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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

The PN’s problem: easy to state, hard but not impossible to solve

In 2013, people had had enough of the PN’s inflexible attitude towards the business community; arrogance; can’t-do, stuck-up, ‘I’m-too-busy-call-me-later’ attitude

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
28 January 2015, 7:30am
Simon Busuttil and his new shadow cabinet must reconnect the party with the people and demonstrate, in no uncertain ways, that the PN is on their side (Photo: Ray Attard)
Simon Busuttil and his new shadow cabinet must reconnect the party with the people and demonstrate, in no uncertain ways, that the PN is on their side (Photo: Ray Attard)
Neither Simon Busuttil nor Joseph Muscat can draw great comfort from the results of the MaltaToday survey. The Prime Minister registered the lowest approval rating (44%) since April 2013, suggesting that the government’s disastrous handling of Malliagate did damage the Prime Minister, but it did not erode his trust lead over Simon Busuttil. The PN leader is still suffering from a 15-point trust gap with Muscat. 

On the discussion programme Reporter, quizzed by Saviour Balzan on the results of the survey, Busuttil stated that one doesn’t stop a marathon runner midway asking if he thinks he will arrive at the finish line – that would be premature.

He’s right, of course. It would also help to know whether Busuttil’s shadow cabinet reshuffle helped him to make further inroads among switchers and 2013 PN voters who, following the PN’s catastrophic defeat at the polls, expected significant changes within the party and its parliamentary group. The next MaltaToday survey would tell us that. 

He’s come a long way

It’s an uphill for Busuttil and the statistics do portray a particularly bleak picture for the PN. True, Busuttil has come a long way. He took over when the PN was flat on its back and immediately started to implement much needed changes within the party and its structures.

He had the political courage to take over the party after a humiliating defeat at the polls. Busuttil risks his political career to rebuild the Nationalist Party and he’s determined to succeed, even though the stakes are high. He had the courage to implement a much needed shadow cabinet reshuffle, risking a backlash from disgruntled Nationalist MPs, which did not happen.

By time, Busuttil is proving to be a formidable opponent to his political counterpart but there’s no doubt that it’s going to require a massive effort for Simon Busuttil to restore people’s faith in the Nationalist Party. 

Arrogance and a stuck-up attitude

The Nationalist Party’s problem is easy to state, hard but not impossible to solve. In 2013, people showed that despite a buoyant economy, they had had enough of the PN’s [read, some of its ministers and department heads and high ranking government officials] inflexible attitude towards the business community; arrogance; can’t-do, stuck-up, I’m-too-busy-call-me-later attitude.

Dangerous and arrogant assumptions

People chose Labour, and did so convincingly. So far, they do not feel that there is a reason to change it. I cringe when I hear PN officials and MPs argue that it will take time before people realize that they made a mistake in voting Labour to power in 2013. They are dangerous and arrogant assumptions that only serve to alienate people further from the PN.

The Nationalist Party needs to convince people that it has changed for the better. The shadow cabinet reshuffle was one such change but that alone will not restore the people’s trust in the party. The biggest change people expect from Busuttil’s PN is a change in attitude. Busuttil is doing his best but it requires time, effort and concrete action. 

Needed: A pro-business attitude

On Iswed fuq l-Abjad last Wednesday, the PN leader told me that his party is pro-business. He definitely is, and he’s doing his best for his party to be pro-business again, as it lost its pro-business credential along the way.

The business community felt that the PN was detached and out of synch with their needs and aspirations. In 2013, the Nationalist Party paid a high price for its inflexible attitude towards the business community.

A few months into his leadership, Busuttil created a number of policy fora in order to help his party reach out to the business community. Appointing Robert Arrigo as his spokesperson for the self-employed was a step in the right direction too. The business community however is still wary of the PN and Busuttil and his party need to hit the ground running if they are to restore their faith in the PN. 

Dispel pessimism among PN supporters

Simon Busuttil needs to win back more switchers and disgruntled Nationalists who, at the last general election, deserted the PN in droves. That is certainly possible. For a start, Busuttil needs to dispel the pessimism among PN supporters that winning back power in 2018 is an impossible task.

A well-designed strategy, coupled with concrete proposals on how to make the PN pro-business again and in tune with the people’s needs and aspirations could be successful. 

Reconnect with the people

A PN victory in 2018 is a difficult but not an impossible task. For that to happen, Simon Busuttil needs to continue changing the PN. While being assertive and forceful with their political counterparts, Opposition MPs must do more than bash their adversaries.

Busuttil and his party must give wavering voters a reason to vote for them. They must reconnect the party with the people and demonstrate, in no uncertain ways, that the PN is on their side. 

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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