The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

TMIS Editorial - PN: The time to regenerate is now

Sunday, 18 April 2021, 11:15 Last update: about 24 days ago

The Nationalist Party has managed to narrow the gap between it and the Labour Party, surveys have showed, but the gap remains wide nonetheless and more, much more, needs to be done to restore some semblance of balance between the two parties.

After decades of having either of the two major political parties win by slim majorities, usually in the region of two to four-thousand votes, Joseph Muscat’s movement won a landslide election in 2013 with a majority of 35,000 votes.

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And the situation did not change much over the years, even despite the countless scandals that emerged, and the fact that the promise of Malta Tagħna Lkoll never materialised.

In fact, Labour won the 2017 election with practically the same margin. And opinion polls carried out in the following months – even after the heinous murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia – continued to give the PL a majority of over 30,000 votes.

But the latest MaltaToday survey shows that the gap has narrowed to 26,000 votes, giving the Nationalist Party its best result yet.

Reflecting on the survey findings this week, Bernard Grech said that headway has been made, but “tough decisions” now need to be taken.

The Malta Independent on Sunday reports today that one such decision could be to take up a proposal, first put forward by PN MP Claudio Grech last year, to have older MPs voluntarily step aside to make way for new blood.

Party sources have told this newspaper that many within the PN have warmed up to the idea, including Bernard Grech and even some MPs who have served in Parliament for many years.

Indeed, the PN’s parliamentary group is in dire need of regeneration. With all due respect to long-serving MPs who have faithfully represented their constituents throughout the years, no politician should sit in Parliament for 25 years and over. There simply comes a time for people to move on and make space for others.

The PN currently has one MP who has been in Parliament since 1992 (29 years), another who has served since 1996 (24 years) and two who have sat in the House since 1998 (22 years). Four others have served since 2003 (18 years).

The Labour Party does not fare much better … in fact it fares worse – it has two MPs who have been in Parliament since 1987, besides others who were first elected in 1992, 1996 and 1998. But then again, the Labour Party does not have a 26,000-vote handicap.

The issue, of course, is not just about the age of MPs and the time they have been in Parliament. It is also one of mentality, of keeping up with the times.

The PN has often been criticised for failing to evolve with society, including on issues such as same-sex marriage and divorce, and has lost favour with certain sectors, minorities and even with youth in general. It is still perceived as somewhat old-fashioned and conservative.

Now one does not expect that the PN should change its values overnight just for the sake of winning an election, but there is a lot of work that can be done to bring the party into the 21st century and make it more appealing to a wider range of voters. Having old-timer MPs make way for newer politicians is one way to do this.

Veteran MPs should not be discarded, of course. This is not about having an expiry date and moving out when they reach their sell-by date, but it is clear that the party needs to regenerate itself if it is to move forward.

Despite the general apathy and tolerance to corruption in Malta, the PN has started to narrow the gap. But, at this rate, it will take it many more years to become a government again.

It is clear that something else needs to be done, and it has everything to do with image and modernisation.

The party now has a new leader – someone who is relatively new to politics yet who is making waves and bringing the battle lines closer.

The next logical step is to rejuvenate the parliamentary group and other party structures that are in dire need of change.

Seasoned politicians can still contribute to the party through their invaluable experience, but the party needs new front liners, people who can show that the PN is truly embracing and experiencing the change it needs to once again become an alternative government. 

The party has already confirmed over 70 general election candidates whose average age is 30 and over. Firstly, the party needs to give them full exposure. Secondly, veteran MPs should accept that new blood is what the party needs and voluntarily make space for this much-needed change to happen.

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