently have, and for which Gibraltar's equality group GGR, lead by Felix Alvarez have been campaigning for since 2005.

But this too has yet to be tabled in Parliament and passed into law.

These and many other laws, such as those surrounding issues of human rights, are long overdue for reform. Some of these are being focused on now through the introduction of proposals by Minister for Justice Daniel Feetham recently. Let's hope these will all be reformed... sooner rather than later!

You too can show your support

If you are a Facebook member and would like to show your support, you can join the group here: 'Child Pornography Laws in Gibraltar Should be Changed NOW'

Brian Reyes Blog

Brian Reyes, is a Gibraltarian journalist. Whilst he regularly writes in the Gibraltar Chronicle, Brian also offers his personal views and comments on many other interesting issues in his own blog over at Letters From Gibraltar.

Hoax Slayer 'proves' Gibraltar Airport runway exists!

An article on Hoax Slayer today, focuses on an email going the rounds, showing photographs of Gibraltar's Airport Runway and questions the veracity of these photographs.

Hoax Slayer is a site I use regularly. It is renowned for debunking email hoaxes and exposing Internet scams. Articles normally give a summary of the subject, then proceeds to either prove it is a hoax and debunk it, or as in the case of Gibraltar's airport runway, shows evidence that proves the original premise in the article summary is true.

In its findings, Hoax Slayer concludes:

According to this 'email forward', the attached photographs depict the runway at Gibraltar Airport - a very unusual runway in that it is traversed by a busy road. The photographs show that traffic on the road crossing the runway is controlled by traffic lights and boom gates thereby allowing aircraft to land unhindered.

Although, such a runway configuration is certainly unusual, the photographs are genuine and do depict the Gibraltar AIrport runway.

As a born and bred Gibraltarian who has walked and driven across the runway thousands of times, flown in and out of it more times than some have had hot breakfasts... now and then in very 'hairy' weather conditions... and been stopped at the barriers on more occasions than I care to recall, I'm wondering... what's all the fuss!! rolleyes

The article goes on to comment on the fact that these arrangements are currently being changed with the reconstruction of the airport terminal following plans unveiled by the Government of Gibraltar, in May 2007, which will include a new tunnel that will eventually carry the road under the airport runway.

The report also carries the following YouTube video of the road crossing Gibraltar Airport's runway and of a flight taking off:

As you can see, the video firstly shows a British Airways airbus flight taking off, then the arrival of the daily Spanish airline Iberia flight from Madrid landing, with the road crossing barriers down as it stops the road traffic and pedestrians for both flights.

The viewer is then taken on a flight take-off (actual airline not seen but my guess is it's probably BA) in a Westerly direction and shows some nice views of one of the Marinas, the Rock of Gibraltar itself and the Bay of Gibraltar. As the flight circles around the Rock firstly going South over the Strait of Gibraltar (with some views of Jebel Musa and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in the distance), it then banks left to head East over the very western limits of the Mediterranean Sea towards Malaga and the Costa del Sol, on it's way for the couple of hours flight over Spain, the Bay of Biscay, France and final destination in the UK, either Luton, Gatwick or might even have been a Manchester flight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

British we are and British we stay... but I love my Barça

"British we are and British we stay... but I love my Barça"!

That's the phrase I once saw on a banner hanging out of a balcony on one of Gibraltar's many often flag draped apartment blocks... on the eve of another big football night, such as the one we have tonight... with the UEFA Champions League final between Spain's Barcelona v the UK's Red Devils of Manchester United.

Gibraltar is a place full of passions. Gibraltarians are particularly passionate (mostly) over our politics, when it concerns Spain and our sovereignty. Historically, one of the very few places in the old British Empire... who never said "Brits OUT"... in fact quite the reverse... we've always said (and voted) that Gibraltar will be "British Forever"! We've shouted it from the rooftops... and from our balconies and windows.

On any given day, Union Jack flags can still be seen, side by side with Gibraltar's red and white flag, hanging from windows on residential buildings. Now and then, in times of heightened crisis with our neighbour Spain... these become a wall of red, white and blue!

Yes... Gibraltarians are very passionately, sometimes blindingly and stubbornly so... about being British! Long may it last I say!

Which all brings me to think, that the peculiar passion that a significantly large group of Gibraltarians feel... for their Barça... FC Barcelona, is all the more incongruous!

You see, in Gibraltar, despite our very strong anti-Spanish feelings (a strange and mixed up melange of sentiments to be explored another time but mostly aimed at the politics and government of Spain and not its people, traditions or culture particularly), but in Gibraltar, there exists a large group of people, including a supporter's club that support FC Barcelona!

This is something that I have always found very odd. There are those who go further, calling these supporters of Barça traitors! These, it has to be said, are in a minority and it is a more extreme view... but many of us do get a little irritated by this support for a Spanish team, that's for sure... and remain a touch confused by it!

When asked... or challenged for their support of Barça, their explanation is that they don't see Barça as a 'Spanish' team. They argue, somewhat illogically to my mind, that Barcelona is Catalan and not Spanish.

Of course, Barcelona IS the capital of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, a region in the north east Spain... but it still remains and is the second largest city of Spain.

Gibraltar's Barça supporters argue that Barcelona sets itself apart from Spain, with its long tradition of rebellious autonomy. In the days of the Franco regime the Catalan culture was very much repressed throughout the duration of his dictatorship. Gibraltarians also relate to the fact that Catalans are widely bilingual, much as we are, speaking Spanish and Catalan.

So, in short, the fact is that many in Gibraltar support Barcelona FC... strange but there you have it. Personally, while it's not for me... I like the idea, that even when we, as Gibraltarians, can feel such strong passions for our British sovereignty, when it comes to football, some of us can, rather quirkily, find it in our hearts to support a Spanish team. There's something very healthy and sane in that concept!

As for the game tonight... I very much hope we will enjoy a great spectacle and good fair football... with the eventual result of a good win... for the British 'Red Devils'!

In the event that Barça do win... Gibraltar can expect the usual noisy celebrations, with cars full of loud Barça supporters honking their way round town to congregate at the 'Fuente del Capullo', the roundabout at the bottom of Watergardens, for rowdy goings on which will no doubt go on... long into the night... or as long as the beer at the nearby petrol stations lasts!

C'mon you British Reeeeedds!! razz

More news and info here: BBC SPORT | Football | Europe | Barcelona v Man Utd

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Date: Wed, 27 May Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: Live on ITV1 and Sky Sports 1, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Manchester; BBC Sport website.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gibraltar's Gay age of consent and California ruling on gay marriage on Proposition 8

As you may have read in Gibraltar's local media, a Bill to equalise the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, by setting this at 16, the age that already applies for heterosexuals and lesbians, was heard in the Gibraltar Parliament recently.

