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Picardo issues fierce response to Azopardi’s NY message

Johnny Bugeja

The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has issued a scathing response to the Leader of the Opposition Keith Azopardi, insisting his New Years message lacked honesty and “basic political decency”.

This comes after Mr Azopardi slammed the Government for the way in which it has run Gibraltar’s affairs. In his first New Years address as Leader of the Opposition he levied strong criticism at the Government’s approach to public finances and Brexit, among other things.

And, in an equally strong rebuke, Mr Picardo insisted that Mr Azopardi’s “demonstrates that neither he nor the GSD have learnt anything from their historic and crushing defeat at the polls in October last year”.

In a statement Mr Picardo said: “Mr Azopardi’s complaints about what we have spent on schools, on health services, homes for our people and sporting facilities for our sportsmen and women must mean that if Mr Azopardi were Chief Minister, our children would still be attending the old Bayside school, would still be going to the old Primary Care Centre and would not have held the Island Games in Gibraltar.”

“If Mr Azopardi were Chief Minister, he would not be building homes for our people, providing the best health services possible or investing in the future, as we are doing with Victoria Keys.”

“That is the underlying the reality of what he is saying.  The dishonesty is in pretending that he would have built schools, homes and new health facilities without spending money.  It isn’t just dishonest, of course, it’s nonsense.”

On Mr Azopardi’s personal polling at the last general election he said, “Having come fourth overall in the context of opposition seats and third even within the party he leads, he is mercifully unlikely ever to lead that party into success at the next election, much less take stewardship of the affairs of this community, yet what is most worrying is his determination to mislead the community by offering only part of his version of the issues raised.”

“He fails, of course, in the myopic view he today shares with his colleague the Hon Roy Clinton (but which he clearly didn’t when he served in Government under Sir Peter Caruana), to point out that the investment in the Victoria Keys project is an upfront investment to create the land that the Government will then sell on to developers at commercial rates. Further, the Government will also take a 20% stake in the developers themselves.”

“This is unprecedented and represents a great deal for Gibraltar of which my Government is rightly proud.  In relation to the schools, he omits to share that the Government will shortly start to realise a return on the capital investment of the new schools as parking spaces are sold and paid for.”

“At every turn of what he has said, Mr Azopardi has got it wrong.”

“Perhaps the most staggering example of the Leader of the Opposition’s misunderstanding of, public finances is the fact that whilst he characterises the investment in the schools as wasteful, one of his many deputies, the Hon Danny Feetham MP recently conceded that the price paid for the building of the schools was too low.

“One GSD leader says we have spent to much and a former GSD leader says we are spending too little.”

“The contradictions are remarkable,” Mr Picardo said adding: “I am even vicariously ashamed to see it.”

“The people of Gibraltar rejected the unimaginative, self-centered and entirely negative politics of the GSD at the last election by a crushing majority.  75% of the electorate rejected Mr Azopardi and his tired and unambitious narrative.  Mr Azopardi led the GSD to its worst defeat precisely because the people are tired, not of the way in which this Government has conducted itself in office, but of the opposition’s lack of seriousness or credibility.”

He added: “If the Opposition thinks that the people of Gibraltar will somehow connect with a message that was so roundly rejected a mere two and a half months ago, they are sorely mistaken.  Now is not the time for petty party politics.  It is time to work together and unite for Gibraltar.”

“Mr Azopardi has failed to see that.  He is on the wrong side of history at a crucial time in our history,” Mr Picardo said.

“As we continue to work towards our departure from the EU at the end of the month, my Government will be focusing on the things that matter, namely the safeguarding of Gibraltar’s interests and doing whatever it takes to ensure that this community continues to enjoy the blessed existence we all relish but which we should not take for granted.”

“As we enjoy the benefit of the transitional period, we will living the advantages that Mr Azopardi’s recklessness would have deprived us of.  And as every day passes, Mr Azopardi and the GSD will be seen by even more members of our community to be disconnected and irrelevant to the new, progressive, modern Gibraltar we are building.  It’s so obvious, many who were in the GSD are already saying it.”