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Hassan Nahon urges CM to take criticism ‘maturely’

Johnny Bugeja

The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, must learn to take criticism from the Opposition maturely, Together Gibraltar Leader Marlene Hassan Nahon said yesterday as she fired back amidst an ongoing political spat between the two.

Ms Hassan Nahon underscored that it is the Opposition’s duty to highlight what it believes is bad for Gibraltar.

It his Mr Picardo’s duty to accept these criticisms without descending into cheap digs and personal insults, she added.

This comes after Mr Picardo clashed with Ms Hassan Nahon over comments she made in New Years’ address insisting he should tone down his “nationalistic rhetoric” as he pursues legal action against VOX.

In a statement she said she “cannot stand by and watch him take what is essentially a difference of political opinion into the arena of personal insults, such as questioning my intellectual rigour, without a reply.”

Ms Hassan Nahon said: “Mr Picardo is right in reminding the electorate that I offered my full support of the Government’s legal claim, and I will continue to do so whenever the honour and good name of our community are challenged in this way.”

“I did not express a discrepancy at the time with his decision to appear on a Spanish sensationalist programme, despite having serious reservations, as an act of loyalty at a time when we were in the public spotlight.”

“However, statements made by the Chief Minister in his New Year’s statement were simply too much to bear, and gave me a completely different perspective on what Mr. Picardo is actually trying to achieve by making a public show of his battle with VOX,” she said.

“When Mr. Picardo takes a reference directly out of a wartime speech from Winston Churchill, what exactly is he trying to say? Does he want to prepare us all for war? Does he want to inflame passions on both sides of the border? Does he want to highlight his role as the defender of our national pride? And most importantly, is it good for Gibraltar for our Chief Minister to issue statements of this nature? Does it strengthen our position in future negotiations? Does it express our moral high ground in respect of our legal claim against VOX? Who benefits from all this? Populist parties feed off each other’s rhetoric in a race to the extremes while silent majorities get caught in the middle, and I am afraid that this might be the shape of things to come over the next four years.”

Ms Hassan Nahon said the party Mr Picardo leads – the GSLP – has “realised that its support is on the down, and is trying to reinvigorate it by playing the Nationalist card.”

“We want to remind Mr. Picardo that there are better ways of doing this, ways that do not generate a climate of public hostility with parties that, in these times of instability, might have a say in negotiations that will be decisive to our future well-being.”

“We suggest he expresses his patriotism by seriously protecting Gibraltar’s natural environment, by seriously tackling corruption and maladministration, and by carrying out a more principled and responsible style of politics.”

In respect of accusations of ‘u-turns’ by herself and Together Gibraltar, she said: “We have explained the basis for our changes of policy every step of the way, and we are happy to accept that we live, learn, talk to our electorate, investigate, debate, and if necessary modify our positions accordingly.”

“We believe the Government did the same when they decided to change their positions on the enlargement of parliament or on the abortion legislation, which was originally presented as a Bill, and then replaced by a referendum overnight- and many others.”

“To be open to this process of learning and adapting is a perfectly legitimate and commendable way to govern, in fact it is the cornerstone of intellectual rigour.”

“However, in the same way that we understand that complete lack of political consistency is an expression of bad leadership, I’m sure the CM understands that so too are stubbornness and dogmatism.”

“Mr Picardo will not have our blind support. He will only have our support if he does what is good for Gibraltar, and not for his party, even if it means being branded as anti-patriots. My style is one of honesty, responsibility and diplomacy, and I believe these are the values we need to secure the best post-Brexit future for Gibraltar.”

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