Daniel Feetham, the Minister for Justice, took the unusual step of bringing a motion asking for leave to introduce a Private Members’ Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Offences Act.

There is overwhelming international legal and local constitutional pressure to implement equalisation although the issue is untested in the local courts.

The Equality Rights Group GGR welcomed the Bill:

"After nine years of GGR raising the public debate on sexual minorities in Gibraltar, we are pleased to see that Parliament has finally considered the question of age of consent inequality currently in force."

I was pleased to see the Bill has been passed to proceed to a formal reading of a Bill in Parliament.

As GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez recently said:

"Whilst Government has failed to introduce the debate as a public Bill on what, after all, is a public issue and instead, preferred to rely on one of its own members in a purely private capacity, it has, nonetheless passed the motion to proceed on the formal reading of a Bill to equalise the legislation. This, in effect, falls short of Government’s legal requirement to comply with what is unarguably an international law obligation and not, as they have argued, a mere question of ‘conscience'."

As Brian Reyes concluded when referring to a recent 'Child Porn' case, "Time for the legislators to get moving on this…swiftly, methinks", there's much to be done to bring legislation in these and other matters concerning human rights and anti-discrimination in Gibraltar, to international and European law standards!

Gay age of consent: Is 16 too young?

Back in March this year, Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's Chief Minister indicated that the Government was likely to be obliged to make the age of consent the same for heterosexuals and gays, although he expressed his own moral disagreement with this, saying that "young people have enough pressure on them at that stage of life". He did however concede that the 'leveling' is likely to happen. The 'great unspoken', as the Chronicle recently described this, is that it is expected that Peter Caruana, a devout Catholic who nonetheless backed the original decriminalisation of gay sex, may refrain from backing the substantive bill, which includes this issue of 'age of consent' when it goes before Parliament.

There's no question that this is a difficult moral issue and it's no surprise that emotions have been running high in Gibraltar over the issue of age of consent... and not just for gay males!

The Gibraltar Women’s Association have been arguing that the age of consent for sex should be 18 for men and women.

Back in January this year, responding to correspondence in the Gibraltar Chronicle the GWA were critical of the GGR lobbying of the Council of Europe. In a statement the GWA said they "wholeheartedly" agreed with a letter to the newspaper from Andrew Mifsud (10th January 2008 in the Gibraltar Chronicle).

"Mr Mifsud may be ‘bewildered’ but we are absolutely ‘flabbergasted’.

The Gibraltar Women’s Association is not a minority group as is the GGR and Mr Alvarez has no right to fight for rights which the majority of women in Gibraltar (including lesbians) have not asked for or want.

If a heterosexual couple consent to buggery it is their own decision and nobody needs to know!"

The GWA added that the fact that this is illegal "protects women who do not consent to anal sex"! Hmmm... Well, I'm no lawyer, but I would have thought, surely that issue is adequately covered in rape and sexual abuse laws in Gibraltar... and bears very little on the question of age of consent for gays?

Referring to Mr Alvarez the GWA further stated that "in any case, it is already legal between consenting males over the age of 18 so we fail to see what his problem is and why he feels the need to involve the Council of Europe in this matter".

I would respectfully suggest to the ladies of the GWA, that Mr Alvarez's 'problem' is probably not far removed from the same concerns on Mr Feetham's mind. In a recent interview with Paco Oliva, Daniel Feetham, Gibraltar's Minister for Justice, was asked, "why couldn’t you have raised the age of consent to 18"?

This question for me is the critical question in this entire debate.

I believe that when people who support the principle of equalisation come to consider the consequences they will rapidly come to the conclusion that it would be very much harder to obtain a social consensus to increase the age of consent to 18. For a start it would also take Gibraltar in the opposite direction of travel to the rest of Europe in respect of these matters. Strongly Catholic countries have equal ages of consent below 16. That includes Spain at 13, Italy at 14, France at 15 and Portugal at 16. Of the Council of Europe members only Turkey, the Ukraine and with some exceptions Malta have ages of consent set at 18.

But consider the practical and legal difficulties. The age of consent for heterosexual and lesbians has been 16 since at least 1888 when an Ordinance was passed to protect “women and girls” and the legal age at which people can get married in Gibraltar has been 16 for decades. Lets be clear about it, the main motivating factor behind an increase of the age of consent to 18 would be in order to avoid lowering the age of consent for homosexual intercourse. Is that right? Consider, for example, the position of a 17-year old in a steady relationship who now found that his or her ability to have heterosexual intercourse had been curtailed in order to prevent the lowering of the age of homosexual intercourse.

It would also be necessary to raise the age at which people can get legally married. Consider also the bizarre situation that would arise if a 16 or 17 year old married girl were faced with the situation that the age of consent is raised to 18 or the case of young married couple (possibly a serviceman married to a 17 year old girl) coming to Gibraltar from Great Britain where the age of consent is 16. What should we do? Require them to refrain from having sexual intercourse whilst in Gibraltar, or would there be a two-tier system of a different sort whereby they would be exempt from prosecution whilst locals would be liable to prosecution for having sexual intercourse! Do we carve out exceptions for people who are married? What about those who are not married whose relationships are being interfered with retrospectively?

In all these cases people could complain that, under Article 8 of the Convention, their private life had been interfered with, and that raising the age of consent was neither proportionate nor necessary for the protection of their health or morals."

It is quite clear, despite the somewhat over alarmist worries expressed, with good intent I'm sure, by the GWA, that the equalisation of age of consent is the right thing to do.... and the sooner Mr Feetham's motion is passed to law, the better.

Age of Consent - Facebook Group

A Facebook Group has been set up in the hope of obtaining the views of young people in Gibraltar. This is what it asks:

The Women's Association of Gibraltar is asking for the age of sexual consent to be increased from 16 to 18. This means anyone under 18 who has sex will come under the criminal law.

Do you agree? Will this criminalise a lot of young people? Will it lead to increasing shame and a greater generational gap between children and parents?

The Gibraltar Chronicle has carried a lot of criticism of people who want the age of consent between gays and straights equalised. The only voice that is missing is that of the young people themselves. So - should young Gibraltarians make their thoughts heard in the media?

