The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

There is still time to change, but very little time left

Noel Grima Sunday, 7 August 2016, 10:59 Last update: about 3 years ago

We are at that time between elections again and almost nothing has changed.

At around this same time in the previous legislature, I (and others) had warned that the PN administration was doomed to fail the 2013 elections, and that with Lawrence Gonzi at the helm there was no hope in the world the outcome would be different.

I held, and I still believe, there was enough time to elect a new leader and maybe salvage at least the dignity of a small loss. But of course nothing like that happened. There was an election inside the party and the result would not have shamed Ceausescu – something like 99 per cent or so.

The government sailed on, like the Titanic, head-on to disaster.

We are now at that time again and almost nothing has changed.

The polls do speak of some gains, which embolden some in the party to dream that the rest of the distance can also be bridged. And of course there are the many, almost daily, mistakes and worse committed by this government. But I, and many people I speak to, am of the opinion we are moving to a second term of the Muscat administration and that the result is very clear to see for those who have eyes to see.

Some people from the old regime (some, not all) have been sidelined and are kept away from public gaze – which I think is unfair after a lifetime of political activity and trying their best. We do not have a Second Chamber for elderly or retired politicians where they can give the benefit of their experience. Nor is there any way they can be called to account. They just declare they are not in politics anymore and are now private citizens.

In their stead, we have had a mass promotion of the new and the young, and many times when I hear them speak in Parliament, I cringe. They have taken to describing themselves as Shadow Minister of this and that and you can tell that in their minds they are ministers already.

Some have taken to consorting with the wrong people, which is evident in the many times they come up with claims that are then disproved. When, and if, they get elected to government, they might not be chosen to head that ministry (for after all the choice of Cabinet members is a prerogative of the Head of Government), or if they are chosen to the ministry they used to shadow, they may come in with their gang of supporters thus causing upheavals in the ministry instead of trying to work as a team with all who already work in the ministry.

Then there are Shadow Ministers who are not in our Parliament but in the Brussels one. I think this is one of Simon Busuttil’s major mistakes – it has deprived Parliament of a real Opposition structure as it should be, and without being in Parliament the shadow MEPs cannot take part in the legislative debates. In fact, I cannot remember when these MEPs issued statements, position papers on subjects within their competence which were being discussed at the time.

I get dispirited too when I consider the corresponding changes inside the party. Many were dismissed when the party was in deep financial trouble, but they were mainly foot soldiers, hence expendable. There have been some changes at the top, mainly removing a politician (Chris Said) and replacing him by a newcomer (Ms Thake) and I am not sure if it has worked out for the better.

Otherwise I see the same people, more or less, and I sense that the Dr Busuttil’s internal core is very close and protective of its rights and of its leader rather than seeking to establish bridges as it should be doing.

But the main disappointment has been Simon Busuttil himself – not that I expected much in the first place. As I see it, his problem is that he has always been the predestined. I remember from the days of MIC how he was catapulted to the very top and I had commented that other countries in the accession process (I had Slovenia in mind) did things differently.

He did brilliantly, I am told, as MEP but back in Malta he was again catapulted to the very top, even though by then he was not part of Gonzi’s inner core.

This, I believe, is what is wrong with PN. It is a party of dynasties – not so much the Borg Oliviers, as the Fenech Adamis, the Mifsud Bonnicis, the de Marcos – where the outsiders cannot advance and where the group at the top is very jealous of its power and is allowed to have its way.

The party has become the party of the instant press release, which, being instant reactions, are not fully thought out. Take for instance, the popular reaction at the Planning Authority’s permission of four towers at Mriehel and a skyscraper on top of the Union Club in Sliema. Others have noted how the PN reaction was a muted one as regards Sliema. There is a reason for this: the Sliema voters know it was under the PN that Sliema lost its charm and this craze for high rises took off.

Some of its statements were inaccurate and had to be corrected. And the main tone is usually a confrontational one making the Opposition one of the most confrontational in people’s memory.

In its public engagements, the party’s figures prefer to stay in their comfort zones rather than go out and meet the public at large, who may not be so antagonistic as one might think.

I see an absence of presence especially at non-political events and sometimes I think they go only when they are officially invited, which rather limits their presence to the merely institutional.

And of course the party’s general acceptance of the new Malta is mere lip service – and people know this and realise this. This is the party that fought against divorce even when the battle was over. Ditto for civil rights.

This is also the party that glories in being the party that got Malta into the EU and, maybe for this reason is completely Europhile not realizing that Labour’s tardy conversion gives it enormous opportunities to re-become nationalistic as its name states.

This administration will be carried to success on the huge tidal wave of popular approval given its economic record. The Opposition will only be remembered as the party of austerity. Maybe that is the reason I cannot remember a single economic proposal by the PN.

 

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