The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

TMIS Editorial: PN infighting: The final warning?

Sunday, 9 May 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Nationalist Party Leader Bernard Grech finally and truly showed his teeth on Thursday night, warning that he will not hesitate to kick out MPs who continue to disobey party rules and air their dirty laundry in public.

Yet again, the PN made headlines for the wrong reasons this week after two of its most vocal MPs – Jason Azzopardi and Adrian Delia – duelled on the social media.

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The Facebook feud revolved around comments made by Azzopardi after he won a libel suit he had filed against one of Delia’s canvassers, Vincent Borg.

He wrote that he had forgiven Ċensu l-Iswed, as he is known, because he “knew” that Borg had been “used, deceived and manipulated.” While he did not say who had done the manipulating, it was a very clear reference to Delia and his clan.

An irritated Delia fired back, challenging Azzopardi to sue him and to publish the information he supposedly has about him, including his alleged links to Yorgen Fenech.   

The Nationalist Party went into crisis mode and called an emergency meeting of its executive committee to discuss what action should be taken over the Facebook posts. The PN had recently instructed its MPs and officials not to engage in social media spats and to always promote a message of ‘unity.’

But just as the 7pm meeting was about to start, the PN announced that it had been cancelled, because the two warring MPs had made amends.

Azzopardi and Delia issued a joint statement in which it was claimed that there was a misunderstanding that the that former had never intended to imply that the latter had manipulated Borg.  They also acknowledged each other’s role in the fight against corruption – a fight which is ironically being side-lined by this childish behaviour.

The statement was a shallow attempt at trying to convince us that all is good between the two, and that they will be putting their differences behind them.

Azzopardi’s denial is hard to swallow, especially given the events of the past few months and his usual style of attacking people, including fellow MPs on Facebook without actually naming them – playing the lawyer’s game.

Delia’s apparent reconciliation with Azzopardi is equally dubious.

To us, the statement was nothing but a feeble attempt at damage control and we seriously doubt that the two MPs really believe what was written, or that this will be the end of the story.

This is where Bernard Grech comes in.

Replying to a question by this newsroom, Grech said he will kick people out of the party if necessary and if these Facebook “theatrics” continue.

The warning and the tone used were unusual for Grech, who is usually calm and soft-spoken. But those words needed to be said and that tone needed to be used.

Grech has finally showed some proper authority – something which he had so far been lacking and which has become an absolute necessity in the circumstances.

This infighting has gone on for far too long and the situation cannot continue, especially so close to a general election.

The PN has done a lot of good over the past years, and it is currently coming up with very interesting proposals. But all this work can be undermined if the egos and intolerances of a few continue to take centre stage.

The PN already has a credibility problem. While it has recently started making inroads, incidents such as this one will only turn the clock back. They harm the party and its candidates. They will also send out the message that the PN is not yet ready to govern because it is still battling its own internal demons.

So yes, if things do not improve, decisions will have to be made. Granted, this is no easy task, for if Grech were to sack either Delia or Azzopardi, or both, the party would lose not only them but also a good chunk of their supporters.

But it seems that there is no other choice. The PN cannot become a dictatorship but, at the same time, those who continue to disobey the rules and harm the party’s election chances just because they cannot overcome their personal feelings and animosities have no place in the party.

This is irrespective of the support they enjoy, the roles they play in the fight against corruption or the posts they once occupied within the PN.

The Nationalist Party, like every political party, is there to win elections and govern and improve people’s lives.

If something stands in the way of that, it has to be cut out and discarded, no more and no less. Bernard Grech’s comments on Thursday have to be the very final warning.

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