You can visit the Facebook Group here: Age of Consent - Gibraltar

Proposition 8 - Restrictions On Same Sex Marriage

From one Chronicle to another... tonight, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting the state Supreme Court ruling today, that California voters legally outlawed same-sex marriage when they approved the Proposition 8 amendment in November, but the constitutional amendment did not dissolve the union of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before the measure took effect.

The 6-1 decision was issued by the same court that declared a year ago that a state law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman violated the right to choose one's spouse and discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation.

Prop. 8 undid that ruling. The author of last year's 4-3 decision, Chief Justice Ronald George, said today that the voters were within their rights to approve a constitutional amendment redefining marriage to include only male-female couples.

I'm sad to hear this. I agree with Ellen DeGeneres the twelve-time Emmy Award-winning American stand-up comedienne, television hostess and Hollywood actress, who has strongly campaigned against the Proposition 8 amendment ever since it was proposed. She was "saddened" by the passing of the original ban on same-sex marriage in California.

The talk show host, who is married to Hollywood actress Portia Rossi, recently said that by electing Obama America has taken a giant step forward toward equality but with the Proposition 8 amendment "took a giant step" backwards. She recently quoted Keith Olbermann on, who she thought was "very eloquent and brilliant when he said:

"To me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it."

Ellen added:

"What he said is all that needs to be said. It really is just about following your heart and people paying attention to what the right thing is!

This (the movement) needs for people to not be ignorant. It needs for people to open their minds and understand that it (same sex marriage) is a fundamental right: people need to be allowed to love who they want to love and marry who they want to marry. I don't know what it's going to take, but I have faith that people will realize that this is wrong."

Today's ruling... is a sad indictment on that hope.. and of love and people's humanity. It's about the right to love who you want and to marry whoever you happen to love!

At least, the the ruling does not affect the 18,000 who did manage to get married, before this amendment came into effect!

In concluding this blog post... just for the record... (and in no way apologetically) I will add that I am not gay! I'm just a simple male heterosexual who cares for and loves his fellow man... male, female, gay, lesbian or whatever they happen to choose as their sexual preference!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Susan Boyle not quite 'on the mark' on Britain's Got Talent semi final

Last night on Britain's Got Talent (BGT), my fears for Susan Boyle, which have arisen over the last couple of weeks, following her spectacular performance on her stunning BGT debut, were sadly realised!

Two weeks ago, Susan stunned the world with her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from the musical Les Miserables. She was simply fantastic... and the whole world agreed.

Since then, she has appeared on 'Larry King Live', on 'the Oprah Show'... and over 100 million people across the world have watched her videos on YouTube.

I don't know about you, but during the last two weeks, I have felt the expectations building up in a way that must have put huge pressure on her. As Simon Cowell says on the video below:

"The whole world is watching Susan Boyle perform tonight. I wouldn't want to be standing where she is right now!"

Well, in the event, sadly, last night... that pressure showed!

In the BGT semi-final last night, Susan Boyle was clearly very nervous. Right from the first note of 'Memory', the 'Cats musical classic', Susan's voice cracked and she missed the note. Her breathing seemed to me laboured... and she knew it. You can see her in the video... clutching her tummy following that note. As a result, the combination of the pressure on her and the knowledge that she had missed that important first note also affected her timing... and it all came close to falling apart for her.

To her credit.... she kept on and she did manage to pick herself up about halfway through the song... but again at the end... I'm afraid she had difficulty maintaining that very difficult high note... her voice quavering badly!

What do you think? If you missed her performance last night, you can judge for yourself. Here's Susan Boyle singing 'Memory', from the classic musical 'Cats' on Britain's Got Talent semi-final last night:

On her debut, there is no question Susan 'nailed' 'I Dreamed A Dream'. Last night... she didn't 'nail' 'Memory', arguably, a much more difficult song. The nerves and the pressure... sadly beat her!

Nevertheless, it was still a 'goodish' performance, and there's no doubting her obvious talent... she has a remarkable voice and can sing... no question about that! She also has a capturing personality... if slightly 'oddball'!

If she's going to win this year's BGT, Susan needs to get hold of herself, calm down and dominate her totally understandable nerves. She'll need to show us her 'real stuff' next time round... and once more 'nail' whatever song she chooses. She will also need to be careful with that choice!

I like her a lot. I love the joy she clearly feels when she sings for us. It's an intrinsic part of the charm we all recognise in her. I also like her personality with that hip swivelling stuff when she's excited... though some disagree. One comment I saw says "it was cute once... maybe... but it's time to move on". Trouble is... it wouldn't be her then would it? I like her as she is, that's part of her 'oddball' charm... and her 'man of the moment'... Piers Morgan, thinks so too!

Here's a funny excerpt of the goings on backstage last night from Piers Morgan's blog:

"I'm also never going to forget what happened to me at 10:32pm last night.

Because that was the moment when Susan Boyle ran down a flight of stairs at the Fountain Studios in Wembley, North London, flung herself into my arms, and planted a five-second 'smacker' right bang on my lips!

It wasn't entirely unexpected.

A few minutes earlier, Susan had declared her feelings towards me in a rather more public way by dancing a little jig of joy on stage after winning last night's first Britain's Got Talent semi-final, and shouting: 'THIS IS FOR YOU, PIERSY BABY!'

But that was positively restrained compared to what happened backstage.

To say Susan was pleased at getting through to the final is probably the understatement of the century. You have to remember that until a month ago nobody had ever heard of her, but now she is the most downloaded, and talked about, woman on the planet. The pressure that comes with all that attention is absolutely huge, and I could tell she was incredibly nervous when I spotted her standing on her own in a corner backstage before the show started.

Then she came out and missed her very first note on Memory, and I think everyone watching feared it had finally got to her.

But Susan quickly recovered, got into her stride, and ended up delivering an absolutely stunning version of the Cats musical classic that brought house down, and thrilled the world all over again just as she did in her original audition.

If you thought she looked thrilled on stage, you should have seen her off it. She was absolutely exploding with excitement, relief and pure, unrestrained joy.

'You did it!' I said to her, as I spied her heading up the stairs near the judges' dressing room area.

'Oh Piersy!' she shouted, then skipped down the stairs, jumped on me and kissed me full on the lips for quite some time.

'I've been kissed now!' she laughed, then she danced another jig, and ran off again.

I'll be dining out on that for the rest of my life!

If you agree with my comment and thought Susan Boyle looked nervous when she stepped on stage to sing Memory, you'd be right. That's because during rehearsals, Susan nearly fell over as she walked toward her microphone, on the stage.

More evidence of her obvious nerves can be found on Susan's BGT blog, when she said, "I got a bit of shock during rehearsals... I nearly fell flat on my face"!

