Picardo says October 12 is his last election, tipping Gemma Arias Vasquez as next GSLP leader
GSLP leader Fabian Picardo said on Wednesday that, if he had to choose today, he would nominate Gemma Arias Vasquez as the party’s next leader, as he confirmed October 12 would be his last election campaign.
In an emotive exchange with journalists, Mr Picardo shared praise for Mrs Arias Vasquez and said he believed she could lead the party into the next election in 2027, potentially becoming Gibraltar’s first female Chief Minister.
During a press conference focused on health matters, Mr Picardo said if elected Mrs Arias Vasquez would be the next Minister for Health and she would be his nomination to lead the party in four years’ time.
“I met her when I was a lawyer and she wanted to be a lawyer and she's a better lawyer than I was,” Mr Picardo said.
“She wanted to go to Oxford University, she went to the college I went to, and she is better remembered there than I am for her academic achievement and her rowing achievement.”
“She wanted to be a part of Hassans, and I think she's more highly regarded in Hassans than I was.”
“You ask the membership of the GSLP and for the last six months they'll tell you that she was working harder than I was.”
“And frankly, I think she's going to make an excellent minister. The people of Gibraltar will have to decide who is the next Chief Minister of Gibraltar in 2027, or whenever that Chief Minister calls the election.”
“I have been very clear this is the last time I lead my party into a general election.”
“The party will kind of find a new leader.”
“It is going to be spoilt for choice, both with members of the parliament and members of the party. Any member of the party can ask the party to support them as leader.”
“It would not be fair for me now to pretend to nominate one person to be a leader of the party.”
“We have to see the performance of everyone in the parliament and everyone who's not in the parliament who's able to stand.”
“But if today I had to nominate somebody to be the next leader of the GSLP, I think she's going to be a woman and I think she is sitting at this table.”
This is the first time Mrs Arias Vasquez has stood for the party as a candidate despite long links with the party.
“Given that I haven't even really started in politics it is slightly daunting,” Mrs Arias Vasquez told journalists.
“But as I said in the debate last week, I don't think women should rule themselves out. I think women should throw their hats in the ring and I think that a woman should always, if the opportunity is given, take it.”
“So, as Sheryl Sandberg famously said, I think women have to lean in. So all I'm saying is, I'm not leaning out.”
Mr Picardo has been clear on the focus of the new entrants on the GSLP slate. New candidate Pat Orfila is focusing on housing, Nigel Feetham on finance, and Christian Santos on youth and equality.
In turn, the GSD has a different approach and said their new candidates will be campaigning across all issues.
“Keith [Azopardi] hasn't told us who he might propose to be the health minister,” Mr Picardo said.
“I'm telling you it's going to be Gemma Arias Vasquez if you choose the GSLP/Liberals.”
“When you look at that list of 21 people on the ballot, if you care about the health services, this candidate has got the brains to lead more than just the GHA.”
“She's got the brains to lead this country if necessary.”
“So when you make the choice of who you think should be the next best Minister for Health, I think it's a no brainer.”
“I think it's an absolute no brainer and when you go through all the portfolios and you choose your 10 for each of those portfolios, I think you come to the conclusion that this is not an election where you have to do anything other than stick with the GSLP/Liberal candidates because that team represents the experience, the continuity and the change that Gibraltar needs all in one team.”
Mr Picardo added: “There is only one iron lady standing in this election. She is a socialist, and although she went to Oxford University, she does not speak with an Oxford accent.”
Mr Picardo and Mrs Arias Vasquez were flanked by Liberal Leader, Dr Joseph Garcia, and caretaker Minister for Health, Albert Isola.
Mr Isola looked back on the GSLP/Liberals record in health over the past 12 years, the difficult decisions taken, the challenges and the continued need for improvement in the health service.
If elected the GSLP/Liberals plan to move the mental health provision from Coaling Island to St Bernard’s Hospital to provide a community mental health service.
“It's a service that's presently provided at Coaling Island in an area that is very, very unkempt,” Mr Picardo said.
“It's a pity to see that we're still providing that service. So we're upgrading what we would do there by bringing to the Primary Care Center.”
Mr Picardo said cross-referral would be made easier as the service will now be in the same space as the rest of health services.
“Because we're just doing the clinical aspect of outreach there it makes much more sense to bring it into the Primary Care Center where it's then able to interface much more easily with all the other services that people who require that facility need.”
Mrs Arias Vasquez acknowledged more needed to be done in the field of healthcare.
“I believe that we are 80% of the way there,” she said.
“We need to get 100% of the way there.”
She said the GHA is aware of the problem with appointments and accessing healthcare, and under the GSLP/Liberals has been tackling the issue.