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GSD Leadership Election: Statement By Elliott Phillips

A statement by Elliott Phillips follows below:

Why voting for Keith Azopardi matters?  

On 4/5 December the Executive Committee and the GSD membership will be asked to elect a GSD  leader and therefore the next Leader of the Opposition. Keith Azopardi and Damon Bossino will contest  next week’s leadership election. It is an important inflection point for the party and one which will have  significant repercussions for the Party moving forward if the right decision is not made.  

I have worked alongside the two individuals for many years, and I have been asked for my view by many  of our members. Roy Clinton MP has asked that we refrain from endorsing any one candidate. I entirely  understand Roy’s view, he is a close political colleague of mine and someone who I respect and admire.  Roy knows on this occasion I disagree because I believe that choosing the wrong candidate will directly  and adversely affect our prospects at the next election whenever that may be.  

I firmly and unequivocally support Keith Azopardi. He represents the best prospects for change at the  next election. I would respectfully encourage you all to put your support behind Keith. 

Why Keith and not Damon? The answer is simple: Keith has restored the GSD as a modern, centrist,  progressive and forward-thinking party, he has rebuilt trust and confidence from within and outside the  party and came but a whisker from becoming Chief Minister and returning the GSD to No.6. Keith has  importantly built out the party to the dynamic, young, modern, forward-thinking force it has become  today. The alternative view proposed by Damon unfortunately does not connect with the younger citizen  and a large swathe of our community. The view expressed by Damon seems to hanker after the past  and is not aligned with Gibraltar’s direction of travel. After all the hard work, I don’t want to see our  party go backwards.  

I am absolutely sure that Keith is the only person in the current makeup of the party that can build on  our successes and deliver real change at the next General Election.  

Ask yourself these questions:  

Who was it that took us from 26% to 48% in the polls? 

Who was it that successfully faced off Fabian Picardo at the leaders debate in 2023? Who rallied the team and did the hard work in pulling together our programme for Government? Who has been Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Health, the Environment, Trade and Industry?  Who was it that formed part of a unique team to fight off the threat of joint sovereignty proposals? and  Who has the political clout and experience to face the GSLP/Libs in Parliament and eventually deliver  the change?  

The answer is, unquestionably, Keith Azopardi.  

Gibraltar has been well served by strong, capable and competent leadership from Sir Joshuan Hassan through to Fabian Picardo. Keith, in my view, has the same courage, strength, capacity and capability - his performance in the leaders’ debate said it all.  

On the flip side Damon has publicly not supported: (1) the rights of same sex couples to recognise their  relationship in marriage and have these performed; and (2) the rights of same sex couple to seek  surrogacy arrangements. I respect Damon for the expression of his opinions, but they do not, in my  view, align or resonate with our community at large and they fail in any way to build consensus which  will deliver the necessary change. 

The GSD has been restored to a progressively centrist, accepting, and inclusive party and to suggest  that it should install a leader that cannot, in my humble view, take the party forward and build consensus  is a retrograde step. Gibraltar has moved on, society and our people have moved on and our party has  moved on. The election of a leader who is not attuned to the societal shift and more importantly, cannot  build consensus, will allow the GSLP/Libs to prosper in successive elections. This is fundamentally why  Keith Azopardi must be reaffirmed as our party leader and I respectfully encourage our membership to  stand shoulder to shoulder with Keith next week.