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POLITICS: GSD leader debate hots up as Azopardi returns

POLITICS: GSD leader debate hots up as Azopardi returnsPOLITICS: GSD leader debate hots up as Azopardi returnsPOLITICS: GSD leader debate hots up as Azopardi returnsPOLITICS: GSD leader debate hots up as Azopardi returns

IN the wake of Daniel Feetham’s resignation from the Leadership of the Opposition, former Deputy Chief Minister Keith Azopardi has rejoined the GSD.

Mr Azopardi served as Minister for Environment & Health for the Gibraltar Social Democrats from 1996 to 2000, after which he was appointed Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Minister for Trade and Industry, a position he held until 2003 when he stood down following the GSD merger with the Gibraltar Labour Party.

In 2006 he and another former GSD member and fellow lawyer, Nick Cruz founded the Progressive Democratic Party.

Despite enjoying some popularity they were unable to significantly make inroads into the support of the two main political heavyweights and the party was finally wound up in 2013. Since that time neither of the PDP founders has been active in politics.

A recent poll indicated that former GSD Minister Peter Montegriffo would command a high level of public support if he were to rejoin the GSD.

The poll offered multiple choice answers on who the respondents would like to see running the party. Despite Mr Montegriffo not currently being directly active in politics the poll makes him the most popular choice at 26 per cent.

A total of 16 per cent preferred a GSD led by Mr Azopardi, eight per cent opted for past shadow minister Damon Bossino as leader with the current interim leader Roy Clinton trailing at just seven per cent of the vote.

However, in the same poll 18 percent supported a new party led by Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon.

Mr Clinton said that he was not surprised by the outcome of the poll but added that as a straw poll it was interesting but that not too much should be read into it.

It is interesting to note that Mr Clinton made a very recent reshuffle of his Shadow Ministerial responsibilities that indicated to some observers that he might expect to go unchallenged for the leadership of the GSD.

With Mr Azopardi now back in the GSD fold what are the chances of Peter Montigriffo, who has dismissed invitations in the past, returning?

In a recent interview he said that while he had no immediate plans to return to politics the UK decision to exit the EU had provided a new appeal. 

He said: “If you were to ask me do I have any plans, the answer is definitely ‘no’, but if I were to be asked if I am tempted, the answer, definitely, very often is ‘yes’.

 “I have got to a stage in life and Gibraltar is facing some potentially uncharted waters with Brexit where the thought of contributing becomes attractive again, because I think we are entering a phase in politics that is particularly complex.

“There is a lot to be done, it excites me and it would be great to be more involved.”

While some GSD supporters may consider that a contested leadership challenge may create further rifts in an already damaged party the opportunity to encourage talented and experienced former Ministers back into leadership may provide a chance that cannot be missed. Particularly as in that same poll 18 per cent said they would like a new party led by Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon.

Mr Clinton said that receipt of nominations for the election of a new party leader will be received in September which will effectively kick start the process of selecting a new leader which is likely to be completed by November.

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