How obvious is it to claim we don’t live forever? You’ve done your bit, and even though still very sharp and witty are well past retirement age. Yes, you will be remembered and even revered in some cases, but smart, younger minds are required to fill your shoes. The thing is… where are they?
The above could well apply to many top appointments, but I’m thinking of a career in politics in a tiny place like Gibraltar. Who wants to take the bull by the horns and go for it, considering the inherent responsibilities being a politician brings? Not to mention the bumping into constituents and others down our Main Street, and the often very nasty social media comments you’d have to contend with whether you read them or not, because in a small town like ours, someone will tell you about them! Well of late, there are up and coming youngsters showing keen interest Gibraltar politics, very seriously suggesting they could well go down that route at the right moment in the future.
“Despite my serious interest in local politics, as well as what goes on politically in the UK, Spain, Denmark, and to a lesser degree the USA, my childhood dream was that of becoming a civil servant believe it or not,” International Politics post-graduate, Jeremy Sacramento, tells me. “I believe Gibraltar needs to play its best people to their strengths, so there is traction in getting talent into the service at a higher level, to avoid having to climb the ladder from the very bottom.” Jeremy informs me there are very few countries that don’t have a system of individuals joining the civil service pegged in at an appropriate level, not unlike choosing a career as an army officer entering through the Military Academy at Sandhurst for example, but Jeremy’s aspirations as a child were more than probably influenced by his father Tony, who now heads the Gibraltar Audit Office. He managed to retire those thoughts, at least for now, unless that Fast Stream structure is implemented.
Recounting his time at Bayside, Jeremy admits that despite attaining very good GCSE grades, his passion for rowing led him to rather more average results at A-level. He recalls, “I was more interested in being an oarsman at the Med so I didn’t study as much as I should have.” But he made it and off he went to the University of Surrey which at the time was in the top 10 list of educational institutions in the UK. “But look, even there I had the lowest A-levels in my class because quite a few of my classmates were Oxbridge or London college rejects, you might say, those that didn’t quite make it to the crème de la crème of UK universities, but still very well qualified for Surrey. I felt the weakest one of the lot.” Clearly not, he came out of it with a First Class and an appetite for more, going on to do his MA in Public Policy at King’s London and later taking on summer work in the Civil Service when back on the Rock.
27 year old Jeremy is married to Mia who is from Denmark, and with whom he has a six year old daughter, Leonora. He became a dad at 21 as a student, a life he continues to lead still whilst Mia goes out to work, not unusual in Scandinavian countries. “With my non-existent Danish language and passion for international politics, it was inevitable that I would opt for further studies, so it was Mia who leaped into a business career. But being a student gives me a lot of time to be at home with Leonora, and of course to do a bit of dusting here and there. It also allows me to continue studying and researching Gib history and politics and so on, the contents of which are useful but I feel don’t have real enough impact, which I find quite frustrating. I want to contribute in practice!” Jeremy and wife Mia did spend some time here working in Deloitte and PWC respectively but returned to Denmark for Leonora’s schooling.
Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say the, ‘political animal’ – albeit presently tame and naive, he may say – is certainly safely caged in Jeremy’s consciousness. At present he contributes political and social comment in his fortnightly column in the Gibraltar Chronicle and closely follows Gibraltar politics and affairs from Denmark, and I’m sure would do so from Timbuktu, if he were based there!
“Gibraltar politics is a fascinating beast. The political scene is one of extremes: on the one hand it is tribal and dangerously personal, but on the other, when it really matters, all factions seamlessly come together in unparalleled unity.” Reflecting on the more social side of things Jeremy highlighted that “there needs to be greater ownership. It is all too common to point at the Government and forget our individual responsibilities – I think social awareness generally needs to widen. We cannot be so expecting, we need to reflect on what we have and how we get it. In Denmark it’s not unusual to pay close on 50% tax but Danes realise they get a lot back as we do here paying less. In effect, we need to keep an eye on the long term sustainability of our model.” On the foreign and potentially `hostile’ front from the hinterland, Jeremy says it’s a blessing we have a PSOE government back in power but that we can’t rest on our laurels. There’s Brexit looming and our Government is doing all it can, and hopefully the UK won’t leave us clutching at straws. Especially now it would be more than sensible to have a sustainable model in place to see us through possible bad times. Would an MP in the Commons help? “I don’t really think we need an MP in the House of Commons. We have the Gibraltar Group in Parliament with 20 or 30 MPs who highlight issues when needed. Having an MP, you’re down to one fighting our corner.”
So where do Jeremy’s allegiances lie? “Well, at the moment I’m flying solo, trying to keep a balanced commentary in my Chronicle article. I was president of the Conservative Party in university but my politics have moved more to the centre since. Ideologically, I suppose I would call myself a Social Democratic Meritocrat”
Well it’s true we do have a relatively young batch of MPs at present in our parliament, but time moves on and retirements do occur, so would Jeremy Sacramento face the challenge and commit to politics at 27, or is he still too young? “I understand Adolfo Canepa and Peter Montegriffo came into politics at a similar age, quite young, and we all know both did quite well. But as much as I’m interested in Gibraltar politics it isn’t something I’d do now, but the challenge might be there one day, so the answer for now must be no… not yet!”