Following this close call, to keep accidents at bay, the soles of Susan's shoes were apparently scored so they gripped better and Susan breathed a sigh of relief when she made it across the stage.

The Lothian lady enjoyed her time backstage preparing... although the pampering made her a little perplexed.

She told us, "Every few minutes, someone comes up to me and asks me to back to make-up".

"I've been in there three times already - but I keep going back again.

It's all going to be very thick by the time we get to show time.

It's a job that's never finished... like painting the Forth Bridge!"

Well... one thing those horrid people can't make any more stupid comments about are her eyebrows. (as they have done). These have clearly been worked on... and she looked very good and still very much herself. As I say, she does have an 'oddball' sense of humour and capturing personality.

I very much hope she does a little better for the Britain's Got Talent Final... and hope she wins... but lots to do... and she hasn't got this in the bag... yet!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

And we wonder why we receive so much SPAM and Junk mail - Blind carbon copy for christ's sakes!

As many of my regular readers know, I often share jokes, interesting pictures and other curious or weird fun stuff that I receive... and publish them under my A Gibo's Tale: In my Inbox today... blog tab.

The source for these is, as the tab title implies, the many emails I receive, forwarded to me by my contacts, friends and family, that arrive in my email inbox on a daily basis.

I also have a 'Family and Friends' contact list in my email manager, that I use when I want to pass these fun and/or interesting emails onto them... mostly a discriminating selection of my idea of good stuff, sometimes it's not a joke, but it could just be a particularly insightful opinion piece, some important bit of security information or... whatever stuff I think may inform and amuse.

I think most of us do the same or similar. It's fun and it's a great way to just keep in touch with family and friends... without having to write lengthy emails. It tells them they're in our thoughts... so all very positive and fair enough.

But... the all important thing to bear in mind... when forwarding or sending an email to multiple recipients is this... that you are about to use the great medium that email is to mass distribute something quickly and easily... often to a group of people, who may be friends to YOU but who are often strangers to each other... and THEY may also forward the email onto another group, possibly of friends... but more probably strangers too!!

Would you give a stranger your Mother's or brother's private telephone number?

The answer is surely not... right? You wouldn't walk round the streets dealing out your friends or loved ones' private phone numbers to anyone you happened to meet in the streets right?

So how come... so many people... do exactly that, with our private email addesses??

Please... Please... Please... when forwarding an email... there's just one simple rule: Do not forward my email address! That applies to the email address of all your friends and loved ones... just delete them... then forward the email!!

Forwarding Emails

Before you hit that send button, there's something you should know, if you don't know it by now... or still don't get it.

Please don't put all of the email addresses of your family and friends in the "To" or "Cc" fields of your email. Instead, put them in the 'Bcc (Blind carbon copy)' field!

By putting the addresses in the 'Bcc' field (as very well explained and illustrated here), their email addresses will not show up at the top of the emails that each of your contacts will receive.

As I've already explained, we've all received those kinds of emails... you know, where you have to page through reams and reams of email addresses before you actually get to the message that the person wants you to read? Yes, those ones. It's just NOT a good idea... for the reasons explained here.

Sending an e-mail to multiple recipients

When sending an e-mail to multiple recipients, you can hide their email addresses from each other. Why? Because this is a sensible anti-spam precaution... because it avoids making a long list of email addresses available to all the recipients (which is what happens if you put everyone's address in the To: or Cc: fields).

For this reason, it makes sense to use the Bcc: field for mailing or contact lists. Some viruses also harvest e-mail addresses from users' cache folder or addressbook, and large CC lists may further the propagation of unwanted viruses, giving another reason to use Bcc:.

So why Bcc?

Basically... as I said earlier... because you don't want to be giving your mother's email address to everyone and their dog... in the same way as you would NOT broadcast her phone number and street address to the world without a second thought!!

Here's a great article by Craig Hartnett @ www.iamcraig > How and Why to Blind Copy Multiple-Recipient Emails that goes into the whole issue at length... and highlights the crassness of NOT using Bcc in multiple recipient emails

So... to Conclude...

It's not that complicated or that much of a big a deal to send multiple-recipient emails to your family, friends and co-workers while respecting their privacy and email addresses... once you know why and how to do it. So please, if you are still unsure, take a second to read Craig Hartnett's article @ www.iamcraig > How and Why to Blind Copy Multiple-Recipient Emails

Please... it's the right thing to do and not at all as trivial or anal as it seems.

Thanks! mrgreen

Email Hoaxes and Internet Scams

To conserve this post specifically to the topic, I didn't want to go into the related topic of chain letters and the various hoax emails and scams that also abound on the net.... which also concern me greatly. For that, you can look up the Latest Email Hoaxes - Current Internet Scams @ Hoax-Slayer.

More information on Blind carbon copy (Bcc) @ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Worrying escalation of incidents around Gibraltar territorial waters

Media sources in Gibraltar are reporting yet another incident in a worrying increase of tension around Gibraltar's territorial sovereign waters over the last couple of weeks.

Brian Reyes, writing in today's Chronicle says, yet again, a Guardia Civil patrol boat intercepted a suspected smuggler in Gibraltar waters yesterday. The following is his report:

In doing so, it ignored the usual procedure of informing the Royal Gibraltar Police to take up the chase.

The RGP was alerted to the incident by members of the public and, on reaching the scene, instructed the Guardia Civil to leave the area.

But although the incident comes at a time of tension over Gibraltar's territorial waters, two senior official sources initially suggested it may be overzealous policing by the Spanish officers, rather than a politically-motivated exercise.

The Government said last night it had had an initial report from the RGP in respect of the incident, when there was an incursion by a Guardia Civil launch in Gibraltar territorial waters in the area of Catalan Bay, 'in circumstances which would appear to be unacceptable'.

The Government declared that it takes a 'serious view of this matter and will take such appropriate action as may be required when all aspects of the incident have been investigated and established. '

Gibraltar and Spanish law enforcement agencies cooperate closely to tackle smuggling activity at sea. Guardia Civil vessels regularly sail through Gibraltar waters but do not normally carry out operational tasks without having first contacted the RGP.

What makes yesterday's incident unusual is that the Guardia Civil did not contact the RGP until after the incident had unfolded.

"My gut feeling is that the Guardia Civil officers were just a bit too keen on this one," one senior official said.

The incident has nonetheless generated some concern because it comes exactly two weeks after a Spanish Navy incursion in Gibraltar waters sparked diplomatic tensions.

