The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

The sound of silence

Noel Grima Sunday, 13 June 2021, 08:11 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last Sunday’s announcement of the monthly opinion poll by MaltaToday was welcomed in the PN heartland by the sound of total silence.

There was a time when the results of the poll would be broadcast far and wide as early as 6.30am, well before they were online. But that may have been when Adrian Delia was still the leader.

Now some preferred to go and hear Mass, even a long one such as at the Tarxien festa. Perhaps the situation is such that only Divine Assistance can save the PN.

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Had these results taken place under Delia we would have a huge explosion by a very vocal internal Opposition. But since Delia is gone and there’s Bernard Grech instead, there was no anguished reaction. Instead, it was business as usual and they even had a fund-raising marathon in the evening.

The survey figures are clear and unmistakable. Labour is heading towards yet another massive victory. People who are usually vociferous in their anti-government rhetoric, such as the Daphne faction or the PN hardcore fell strangely silent.

At least with Simon Busuttil in 2017 there was a semblance of hope, even if that was destined to be smashed and crushed. We all knew it was going to be a Labour victory but the size of the huge crowd on Castille Hill on 1 May 2017 showed it was not going to be a marginal victory.

Still the Busuttil PN fought bravely even though, as we learned later, it was being undermined from within as some people were already grooming Busuttil’s successor (though usurper would probably be a better term).

This time, with an election round the corner and a government finally getting all its targets aligned in a row, with peace in the realm, the PN seems to have accepted the coming defeat with a measure of resignation. Like them the uncommitted part of the country.

In 2013 and in 2017 this same anticipation led to people crowding the stairs to the notorious fourth floor and bargaining their votes for jobs, permits and the like. What else is there to hand out this time after two terms of Labour bonanza?

So is it all over bar the shouting? We might as well have polls and skip the dreariness and the expense of an election. That is, if we go along with the prevailing myth. If that is the case this is another proof that our democracy is deeply flawed and no amount of presidential conferences can stop the rot.

Elsewhere in this issue I have written about 1976. Labour had just won its second election in a row. PN clubs had been vandalized throughout the country. And a doddery and senile Archbishop Gonzi had even come out asking that the perpetrators be pardoned for their ' youthful exuberance'.

But the PN leader, Eddie Fenech Adami, was made of sterner stuff. He was ridiculed in the press as “Il-vavu tal-harqa”, the baby in a nappy, his house had been ransacked, his wife beaten up.

And yet within less than a year, industrial actions were rife and people put their own jobs on line.

Then, as now, the lower classes were losing out as the much-touted industrialisation of Malta ran into shallows and the take-home pay actually decreased. The government-created industries turned out to be so many white elephants (remember the Malta Shipbuilding?) and at the end the government had to create one labour corps after another to stem the haemorrhage.

Those PN candidates (not all, for not many seem to be doing the effort) who are going round on house visits can say what they are coming to face, even from non-PN households, people having to live on a bare minimum pension, rents that go up, expenses that have increased (certified by Eurostat), single parent families, etc.

The leadership seems incapable of just collecting what its candidates are facing and coming up with an analysis and a proposal.

The leadership proved itself incapable then of reflecting the views of so many protestors, three localities, so many NGOs and public opinion to stand firm against the dB monster development. Bernard Grech told me to my face the party must understand the concerns of the developers. To be fair, do we remember how Busuttil was tripped up when dB revealed the extent of their sponsorship?

As we enter football time once again, we must remember that the game is not over until the final whistle and no game is lost before it begins.

 

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