The Malta Independent 22 May 2019, Wednesday

Ability and experience outweighs charisma - Jonathan Shaw

Thursday, 14 September 2017, 11:52 Last update: about 3 years ago

Jonathan Shaw tells Julian Bonnici that Chris Said’s low-key, capable and experienced persona in comparison to Adrian Delia’s conflict of interest will hamper his ability to take a stand on certain issues. Shaw, a businessman, was a PN candidate in last MEP elections is publicly endorsing Said for the party’s leadership.

When asked by The Malta Independent on his decision to support Said,  Shaw said that he was not initially excited about any of the four candidates and was definitely not happy in how the election evolved.

“I know both Delia and Said personally and I could have easily stayed quiet so I would not offend anyone, but I have some genuine concerns with Delia as party leader.”

“It is an opinion, and if elected I hope that I’m proven wrong.”


He was quick to clarify that he was not a party official nor was he a candidate in the last election.

“I’ve always felt that in politics it is important to take a position on important issues, and when I observed that in this leadership election, a number of MPs had started to help candidates, both in secret and in the open, but were not taking a position, I felt I should say something.”

“Saying that you’ll work with any leader or that the party comes first is just sitting on the fence in my opinion.”

On Delia, Shaw conceded that the leadership hopeful had brought a lot of energy and spark, which generated grass-roots interest and kind of worked in the current political landscape.

“He is in essence the opposite of Simon Busuttil and hence the change contrasts even more.  Strategically things could have been done better by the PN in the past four years and I am in favour of change and a new approach. Yet, given the circumstances I just believe that Said is the better equipped to achieve this and in the right manner.”

“Delia does have the energy and comes across as a smooth and strong talker, but the role is not just about having charisma and a strong personality. We are living in warped political times, and as much as he is passionate, I feel that this style of politics might not function within the parliamentary group.

“Yes, it might attract certain people, but it might also be pushing others away. People may move towards the PL or we may see a larger sector of people who will be disillusioned with both parties. The PN cannot afford to this, some might argue that it could work, but for me it is a big gamble. Given the opportunity the PL will easily take advantage of this. ”

Shaw said that his main concern is that Delia has through his involvement in certain matters and issues a conflict of interest.

“How can he challenge the government on development and environmental issues in the country when he is, or would have been involved in a large scale development in Gozo.”

The PN, he said, had someone untainted leading the party but still struggled to connect with the majority of the public over development, offshore accounts and the lack of transparency and meritocracy.

“Just look at what happened with the whole DB Group fiasco. When there is conflict of interest the government can throw the criticism right back at you. It just weakens your position and the party’s.”

Even if he means well, this will be a big liability and uphill struggle for Delia which will also weaken the party’s stand.

Shaw went on to say that while he does not know  of any conflicts of interest from Said’s end, “we only know once it is out there”, and stressed that should anything come up, he would call on Said to resign, or move aside to clear his name, as he would do for anyone else.

He was also critical of the way Delia supporters have conducted themselves.

“By just stating an opinion I, along with others, have been attacked more by his supporters that when I have said things against the government. Is this the style of politics we want?”

Turning to Delia’s outsider appeal, Shaw said that it was a misconception that being an outsider meant that automatically one was bringing about the right change. It’s possible but definitely a wrong assumption when considered simply at face value.

“I know that some people are stating that neither of them are ideal, but I’d rather bank on someone within the ranks who knows his way around things then an outright shot in the dark”. .

“If there was another outsider in this race that had no baggage, Delia would probably be less attractive as a leadership contender then he currently is.”

Shaw went on to label the term ‘establishment’ as ‘not relevant’.

“People need to remember that these are the same people that did a lot of good in the past for the party and the country and achieved a number of milestones. We should not judge someone solely based on one point in time.

“There was a time when the PL could not win, and now they are on the upper hand, it is the cycle of politics.

“I think that if someone is attacking the so called ‘establishment’, just challenge it. There is nothing wrong with people disagreeing with you. In politics you need to have thick skin, you cannot be there just for the glory.”

Said’s links to the establishment were questioned when the majority of PN Councillors voted for Delia in the first round of the election. When asked as to what he attributed the result, Shaw said that his immediate response was that these party councillors were very disappointed after two big losses.

“You’re hurt and you’re passionate, so for them, an outsider rallying for change and a new way is easy to latch on. They want to win, and celebrating a new leader will be a small victory even though it will be extremely short lived given that it will be business as usual the next day. “

On the subject of the upcoming election, Shaw was hesitant to predict a winner and that it can go either way and in varying degrees. Delia’s support on social media seems to be greater then Said’s yet when one considers the average profile of a paid-up member (60 years of age) and the risk of having a social media echo chamber one cannot rely just on this aspect.

“Paid-up members are meant to reflect the electorate but in the PN’s case it just doesn’t.”

“The one thing I know for sure is that whoever is elected, there will a lot of disappointed people in the party. The leadership election now involves thousands of people and not just the corse of 1,000 counsellors which will mean that the disappointment after the election will be in larger numbers..”

Divided factions within political parties, while not necessarily unique to Malta, have been exposed to the public through this campaign, with supporters of Delia, Perici Calascione, and Said engaging in aggressive debates all over social media.

Asked on whether this has cause irreparable damage to the PN, Shaw said:

“Whoever is elected already has a massive responsibility and a tough challenge ahead of him, and that’s not even including the divide in the party. It is a difficult role, and some MPs did not even contest because they knew how hard it is.

“Said or Delia just needs to get started and work. The first 100 days will be crucial, if you start well, divisions will be mended, if you start on the wrong foot, people’s concerns will be justified.”

The Deputy Leaders, the Secretary General, and CEO are just a few of the roles that will need to be filled up following the election, and Shaw believes that these roles cannot be seen in isolation. Once a leader is elected, the individuals chosen for these roles must compliment the leader and at times also make up for any particular weaknesses or deficiencies. In this manner the leadership team presents a fully fledged and complete team.

“We also need to see where the party is going and what direction is wants to take. Crucial changes need to be done to see whether the party will morph to suit the leader or the other way round.”

Shaw said that he would offer his help to the party, regardless of who got elected, but stressed it would not be in a party role. It’s important to have external contribution and I’m definitely not a yes man.

“As much as Delia (and his supporters) may not be happy to hear that he is not my preferred candidate. I hope he sees the silver lining that the concerns I have are ones that need to be addressed should he get elected. It is my opinion, it does not mean I am right but I have a right to have one.”

Outgoing PN Leader Simon Busuttil has indicated that he intends to continue serving in parliament in the next legislature, the first former PN leader to do so. This, some may say, could present an awkward situation within the parliamentary group.

While there may have been calls from Busuttil to resign from parliament, Shaw believes that this is a personal decision.

“It is not easy for someone who was a leader to return to the fold. He was elected to parliament and it is his decision. He will feel if he is or can contribute effectively, as I am sure he is aware that not being the leader means that his approach might have to be change.

Nonetheless it will be up to the new leader to get the right formula with all the parliamentary group and also utilise Busuttil’s capabilities wisely to his and the party’s advantage.”

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