Yesterday, the suspect launch - a small 'patera', later found to be empty - was chased close to shore in the area of Catalan Bay and eventually ended up beached at the edge of the reclaimed land.

Two men jumped off and fled from the scene. They were still at large as this edition went to press.

The RGP said it received several calls from people in the area while the chase was underway at sea and despatched both land and marine units to the scene.

"The crew on the police launch challenged the Guardia Civil as to their purpose in Gibraltar's territorial waters and told them to leave, which they did without any problem," and RGP spokesman said.

This somewhat surprising and apparent escalation of transgressions into Gibraltar' territorial waters are worrying.

Even the UK National press are now focusing on the issue with Daily Express talking about a "Return of the Armada as Spain ‘invades’ Gibraltar" and the Daily Mail Online today saying that Royal Navy warships have been "dispatched as Spanish invade seas around Gibraltar". I'm not sure what truth there is in that report.

As far as I know, so far, it has been units from the Gibraltar Squadron of the Royal Navy who have effectively dealt with these incursions, including the recent ordering of a Spanish Civil Guard patrol boat to leave Gibraltar waters in the first reported incident.

I'm hoping the 'Senior Official's gut feeling' quoted in the Chronicle report is correct, when he said his "gut feeling is that the Guardia Civil officers were just a bit too keen on this one". Maybe the local units have a new boss, who's keen to stamp his mark. I certainly hope this apparent 'new agenda' is not being directed from Madrid... as if it is, things are a little more serious.

Either way, as I said last Thursday, I very much hope the Guardia Civil and the Spanish authorities, can be 'encouraged' by the UK's Foreign Office and of course the Gibraltar authorities, to reign in whatever agenda they are now manipulating, before these incidents become more serious and someone is hurt through some 'trigger-happy' blunder.

So far, all concerned have been able to show restraint... but I can see how these could easily go awry. Let's hope this can be resolved soon... before someone is hurt and we are having to deal with a much more serious 'international incident'!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Juan Luis Guerra and memories of great coffee and friends

Many years ago I was introduced to the wonderful music of Juan Luis Guerra by a dear friend from the Dominican Republic, who I had the good fortune to meet and work with at Victor Chandler International, a firm of offshore bookies (or sportsbook to our American cousins) in Gibraltar during my time there in the late 90's.

Juan Luis Guerra-Seijas (born June 7, 1957) is a Dominican singer, songwriter and self-producer who has sold over 20 million records worldwide and has won numerous awards, including eleven Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, and two Latin Billboard Music Awards. He won 5 Latin Grammy awards in 2007 in the same night which ties him with Juanes to hold the record for most Latin Grammys won in one night. He was born in Santo Domingo and is the son of Olga Seijas and Gilberto Guerra, a basketball player.

He is one of the most internationally recognized Dominican artists in decades. His pop style of merengue and bolero and Afro-pop/Latin fusion have garnered him considerable success outside the Dominican Republic.

Juan Luis Guerra is sometimes associated with the popular Dominican music called bachata and while this association is partially true, he actually uses the basics of Bachata rhythm with a more bolero feel to the melodies in some of his songs.

He does not limit himself to one style of music, instead, he incorporates diverse rhythms like merengue, bolero-bachata, balada, salsa, rock and roll and gospel.

'Ojalá Que Llueva Café' ('If only it would rain coffee') is one of his most critically acclaimed self-written and composed pieces and one of my all time favourites... and I don't mean just from Juan Luis... I mean... of all the music I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy!

A remix of 'La llave de mi corazón' ('The key of my heart') with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas is also an example of his fusing of different genres.

Here's a great YouTube video of my 'all time' favourite song, 'Ojalá Que Llueva Café'. Watch out for the kids chorus near the end... it always near brings a tear to my eye!

The song brings back many great memories of my friendship with Pedro (on the right in the pic - me on left) and his lovely wife Milady (pronounced Mi-lad-i) when they used to take pity on me and feed me loads of great food, fantastic Dominican Rep coffee (El Presidente) and wines, beers and Ron Barcelo, a rum from the Dominican Republic... not necessarily in that order, while we listened and danced (not with Pedro but not something unknown! rolleyes) to Juan Luis and lots of other music from their part of the world. Halcyon days!

Juan Luis Guerra @ Amazon

His latest album:

If you liked that... and want some more, here's a great playlist for Juan Luis Guerra @ YouTube

Search for more music from Juan Luis Guerra @

Finally an Epidemiological Study into the prevalence of Cancers in Gibraltar is announced

I am delighted to hear that the Government of Gibraltar has at long last announced an Epidemiological Study for Gibraltar!

In a press statement yesterday, the Government said "following the conclusion of the international selection process, it has now commissioned an independent scientific study into the prevalence of Cancers in Gibraltar".

Epidemiological Study in Gibraltar

The Government has now awarded a contract, for the study to be conducted, to a team from the National Environmental Research Institute at Aarhus University in Denmark, to begin an Epidemiological Study in Gibraltar.

After an extensive and detailed consultation, selection and tendering process, in which specialists from the Government’s Technical, Environmental and Health departments took part, the tender to carry out the epidemiological study has been awarded to the National Environmental Research Institute, at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

The Epidemiological Study will investigate the historical and contemporary patterns of cancer in Gibraltar and surrounding areas. It will aim to establish whether or not there is a higher incidence of cancer in Gibraltar and if so, whether Gibraltar is a high-risk community for particular types of cancer and will be scientifically exploring their causes, taking full account of geographical and health hazard exposure to pollutants and contaminants. The study will culminate with the production of a detailed report on the findings, accompanied by appropriate scientific comments.

The National Environmental Research Institute at the University of Aarhus is a renowned institution in this field. It has a track record of reporting at international level to the UN and to the EU. The scientists themselves are of international repute having acted as advisors and project managers for the EU and World Health Organization on several projects involving the study of diseases and their distributions.

The study will commence within a month and is expected to be completed by early next year.

Long Campaign for Study to be Implemented

This news is very welcome to me as I'm sure it is for many others in Gibraltar. I have long campaigned about the urgent requirement of such a study and have actively supported Gibraltar ecologists the Environmental Safety Group (ESG) in their vigorous campaign.

As far back as 2006, I joined the ESG in a Petition for Epidemiological Studies to be carried out in Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar area and set up an online petition to this effect, signatures of which were included in the ESG's offline petition and handed in to Government in May 2007.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the ESG have also welcomed the announcement by Gibraltar's Minister for the Environment, Ernest Britto yesterday.

