The Chief Minister – PART 2
Following on from our interview with Gibraltar’s Chief Minister in the last issue, we find out how The Hon Fabian Picardo KC MP deals with stress and how he juggles family life with a hectic schedule.
Stress affects all of us sometimes, no matter what type of work we do or don’t do, whether you are the CEO of a large company, a member of staff or the head of government. “I believe I am the only Chief Minister who has had all of his issue in office,” The Hon Fabian Picardo says, “so this is a normality for my children.” For the Chief Minister this can mean long hours with lots of travel and that can make achieving a balance between work and family life difficult.
“From the very first day that I was elected and entered No. 6, I have wondered whether it was going to be my last day and I think that is the only healthy way to approach it, and I see myself only as the current Chief Minister of Gibraltar and I tell my children that Daddy is a lawyer – who is presently doing a job in Government – so that they understand that Mummy and Daddy are both lawyers and that is what they do and that I am just doing this for now.”
The Chief Minister admits that 2021 was the toughest year he has ever had in his life. “It wasn’t my toughest year in Government – it was my toughest year in life,” he states, going on to say that 2022 was slightly better but still not easy. “You don’t sign up for a job like the job I do if what you want is an easy ride, but I didn’t quite expect some of the ups and downs that we have had to go through.”
Asked how he deals working in a high stress environment, the Chief Minister says: “to tell you the truth I don’t feel stress for the simple reason that I learnt very early on some basic rules about life.”
“When I was in school my mother always used to say to me ‘I’m never going to ask you to do anything other than your best, so don’t think I am going to expect that you should do things that you cannot do, but you must do your best’ and whenever I used to do something she used to say ‘that’s good – make the good better, make the better best’ and I have taken that with me through life.”
Outlining his daily routine, The Hon. Fabian Picardo says that he wakes up very early. “The day begins at 6.30 am and the first thing I do is to start going through emails and WhatsApp’s.” He spends the next hour or so reading the relevant Gibraltar, Spanish and UK national newspapers, listens to the UK radio, watches some Spanish television programmes and listens to the Gibraltar news. “All of this whilst I am doing some physical training and trying to answer those emails, before I then I take my children to school.”
Whenever he can snatch some extra minutes, such as getting in to the car or walking down to the office, the Chief Minister continues to try to look at and deal with messages. “I carry on doing that through the day and I won’t stop that until about 1 am when I go to sleep,” he says, joking that he needs more sleep than Joe Bossano needed! Margaret Thatcher is famously said to have slept for only four hours a night. “I need between five and a half to six hours sleep, and what I take from that is that it is not humanly possible to do more without affecting my health.”
Heeding his mother’s advice, Fabian Picardo says that he does his best to answer all the emails and to deal with all of the documents on a daily basis. “I try to bring my best to it even if I am tired and therefore I don’t feel that I am stressed because I feel that I have done as much as I could do.”
Even if he does find time to put his feet up, to read a novel or watch a movie with the family, the Chief Minister says that he tends to be working as well. “That is what stops me from being stressed,” he says, “knowing that I have done as much as I can and as best as I can, and I know that my parents would be proud.”
There is, however, one thing that seems to have an adverse effect on his mental health. “I was doing Wordle as a bit of relief because sometimes looking away from something also helps you to see something different in the problem that you were dealing with, but that made me stressed!”