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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

The first law of holes

There has never been a really healthy open PN leadership contest since Eddie Fenech Adami’s in 1977... there was then no PN establishment putting spanners in the wheels of anyone challenging its anointed leader-to-be

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
4 July 2017, 7:30am
The PN’s current state of denial beggars belief: this time around the party did not even bother to appoint a commission to report on how and why the PN suffered another – humiliating – defeat
The PN’s current state of denial beggars belief: this time around the party did not even bother to appoint a commission to report on how and why the PN suffered another – humiliating – defeat
The PN seems to be blissfully unaware of what in the US is referred to as ‘the first law of holes’:  if you are in a hole, stop digging!

Following the PN media – its daily newspaper and the news on its radio and television stations – one gets the impression that the June 3 election hardly happened and its devastating result for the PN was just a historical blip.

Many think that this shows that the PN establishment machine is in denial, insisting that the PN was right and the electorate chose corruption over integrity and honesty. This attitude, of course, verges on the ridiculous.

I need not go into why that simplistic view is completely incorrect. However, it is not some coincidence that this tack justifies the PN’s electoral tactics and pushes the blame of the PN’s second consecutive debacle on to the electorate rather than on to the strategists at Pieta’. It ignores the fact that the PN failed miserably to persuade the electorate that a change of government would lead to a better and more satisfactory life for the ordinary citizen.

The PN’s current state of denial beggars belief: this time around the party did not even bother to appoint a commission to report on how and why the PN suffered another – humiliating – defeat. 

This is usually done after electoral defeats mostly for the sake of appearances: in 2013 the PN took all the major decisions needed for it to gear up for its Opposition role during Joseph Muscat’s first administration before the report was finalised. In any case, that report was not worth the paper it was written on – the PN never even tried to avoid repeating the mistakes pointed out in it. It trudged on relying on its innate – but unjustified – confidence that the electorate will realise what a mistake it did when it voted Labour into power. So it kept on digging. 

Eventually the number of voters that returned to the PN was practically equal to the number of voters that abandoned it... and Simon Busuttil had the shock of his life when he found out that he never even managed to narrow the gap between the vote tally of the two parties. This, of course, assumes that this year’s result refers to two parties, rather than three as a result of the so-called coalition agreement that Marlene Farrugia managed to engineer at the PN’s expense.

Simon Busuttil has officially resigned from his leadership role, even though he is currently wielding his power in the party far more than is normally expected of a caretaker leader. Meanwhile, the party machine seems to have a life of its own and keeps on acting as if this mess never happened. I say this because I do not think that it is following some post electoral defeat strategy concocted by Simon Busuttil in his capacity as caretaker leader. 

An earthquake is really necessary in the PN. The new leader has no alternative but to bury the PN establishment in the same hole that it continues to dig, blissfully unaware of how the common citizen is enjoying life and a standard of living that is better than it ever had in the past.  

The bigger the hole, the more effort is needed to fill it up. On the other hand debris is readily available in the PN’s establishment.

Two contenders

At the time of writing there are two contenders for the PN leadership post – Adrian Delia and Chris Said.

I know them both and I think both have their pros and cons. I will not enter into their merits and their demerits. Both have their baggage, of course, and both could be victims of whispering campaigns. I only hope that both are ready to recognise what their baggage holds and take the initiative to make a clean breast of it before the whisperers take over.

By the time this piece is published, these two may well be joined by others who are mooting on their chances of making it to the top. One has to be suspicious of some touting a ‘the more the merrier’ attitude that could also be a ruse by the establishment know-alls who have already chosen their candidate.

The PN leadership today, however, is a poisoned chalice – as Simon Busuttil found to his chagrin and mortification. 

The new leader must somehow find a good measure of convergence between the conservative and the liberal currents of the party. They worked finely together when they had a common enemy – the excesses of the Mintoff/KMB regimes… or  when they had a common aim – Malta’s EU membership.

Yet Simon Busuttil could hardly handle these two currents when differences between them were serious and fundamental – such as in his decision for the PN Opposition to abstain on the civil union law for gays and, three years later, the completely opposite decision to support gay marriage.

Some today even talk of a possible PN split on these lines. Talk of the necessity of the PN going back to its ‘Christian values’ adds fuel to this controversy. Finding a common ground that both currents think is worth fighting for will be one of the new leader’s more difficult tasks. 

There has never been a really healthy open PN leadership contest since Eddie Fenech Adami was elected leader in 1977. In that election the process was healthy because there was no PN establishment putting spanners in the wheels of anyone who dared challenge its anointed leader-to-be – as happened in subsequent elections.

It is not impossible for this sort of manoeuvring to happen yet again this time around – the establishment would not be keen on earthquakes that lead to it ending up dead and buried.

The biased blogger has already expressed her ‘opinion’ in which she vehemently opposed one contender. Many say that this gave him a boost in his chances of becoming leader. Some even concocted a conspiracy theory according to which this blogger’s vehemently negative opinion is just a ploy to help the ‘victim’ of her attack get the ultimate prize. 

Don’t ever say that the Maltese people lack imagination.

[email protected] 

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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