GSLP has 12 candidates vying for selection, with four MPs dropping out
The deadline for GSLP members to offer themselves as candidates for the party’s electoral slate closed at 5pm on Friday, with 12 nominations received amid news that four of its MPs in the last parliament had pulled out.
Albert Isola, Paul Balban and Samantha Sacramento announced on Friday that they would not seek re-election. Backbencher Gilbert Licudi had already indicated he would leave frontline politics.
The GSLP executive committee will meet on Sunday to consider its selection, which must then be ratified by members at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday.
The GSD will also confirm its candidates on Monday after a meeting of its executive committee scheduled for Monday evening.
The GSD’s deadline for submission of nominations is 7pm on Saturday.
In the Liberal Party, members interested in putting their name forward have until Monday at 3pm to do so.
This will be followed by an executive meeting on Monday evening when the selection will be made.
There was no confirmation from the GSLP/Liberals on Friday as to whether the alliance would retain its seven/three split as in previous elections.
Together Gibraltar has not made any announcement yet confirming that it will field a slate at the election.
In a statement, Mr Isola said he had taken the decision with “a heavy heart” after 10 years in office, praising the public sector officials he had worked with over the years.
He plans to return to private practice as a lawyer.
“I will forever be indebted to each and every one of them, even those with whom I have disagreed over this time,” he said in a personal statement.
“Every decision I have taken I have believed to be right and in the best interests of our community, and I have given this job every ounce of my energy and ability.”
“Governing is not easy, especially in small countries like ours, and ultimately that is why we are elected - to deal with and take the difficult decisions.”
Mr Isola said that when he returned to politics in 2013, he could never have imagined the challenges of Brexit or Covid that lay in store.
“They have been some of the most challenging and difficult years of our history and I believe the pending successful negotiation of the treaty is the final piece of that jigsaw that we need to carefully and skillfully navigate,” he said.
“I have absolutely no doubt that Fabian is the best person that can deliver that treaty for the reasons we have already made clear.”
And he added: “I will now look forward to spending more time with my family; my first grandchild God willing will be born in February and I look forward to many more.”
“I am grateful to them for giving me the time I have needed to do this job properly. I will also return to work with Isolas which I have greatly missed.”
Mr Isola thanked his Cabinet colleagues for their “friendship and untiring dedication” to the community, adding: “It is not easy.”
He described GSLP leader and acting Chief Minister Fabian Picardo as “one of a kind”.
“He has delivered for our community in areas that I believed were impossible, time and again,” he said.
“He is the best person to unlock the treaty negotiations safely and deliver to Gibraltar the fluidity at the frontier that our business community so craves, to enjoy the further success that this will undoubtedly bring us all, and keep Gibraltar safe.”
“We are fortunate to have him and it has been a real pleasure and privilege to work with him closely, at such difficult and challenging times.”
“He is what leadership is all about and I am proud to call him my friend.”
“It has been a humbling experience to serve, and I have been very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do so with my colleagues.”
“I thank the community for their confidence in us at previous elections and I will always be available to my successors to support them in whatever way they determine I can best contribute.”
The GSLP’s Mr Balban also confirmed on Friday that he would not offering himself as a candidate for the October 12 election and would be leaving frontline politics after 12 years as a government minister.
Mr Balban has held different portfolios during that time but is best known for the policies on traffic and transport which he led and commenced the process of shifting to a more sustainable model for a growing community with finite space.
Initiatives such as parking zones and cycle lanes proved divisive and drew flak from many quarters, something Mr Balban acknowledged in a personal statement on Friday.
“It is fair to say that the work that I have done in traffic and transport has often been radical,” he said.
“It has tried to challenge the way that we live and move and that can only be contentious, but I am passionate, and I believe in the work that I do.”
“From Residential Parking Schemes all the way to bicycle lanes, the people have been divided and I have strived at times against much adversity and criticism, simply because I strongly believed in the bigger picture.”
“I saw a cleaner, better, greener Gibraltar, a better quality of life, I saw streets alive with people, children playing, people moving in different ways, better air quality, a healthier community, and these are the seeds that I have sowed today, and it will take time to reap the rewards of this work.”
“Alternatively, we can choose as a community to rid ourselves of this work, abolish the zone parking scheme and remove the bicycle lanes, restoring on-street parking as we had.”
“This is the beauty of a democracy; we collectively decide our future and how we live.”
“I am confident however and hope that at some point in the future we may look back and perhaps understand the work that I may have played a small part in bringing about change to our community and that all that hard work was for a reason.”
Mr Balban said parts of the private sector had begun to embrace the initiatives for sustainable transport but acknowledged too that it was work in progress.
“The work I have done recently with regards to the Active Travel Strategy was always going to bigger than me, my political party, and our political system itself,” he said.
“Our democracy gives us the collective right to determine our own future, hence I successfully sought the cross-party support, critical for such a transformational environmental project of urban mobility.”
“Regardless of differing opinions, I did what I set out to do, my sights remained fixed throughout, I did what I felt was the right thing to do, and I am happy to be judged now and again in 20 years’ time.”
And he had this to say to prospective candidates at the election: “You only get one chance, everyone does their best, everyone wants the best for Gibraltar and by all means strive to be popular not least because popularity keeps you there, but above all do what you think is right.”