The ESG has campaigned for several years now for an independent and transparent study to be carried out on populations around the Bay of Gibraltar. The image at the top of this post is from a poster that was produced by them to advertise a demonstration in November 2006, calling on all Governments in the area to implement a Epidemiological Study as a matter of urgency.

In their statement today, ESG spokesperson Janet Howitt said the ESG is "delighted that this important programme will now get underway if only at a local level so far".

"There are serious concerns of higher than average rates of cancer not only in our community but within towns around the Bay so rigorous and expert assessment of these issues as advocated also by public health specialist Professor Joan Benach, is clearly both overdue and necessary.

It is further hoped that such independent studies will also be conducted in the Spanish towns as soon as possible."

The ESG concluded by confirming their commitment to "assist those undertaking the studies as best it can".

PDP Welcome Study Announcement

Gibraltar's Progressive Democratic Party also welcomed the announcement. The PDP’s environment spokesman Dr Gavin Gafan said "this is a step forward in the analysis of how bay activities might impact on our health".

"The results of this might be pivotal in understanding the risks faced by Gibraltar’s population as a result of polluting entities around the bay.

It is also a good platform for analysing other health concerns that can be attributed to pollution in and around the bay of Gibraltar."

Dr Gafan added that the fact that the epidemiological study will be commissioned as an independent study "gives further merit to the results".

"What is also important is that the Government publish the results of the study as soon as it is received so that there can be a full and informed debate about its findings."

A Personal Note

If you are a regular reader of my blog you may at some stage have seen from my profile that I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) some years ago, shortly after returning to the UK having lived in Gibraltar and the surrounding area for around six years in the late 90's and early 2000's.

While it will always be impossible to say how and why I acquired this cancer that affects the blood and particularly the immune system, my strong suspicion is that I somehow acquired it during my stay in the Gibraltar area.

I personally know many people and I am also aware of others, through friends and family, who have also been diagnosed with CLL and other similar forms of cancers, both in Gibraltar and across the border in the surrounding communities of the Bay and Campo de Gibraltar area.

So, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that there is a much higher than normal prevalence of cancers in Gibraltar and the surrounding communities of the Bay of Gibraltar area, as Professor Joan Benach identified in his authoritative study of the area, The Atlas of Mortality.

Let's hope the study will be conducted in depth and that it will pave the way for whatever issues are causing these much higher incidences of cancers that clearly affect the area, are addressed. This is a matter of great urgency as people are dieing from these cancers... to an extent far and way over and above what is normally expected!

I am sorry, that the Mancomunidad de Municipios, the Community of Municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar (all Spanish) have not joined in participating in this study as was muted some time back. These other communities in Spain also desperately need an Epidemiological Study to be carried out and I very much hope for their sake, that their Government pulls their finger out... very soon!

Hats Off to the ESG

Finally, I would like to congratulate Janet Howitt and ALL at the ESG for their dogged campaign over many years, in pursuit of this objective. They have been formidable and relentless and I thank them for their great efforts on our behalves! Well done ESG... I hope you crack open a bottle or two of a nice bubbly... and thoroughly congratulate yourselves!!

If I was able to... I would come round personally and provide said bottle! cool

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I take my hat off to... Joanna Lumley the Gurkha's 'Goddess'

Following the wonderful news today of the government's U-turn on the Gurkhas, I really have to take my hat off to this remarkable lady, Joanna Lumley who led the Gurkha Justice Campaign to ultimate success, after a long battle, with Government.

Joanna Lumley, seen on the right with David Cameron, Bob Russel and the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg celebrating the Gurkha vote against the government two weeks ago, has won the hearts of so many of us across the country in the process of this campaign.

Speaking on behalf of the Gurkha Justice earlier today, Joanna said:

"We simply would not have won this fight without the massive, overwhelming support of all those who have supported our campaign.

To the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed Gurkha Justice petitions, lobbied their MP, campaigned, attended rallies and marches - thank you so much to you all. This is your victory. It would not have happened without you.

The whole campaign has been based on the belief that those who have fought and been prepared to die for our country should have the the right to live in our country. We owe them a debt of honour - a debt that will now be paid.

I am delighted, and humbled, at what has been achieved by our remarkable team."

Joanna Lumley's words, as always are very dignified, modest and humble. I think we all know that had it not been for her leadership and aplomb in the handling of such an effective campaign, the Gurkhas would have been waiting for their rightful justice for a very long time to come... if ever!

Whilst I have no doubts, many in the Gurkha Justice Campaign team have put a great and valiant effort into bringing about a successful conclusion to the Gurkha cause, I'm sure I echo the sentiments of most of the British people, in thinking that they would not have been able to swing it, without this amazing woman's charismatic leadership.

In Admiration of our Purdey

Originally uploaded by Hilly_Blue

I'm sure like many of you, I have been a long time admirer of Joanna Lumley, long before she ever came to prominence with the Gurkha Justice Campaign... or indeed with 'AbFab' (Absolutely Fabulous)!

Joanna Lamond Lumley, OBE (born 1 May 1946) is an English actress, best known for her roles in the British television series The New Avengers, Sapphire and Steel, Absolutely Fabulous and Sensitive Skin. She is also a former model, a human rights activist (best known for her support for the Gurkhas and the exiled Tibetan people and government) and an animal welfare activist.

As Purdey, Joanna was a character in the British TV series The New Avengers screened in 1976-77. She was the delicious bob-cut haired spy working for British intelligence, partnering John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt).

Gurkha Justice Campaign

In 2008 she became the public face of a campaign to provide all Gurkha veterans who served in the British Army before 1997 the right to settle in Britain. Those serving after 1997 had already been granted permission but the UK Government had not extended the offer to all of the Gurkhas, who are natives of Nepal.

Gurkhas have served Britain for more than 200 years with over 50,000 dying in service, and 13 have been awarded the Victoria Cross. On 20th November 2008, Joanna Lumley led a large all party group including Gurkhas starting from Parliament Square to 10 Downing Street with a petition signed by 250,000 people (including yours truly).

In her support of the Gurkha Justice Campaign, on 24th April 2009, she stated that she was 'ashamed' of the UK administration's decision to affix five criteria to the Gurkhas' right to settle in the UK. With the support of both Opposition parties and Labour rebel MPs on 29th April 2009 a Liberal Democrat motion that all Gurkhas be offered an equal right of residence was passed by Parliament, thereby forcing the resistance of Ministers like Phil Woolas and the Prime Minister's hand, to have to rethink their earlier decisions and with the event, make a spectacular U-turn, as announced today by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

When asked by a BBC reporter, why she had fronted the Gurkha Justice Campaign, she replied, with her usual humility and great dignity:

"I did it in memory of my beloved father, for my love and respect of the Gurkha and for the people of Britain, who wanted this to happen!"

