The Malta Independent 18 February 2020, Tuesday

Everybody wants to rule the (PN) world

Charles Flores Tuesday, 15 January 2019, 09:15 Last update: about 2 years ago

All of a sudden all of us - Labourites, Nationalists, so-called neutrals - have become experts on how to best resolve the raging crisis within the Opposition. There are those who do it simply to further stoke the political fire, others to genuinely make an input into the whole leadership saga and there are, of course, those who see this as another opportunity to either drag the clock back six years or strike gold at the second time of asking.

Yuletide, alas, was - as the current Leader of the Nationalist Opposition noted in one of his more controversial social media posts - mostly spent in speculation over his and his Party's future. The saddest fact of them all was the vicious and public display of personal information that should never, ever, be part of a political strategy, however desperate the situation or keen the anticipation of those who seemingly cannot accept the sheer reality of defeat or feel the need for rejuvenation rather than a regurgitation of obsolete, negative methods.


We have all done it during Christmas and New Year gatherings, with some going seriously emotional over the non-existence of a proper Opposition in the country. "Is it not worrying to you?" a deep-thinking son-in-law asked me the other day as we devoured Margaret's great kitchen fare.

It was not easy to react to that. After all, there was a time when even the Labour Party was undergoing a severe test of its own strength for survival. Twenty-five years in opposition had dissipated the life and soul of many of its members and, if memory serves me right, no one, no leader-writer wanted to come to its rescue. People were simply waiting for the self-destruct button to be pushed, to be followed immediately by a shrill of celebration.

But anyone who believes in true democracy has to admit a strong Opposition is essential at any time of the nation's history. Once a party has reached the depths of political destitution as a result of insider undermining, there is always the likelihood of implosion. A strong and sensible Opposition cannot be built on the growing ashes of a party in the throes of perhaps its biggest crisis ever, which is why the current PN state of affairs has suddenly become a major source of concern for leader-writers in papers that have, throughout their history, backed that same party whether it was in power or not.

It is no secret that the PN has, from its very inception, been run by a small group of influential families who have, in recent years, seen their hold on it loosening fast as loyal, life-long party members have not taken too kindly to two horrific electoral defeats, plus other fiascos at the polls. The result was the election of Adrian Delia as Party Leader on his 'new way' ticket. That this 'new way' has not been seen or felt anywhere is testimony to the internal bleeding that he and his team have had to suffer since the latter half of 2017.

This epic story has now taken a Bastille turn, with things not only noisily coming to surface, but also taking a bitter twist with a coordinated attack on both the leader and the new party hierarchy as a whole. One can only squirm at the insipid way in which things are being handled, this mixing of family and personal problems with political ambitions, this arid display of soul-searching when there really is already a structured basis on which such issues are to be raised, discussed and resolved. If not, a chasm is the only alternative.

With the raid on the PN Bastille in process, it must have been disconcerting for many Party members, many of whom have been working assiduously within committees and keeping empty village clubs open for decades, to have to watch the guillotine being installed, the huge blade expertly oiled and the victim being accused and found guilty at the speed of a tiny sparrow's breath. One inevitably got this uneasy feeling on reading what the former PN leader, a lawyer who only believes in the rule of law when things go his way, had to say in this macabre scenario.

While Adrian Delia continues to insist he will not resign and that he will fight tooth and nail to retain his leadership of the Party, in explicit Robespierre style Simon Busuttil was already being quoted on how to handle the new leadership contest! He was reported as saying: "The process will take place over two levels. Firstly, we need to see how many nominations for leadership there are. Those names go before the General Council, made up of around 1,500 councillors. These councillors will then select two of the candidates through an election. Those two will then be put forward to all registered members, and they will vote. The winner will be leader. This is how we propose the election takes place, so that it will be organised, fair and transparent, while leaving the last word in the hands of the registered members."

This is clearly an attempt to take away what was given, quirkily for the first time in Malta's political history, to the party rank and file: a leader of their own choice, as Delia's was after all. Giving selected councillors the strict choice of two contenders for the post and then expecting registered members to go for either one or the other is a pronounced shift back to that very stranglehold that 'the families' have always silently kept on the party.

As the story edges towards an epilogue, one can only wait with suppressed breath for the "Mayday" signal.



Vegan pastizzi anyone?

All this vegan business is driving some people nuts - no pun intended. Vegans seem to be the new revolutionaries everywhere, as they try to impose their dietary discipline on the rest of us. In the UK alone, a heated row broke out recently over a move by the country's largest bakery chain to launch a vegan sausage roll!

Filled with a meat (or animal derivative, such as our irkotta) substitute and encased in 96 pastry layers, the vegan sausage roll was made available across Britain after 20,000 people signed a petition calling for the snack to be introduced to accommodate those on a plant-based diet. It was met with mixed reactions. One prolific critic was TV presenter Piers Morgan who, in a retort to social media abuse from irate vegans, said: "I get it, you're all hangry. I would be too if I only ate plants and gruel."

One wonders how the Maltese would react to the introduction of vegan pastizzi, were it to ever happen. The same as it has to non-alcoholic beer, I guess.





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