“We need to be brave as leaders if we are to bring about change, we need to be brave if we believe that there really is a climate emergency, if we want to live a healthier life and if we believe that we can do better. We can always do better.”
“I apologise if my vision for a better Gibraltar was not mainstream, if it was a vision with less pollution, cleaner air, if I wanted to give more street space to people, especially families and children, if I wanted to create green areas and see a better quality of life at street level.”
“This was my remit as Minister for Transport and our 2019 manifesto commitment but I wanted to have done so much more, not least concentrate on our buses, the backbone of transport within any city and another looming priority in the next four years.”
Mr Balban thanked people he had worked with over the past 12 years and his detractors too, who he said had provided “a reality check” that made him “braver and more determined to push on”.
And he thanked his family too, reflecting on the personal impact and the “especially tough” pressures of politics on family life.
Mr Balban said he would be supporting the GSLP/Liberals at the election.
“Fabian has been a tour de force internationally and my trust in his ability to achieve the best deal for Gibraltar is unquestionable,” he said.
“Sir Joe, the reason I entered politics, is for me the epitome of the father figure in Gibraltar politics always available and wise beyond his years.”
“They are the only option to keep us safe, to deliver the best possible outcome in treaty negotiations and to ensure that Gibraltar continues to thrive and be greener and even better.”
Ms Sacramento, who was “literally catapulted” into a Cabinet role at the age of 34, reflected on the challenges faced since 2011, highlighting too the “honour and respect” she felt toward her responsibilities across different portfolios.
“It is no exaggeration to say how neglected departments were when we took office in 2011 and the lack of investment in their infrastructure as well as human resources and how much work had to be dedicated to radically turn them around into what they should be,” she said.
“Of all my departments, it is no secret that Social Services and Mount Alvernia have been my favourites, possibly because they were the ones that need, and deserved, the most attention because they dealt with the most vulnerable in our community.”
She described as “amazing” the experience of establishing a Ministry of Equality and driving changes in that sphere.
“To look back at the changed landscape twelve years later is incredible,” she said.
“From creating awareness of LGBTQ+ rights to enshrining them in legislation in the Civil Partnership Act in 2014 and equal marriage in 2016, to promoting equality for women in the workplace and on social issues such as overhauling domestic abuse legislation with the new Act earlier this year [and] protecting women’s reproductive rights and in 2021 passing legislation to enable surrogacy, we have literally changed Gibraltar’s landscape making it more accessible for people with disabilities and we are miles ahead in the support of people with disabilities than when we started.”
“We have turned Gibraltar into a progressive country at last.”
She recalled her second day in office when she stopped construction of what is now Hillsides after being “horrified” by what she found and instead opting to seek specialist design advice for a dementia facility.
“It has at times been lonely to be the only woman in the cabinet, never has it been clearer to me that different people bring different points of view especially on certain subjects,” she said.
“It took me a long time to convince my colleagues that the taxpayer should not foot the bill for the Miss Gibraltar pageant, but I got there in the end.”
“It is not right that there has only been one woman at our decision-making table for 12 years and I sincerely hope that this will increase and that there will be greater diversity in a way that reflects our Gibraltarian community better.”
She reflected too on other memorable moments of her time in office, including laying a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, meeting Queen Camilla in Buckingham Palace and heading the Gibraltar delegation at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, being part of the Special Olympics and being the first woman in the history of Gibraltar to act for the Chief Minister.
But she added too that it was the personal interaction with people seeking help that had meant the most to her.
“I am a natural trouble shooter and have loved every challenge that has been presented,” she said.
“But nothing that anyone had ever done could be compared to what faced the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“My experience of having a broad range of portfolios prepared me well to be the Minister for Civil Contingencies at that extremely difficult time, it was my responsibility to manage the teams leadings on Covid and I have never worked so hard always motivated by keeping safe everyone in Gibraltar.”
“In the middle of pandemic I was thrown into being the Minister for Health at a time when the hospital was most stretched.”
“Alongside trying to support the hospital I immediately commissioned a National Mental Health Strategy and as soon as we had stabilised the vaccination programme I set to work on the GHA’s reset, restart and recover programme and restructured the GHA and made the legislative change to restructure the GHA Board.”
“The reality of Covid is that we had to stop work on everything to turn all our efforts to keep Gibraltar safe and then to manage us out as best we could on the other side.”
“This has taken the better part of two years, which means that in essence we were left with a year to complete the four-year manifesto.”
“This has meant that the intense pace of work that was required during Covid had to continue when we were on the other side of the pandemic as we were left with a year to undertake work on a manifesto programmed for a four-year term.”
“Working at such an intense pace for a sustained period of time takes its toll and I came to the decision not to stand again for election about a year ago.”
“Everything that I do, I do with passion and conviction.”
“I absolutely love what I do, and I am grateful of the opportunity of having made a difference, but I feel that after so long it is time to step aside and focus on other pursuits.”
“I was born in the same year as the GSLP was founded and the party and its fundamental principles run through my veins, I will continue to be active in the GSLP in this election and beyond.”
“I firmly believe that the GSLP Liberal alliance led by Fabian, Joseph and of the founder of the party Sir Joe, represent the only option in this general election to keep Gibraltar safe and get things done for our people.”
“It has been my privilege and pleasure to have served the people of Gibraltar, everything that I have done and continue to do is to make a difference to the lives of the individual citizens from our small nation for the better, because for me, that is all that is has been about.”