The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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Jason Micallef criticises PL’s ‘confused’ response to Vitals inquiry in election post-mortem

Monday, 10 June 2024, 10:39 Last update: about 3 days ago

Former PL general secretary Jason Micallef criticised the Labour Party’s response to the Vitals inquiry as being “confused” and compared some minister’s social media usage to be more akin to teenagers than Cabinet members in a post-mortem on the PL’s electoral campaign.

Writing on Sunday night when the European Parliament election result was apparent, Micallef began his post-mortem by pointing out that the PL had won the election and the PN had lost, continuing that the PN had never won a European Parliament election since they were first held in 2004.

“Today, the PN celebrated a loss. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this happen anywhere before,” Micallef wrote.

Micallef was Labour Party secretary general when, in 2004, Labour had claimed that the European Union Partnership option which it had advocated had "won" the EU referendum when it was clear that the people had rejected it in favour of membership. That time, Labour supporters had celebrated in the streets only to realise later that their party had lost.

The PL was victorious in the election held over the weekend, but saw its comfortable majority over the Nationalist Party slashed to just 8,454 votes as it obtained just 45.26% of the vote share.  The PL also lost a seat in Brussels, and it is the party’s worst ever result in a European election.

Micallef said that he had been involved in PL electoral campaigns for the last 25 years and that this was the first time that he had not been involved in the campaign in any way, shape or form.

“It wasn’t my choice.  It was the choice of others which I respect.  Therefore, I feel free to comment on [Sunday’s] result,” he wrote.

The first thing he pointed out was that every survey which was done in the last two months got it wrong. Then, he said, there was the survey on what the people were feeling.

“Personally, I had long known that the gap between the two parties was going to decrease for a number of reasons.  Certainly I was not expecting it to go below 10,000 votes,” he said.

He said that the Labour Party has been in government for the last 11 years, with the biggest electoral victories in history, thanks to the common good that Labour governments led by Joseph Muscat and continued by Robert Abela.

“The world gets used to everything, even what is good, and it’s pointless reminding it because the electorate has different priorities from time to time,” he said.

“Speaking for myself, in the last two years the distance between the PL and the people who served it in the past has been very much felt. So I don’t say that they were systematically sidelined.  The distance from those who were heavily involved in the PL internally for a number of years, many of whom served in Parliament, committees, and/or local councils was also heavily felt,” he said.

He then turned to what he called a “huge lack of coordination” between government agencies and authorities when it comes to infrastructural projects.  He referred to incessant roadworks, and roads being closed and dug up again, causing traffic congestion, as examples.

“This, rightly so, was angering people, who expected much better,” he said.

He also lashed out at some unnamed Cabinet members, comparing their “banal” use of social media to something more akin to “teenagers” than members of Cabinet, saying that this bothers people as well.

He then referred to the Vitals inquiry, pointing out that it was concluded at the height of the electoral campaign.

“On this, in my personal opinion, the PL had a very confusing strategy. It seemed, or it felt, like the party wasn’t sure whether to support the innocence of Joseph Muscat, Chris Fearne, and Edward Scicluna when they were charged in court,” he said.

“I am convinced that the majority of Labourites felt that a former leader and Prime Minister, and two former Labour ministers were left alone. This disappointed the PL’s hardcore,” he said.

Micallef had been at the forefront, together with propagandist Manuel Cuschieri – who as of Monday morning was yet to make any public post on his usually active social media profile since 6 June – of organising a demonstration to support Muscat when he was charged in court.

Hundreds answered their calls and attended, offering support to Muscat and – by extension – Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi as they were charged in association with the hospitals case. Micallef himself was in the court room sitting next to Muscat’s wife, Michelle, for much of that first sitting.

He then criticised the PL’s electoral campaign: “It made it seem like everything was sunshine and roses, with the climax being an enormous concert and celebration in Ta’ Qali on the eve of the election, which made it seem like the PL had already started celebrating before people went to vote.”

“The times that are coming will be a big test for the Labour Party and its leadership.  Big reflection is needed from inside to outside to see what led the PL to lose many thousands of votes in a single election,” he said.

Micallef added however that time is in the PL’s favour, and there is enough of it for things to be fixed for the better.  He pointed out that the people also showed that they don’t want the PN, “at least right now.”

“The PN didn’t gain much.  Every analysis of the result will show what I am saying.  The result is down to thousands of people who abstained from voting for the PL for the first time since 2013. Anybody who says otherwise is taking himself for a ride,” he said.

He said that his genuine appeal was for the interest of the Labour Party and its people to be held above all else. “For this to happen, first we need to understand that nobody can be discarded, and everybody is needed.”

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