Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Labour’s ‘big tent’ and the PN’s ideological identity

What the PN’s battle cry would be in 2018, is anybody’s guess – which makes it increasingly important for the PN to answer what  in 2018 would be the most pertinent question: What does the PN stand for?

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
6 May 2015, 8:03am
Instead of emulating Muscat’s ‘big tent’, Busuttil’s PN would do well to provide a narrative with which it is identified and distinguished from the Labour Party
Instead of emulating Muscat’s ‘big tent’, Busuttil’s PN would do well to provide a narrative with which it is identified and distinguished from the Labour Party
The PN will not win the next general election for Labour having failed to deliver on its promises. Neither will it be trusted with government for people having had enough of Joseph Muscat and his acolytes. The PN will only stand a chance of returning to government if it proves that it is better suited to govern than its political adversary – because it has the right policies and because it stands for something with which people can identify themselves. 

In the 1980s, people identified themselves with the PN’s ‘Ilkoll Ahwa Maltin’ and ‘Qalbna mal-Haddiema’ battle cries, followed by its vision for Malta to join the EU. In 2013, people identified themselves with Labour’s ‘Malta Taghna Lkoll’ battle cry. 

What the PN’s battle cry would be in 2018, is anybody’s guess – which makes it increasingly important for the PN to answer what  in 2018 would be the most pertinent question: What does the PN stand for? That is a question that needs a clear and unequivocal answer. 

Following the encouraging results obtained by the PN at the last local council elections, it’s time for the party and its leadership to take stock of the situation and chart the way forward for the PN. The PN needs to identify what its ideological identity is, what it stands for and provide a narrative to the electorate. 

The fact that Labour lost a significant number of votes in the south of Malta, is a clear indication of voter protest from those who traditionally support the Labour Party, not least low-medium income earners. They feel that Labour is no longer a centre-left party but rather a party being run on whatever its leader says and decides to be the most appropriate and politically convenient in the circumstances. Neither can they associate themselves with the Nationalist Party, which is still in the process of rebuilding itself and identifying what it stands for after a catastrophic defeat at the polls in 2013. 

As things stand, these people have nowhere to turn to. They felt the squeeze on their wages mid-way in the last legislature. The robust economic growth registered back then did not percolate to low-medium income earners. Neither is it now, despite Labour’s election to power and an economy that continued its growth trend. Their prospects for the future are not bright either.  

However, there are early signs that the PN is delving into traditional Labour territory – as Simon Busuttil did when interviewed by Saviour Balzan on ‘Reporter’ last Monday. It was Simon Busuttil’s second attempt, in less than a week, to pitch the PN as defender of the marginalised, low income earners and people in precarious jobs.

Speaking at St Paul’s Bay last Sunday, Busuttil insisted that “the PN had to show it understood the anguish of families who were not benefitting from the wealth being generated”, adding that his party had to “share the pain of workers who are losing their jobs”. 

For Busuttil to do so, he has to demonstrate in no uncertain ways, that his party is genuinely ready to reach out to the workers and the marginalised. PN Deputy Leader Mario de Marco had, at the November 2014 PN General Council, called on his party to  “once again become the centre-left party that stands for solidarity, a liberal economic model, workers’ rights and environmental justice”. Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami, in a talking point on Times of Malta last March 7, reminded his readers of the PN’s eighties battle cry ‘Qalbna mal-Haddiema’, reiterating that it is still relevant in 2015 and beyond. 

Shortly, the PN shall convene its General Council. I believe that it should serve as a platform from which the party leadership opens a debate on the PN’s ideological identity. This would then be followed by internal discussions within the party in parallel with a reaching-out exercise.  

Joseph Muscat, who to his credit won the last general election with a landslide victory – abandoned the political centre-left in favour of a political ‘movement’. The latter is of course important for parties to win elections. However, a few months into power, Muscat’s ‘Big Tent’ proved to be too big and too time consuming for Labour to keep people with different agendas together – abandoning low-medium income earners and the marginalised, who have always looked at Labour as their natural party, in the process. 

Instead of emulating Muscat’s ‘Big Tent’, Busuttil’s PN would do well to provide a narrative with which it is identified and distinguished from the Labour Party. This would enable its various strands to find a common ground while leaving room for diversity – ‘the umbrella party’ which Simon Busuttil referred to during his ‘Reporter’ interview. 

The PN should consider shifting to the centre-left, which does not and should not mean big state interventionism and public service protectionism. It is about making the PN the party that stands for solidarity, encouraging entrepreneurship and economic growth and keeping taxes down when in government. 

Simon Busuttil has demonstrated, time and again, that he is more of a centre-left rather than a centre-right politician – especially on environmental issues and on migration. This should make the transformation of the PN as a centre-left party easier.

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