The amazing and at times humourous (unintentionally I'm sure) campaign Joanna Lumley has run on the Gurkha's behalves has won the esteem and respect of many across Britain. Some are even calling for her to run for Parliament, though as far as I know, she has not commented on this possibility.

One wag on my Facebook home page called for her to be elected Prime Minister (not the only place I have heard this call). I replied, reminding my friend that there will shortly be a vacancy for Speaker of the House of Commons:

"She's done pretty well, leading these naughty boys by the nose so far... she only just stopped short of pulling Minister Phil Woolas' ear the other day! I'd certainly give her my vote if I could."

I am full of admiration for this Lady, who has shown such dignity, humility and sheer panache, bringing much badly needed integrity and pride back into British homes and public life... and I take my hat off to her! I hope she is made a Dame now... she thoroughly deserves it and we could well do with people like her in the 'Lords'!


As I said in my earlie post today... I do also hope the BNP are listening... and squirming!!

More information about Joanna Lumley @ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Victory for Gurkha Justice campaign restores a little pride in British democracy

Following weeks when we've seen the pride in our democracy dragged through the streets of Westminster... today a little of that pride has been restored in our democracy and in Great Britain!

At midday today, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith made an announcement to the House of Commons that the Gurkha Justice Campaign have been fighting for for years. All ex-Gurkhas who have served more than 4 years in the British Army will have the right to settle in the UK if they wish.

After such a long fight, with huge ups and downs, "this is a superb announcement", said the Gurkha Justice Campaign.

The Government has now responded to that campaign after court cases, votes in Parliament, a huge media campaign and, most importantly, massive public support.

Speaking on behalf of the Gurkha Justice Campaign, Joanna Lumley, who has led this remarkable campaign and won the hearts of so many of us across the country in the process, said:

"We simply would not have won this fight without the massive, overwhelming support of all those who have supported our campaign.

To the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed Gurkha Justice petitions, lobbied their MP, campaigned, attended rallies and marches - thank you so much to you all. This is your victory. It would not have happened without you.

The whole campaign has been based on the belief that those who have fought and been prepared to die for our country should have the the right to live in our country. We owe them a debt of honour - a debt that will now be paid.

I am delighted, and humbled, at what has been achieved by our remarkable team."

Joanna Lumley's words will echo the sentiments of most of the British people, I'm sure and I for one congratulate the Gurkha Justice Campaign team and everyone who supported this very worthwhile cause.

I think the most important point is this... that in this campaign it is democracy that has ultimately triumphed... albeit it with a Government having to be dragged kicking and screaming... (with some Ministers even being pulled by the nose) to finally be shamed into doing the right thing... something rare in Parliament in this day and age!

My best wishes to all Gurkhas and their families who will now be able to enjoy a life in the United Kingdom, without hindrance and who have been embraced by the affection and gratitude of the British public!


As a little footnote... I do hope the BNP are listening!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Onwards and upwards....moving on from MPs and constitutional crisis

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been rather focused on the issues surrounding the MPs abuse of privileges in the House of Commons and the conduct of Speaker Martin.

I suspect I bored many of my regular readers a little bit (possibly a lot), by banging on about Speaker Martin (a very important issue for me)... for which I apologise... but I'm afraid the whole issue, not least MPs expenses abuses, has quite incensed me.

With the resignation of the Speaker yesterday and the reforms that have been announced, I'm glad to say I am feeling a little calmer today... but I can't promise I will not return to these issues as there is still much to do and to be said in this regard, particularly on my strong belief that the electorate must be given the opportunity to have our say on these issues.

On these, not least is the opportunity we have with the forthcoming European Elections, where I hope you will be supporting the Liberal Democrats lists in your constituencies... especially those of you in Gibraltar (and the South West Region of the UK of course) who I hope will join me in support of our very own Gibraltarian candidate, Jonathan Stagnetto.

Other News to Focus On

Whilst all this has been going on, a number of other news has caught my attention and normally, I would have commented on with a blog post... but I haven't, because my energies and my eyesight, which sadly seems to have taken a turn for the worst recently (could be due to the rise in blood pressure... just kidding), has only allowed me to concentrate on the most important issue... and that was the brink of a possible constitutional crisis that the issue of MPs expenses brought us to, in the House of Commons. Thankfully... I think we have seen the worse on this, at least for now.

Amongst the other items of news that have caught my eye, which have concerned me (by no means the only ones) are these:

Gibraltar's Sovereign Territorial Waters

Firstly, the apparent escalation of incidents concerning Gibraltar's sovereign territorial waters where one more incident was reported this week.

This is worrying and I very much hope Spain can be 'encouraged' by the UK's Foreign Office and of course the Gibraltar authorities, to reign in whatever agenda they are now manipulating, before these incidents become more serious and someone is hurt through some 'trigger-happy' blunder. So far, all concerned have been able to show restraint... but I can see how these could easily go awry. Let's hope this can be resolved soon... before someone is hurt and we are having to deal with a much more serious 'international incident'!

Action Require on Child Porn Laws in Gibraltar

This issue touches on issues which I have been concerned about for a very long time... and not just in the context of Gibraltar.

But in the context of Gibraltar, the remarkably anachronistic legislation that exists in Gibraltar, as my colleague Brian Reyes writes about in his blog, Action on child porn laws…finally « Letters From Gibraltar is long overdue for reform, as he rightly points out.

"A few days ago I wrote about a glaring gap in Gibraltar’s legislation. Possession of child pornography, it appeared, was not a crime on the Rock. It wasn’t me who said this, but the judge."

In this, I also very much agree with John Baw, a fellow Gibraltar blogger, who said the resulting sentence in this case, was "Nothing short of outrageous" (WildOx Blog!

Age of Consent Bill in Gibraltar

Not before time, a Bill to equalise the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, by setting this at 16, the age that already applies for heterosexuals and lesbians, was heard in the Gibraltar Parliament.

Daniel Feetham, the Minister for Justice, took the unusual step of bringing a motion asking for leave to introduce a Private Members’ Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Offences Act.

There is overwhelming international legal and local constitutional pressure to implement equalisation although the issue is untested in the local courts.

The Equality Rights Group GGR welcomed the Bill:

"After nine years of GGR raising the public debate on sexual minorities in Gibraltar, we are pleased to see that Parliament has finally considered the question of age of consent inequality currently in force."

I was pleased to see the Bill has been passed to proceed to a formal reading of a Bill in Parliament.

As GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez said:

"Whilst Government has failed to introduce the debate as a public Bill on what, after all, is a public issue and instead, preferred to rely on one of its own members in a purely private capacity, it has, nonetheless passed the motion to proceed on the formal reading of a Bill to equalise the legislation. This, in effect, falls short of Government’s legal requirement to comply with what is unarguably an international law obligation and not, as they have argued, a mere question of ‘conscience'."

As Brian Reyes concluded when referring to the 'Child Porn' case, "Time for the legislators to get moving on this…swiftly, methinks", there's much to be done to bring legislation in these and other matters concerning human rights and anti-discrimination in Gibraltar, to international and European law standards!

On a Lighter Note...

I was very interested to see this article, in the Telegraph, about the fact that Bright women are brilliant in bed.

This is something that perhaps many men take a little while in finding out for themselves. Personally, I found this out quite early in life and as a consequence, feel very blessed in how my early realisation of this simple and logical fact has much enhanced my... errr lifetime. biggrin

On a similar note... speaking of 'bright women' and how attractive that may be... any investor out there looking for some good ideas, might well do a lot worse than to listen to Peter Daily's report on the BBC World Service - Business - Does the crisis need a feminine touch? The ideas and investment opportunity offered by this investment company run by a couple of Icelandic ladies... who offer the slightly extreme proposition that men got us into this current economic mess, maybe women can get us out of it... sounds very interesting to me! wink

I hope to focus more on all these and no doubt, other issues that will arise, in the foreseeable future.... energy and eyes notwithstanding.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So Speaker Martin resigns.. now we need to go after proper reform

In a rather short curt speech, completely lacking in any apology, explanation or leadership and sadly rather true to form, undignified and ungraceful, the House of Commons speaker Michael Martin announced his resignation this afternoon.

Speaker Martin said he will be stepping down on Sunday the 21st June.

It is right that he should go. Having called for his resignation consistenly for the last couple of weeks now... and I gave my reason in a post early this week, I take no satisfaction from his resignation. It is always sad to see someone losing his job and blotting an otherwise distinguished career.

Speaker Martin got it badly wrong over the MPs abuse of expenses fiasco. Under his stewardship, the House of Commons has been brought into disrepute. His departments have approved claims for expenses from MPs, that quite clearly breached the guidelines and even in some cases, may well prove to have colluded in fraud. Furthermore, his department, the 'Fees Office' misguided MPs about their false claims, claims that according to The Green Book (A Guide to Members Allowances), should never have been accepted never mind passed for payment!

Footnote on Scapegoat Excuses and Bigotry

Speaker Martin is NO scapegoat. He is just the first of many that have to take responsibility (other than the MPs who have already had to stand down from various party positions) and must go... culpable for their own actions, in this whole disgraceful fiasco!

I keep hearing many people, particularly from Scotland, saying how honest Speaker Martin is and that he is a good 'Christian' etc. Well this is as may be... but what has this got to do with anything? Sectarianism and bigotry may still be important and an issue in Glasgow... but this has nothing whatever to do with why Speaker Martin had to go... NOR should it! Certainly not as far as I'm concerned and neither have I heard any other critic from any source, justify any reason as to why he had to go as being due to his religion!

Dissolving Parliament should be the next step

The 'Kelly Review' which is currently looking into reforming MPs expenses will not be reporting back to the House for a long time. At the very earliest, some expect it to be sometime in the early Autumn. Sources close to the committee say it is "unrealistic" to think could report back any earlier and its chairman, Sir Christopher Kelly, quite rightly, should not be rushed and he says he will not be "boxed in".

Therefore, in my humble opinion, in the first instance, I believe dissolving Parliament and calling for a General Election, should be the next step in trying to bring back some semblance of confidence in Parliament and the House of Commons. The Electorate would then have the opportunity to de-select wrongdoing MPs and be canvassed and persuaded to back whoever Constituents feel they can put their trust in for the future.

I fear however, that it will be a very long time before the Electorate can regain its trust in our most valued and important of institutions for our democracy!

Do you agree?

Should Parliament be dissolved and a General Election be called now?
Don't know free polls

Monday, May 18, 2009

Four reasons why Speaker Martin should go now

I just watched the House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin make his statement to the House over the fiasco and crisis with MPs' expenses.

The moment had quite historic overtones and one could feel a palpable tension across the whole House with some honourable MPs clearly very angry, reflecting the mood in the country at large.

Mr Martin told a packed chamber that he was "profoundly sorry" for his failure to prevent abuses of the allowances system, which is all very well and right that he should do, but he failed to respond to repeated demands by MPs to give a date for his departure or indeed to either discuss his future or give the House the opportunity to debate the 'motion of no confidence' against him.

The Speaker scolded some members who interrupted his address to challenge his position. He refused to discuss his own future and stopped the House from doing so too.

As I have been arguing over the last week, Speaker Martin must go. He should go for the following reasons:

  • For being instrumental in stopping reform of expenses over the last 3 years at least.

  • For his disgraceful treatement of at least two MPs in a statement on MPs expenses last week, when he was clearly NOT non-partisan... as the Speaker should always be and for completely misreading the public mood on the issue.

  • For being responsible ultimately for the Department of Resources, otherwise known as the 'Fees Office'... who are, to my mind, responsible for this whole fiasco, jointly with all the MPs who have abused their expenses claims... but who were guided or should one say misguided by this office... and who had their false claims for expenses approved, (some which are bound to be proved as fraudulent).

  • Lastly, for allowing the House of Commons system to bring the whole structure, MPs and the administration of the House, to fall into disrepute in this sad and disgracefull manner!

Tell your MP

I think it is important that our MPs have absolutely no doubt how we, the electorate feel about these very important issues. In this light, I have emailed my MP Bob Blizzard (MP for Waveney) urging him to support the motion of no confidence against Speaker Martin. If you agree with my argument here, and feel that Speaker Martin should go as soon as possible, I would suggest you do the same as me and let your own MP know!

Cameron calls for dissolution of Parliament

Meanwhile, at a press conference opening the Conservative campaign in the forthcoming European elections, David Cameron, the Opposition leader called for the immediate dissolution of Parliament and for a General Election to be held, "to let the public help solve the political crisis caused by the row over MPs' expenses".

David Cameron said the scale of the problems facing Britain, including the recession, the debt crisis and the expenses scandal, all suggested a vote was needed sooner rather than later.... and I think the country at large, agrees. I certainly do!

Do you agree?

House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin: Should he resign?
Don't know free polls