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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Adrian Delia and a revolution of confidence

Those who wish Delia fails are foolishly cutting their nose to spite their face – if the PN suffers another heavy defeat in 2022 its very existence would be at stake

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
3 January 2018, 7:15am
The Nationalist Party must become, once again, a party capable of appealing to a majority of people, a party that is capable of winning elections. Once the party which revolutionised the economy, it allowed Labour to set the agenda. From a change agent, the Nationalist Party became a reluctant spectator. That must change because it’s really and the truly the case of change - or become irrelevant.

This is no indictment of the Lawrence Gonzi – who bravely enabled Malta to weather the fierce storm that was the international financial crisis; and of the Simon Busuttil – who did his best, at a time when Labour was, and still is, on a high leadership. That is water under the bridge, and the Nationalist Party must look ahead. Of course, it must learn from its failures. But there is one question which keeps coming up, and that is the scale of Labour’s latest electoral victory. That must be answered before the Nationalist Party is able to move ahead, and face its new challenges. For in that question lies the answer to its revival, and survival.

There is no straightforward answer. But one of them is, with the benefit of hindsight, pretty obvious: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. I’ve been repeatedly told that the electorate does not give a hoot about corruption; that the Maltese are a corrupt lot, and that corruption is deeply ingrained within our, Mediterranean, culture.

But I beg to differ – strongly. For public surveys, commissioned by this newspaper, and the latest Eurobarometer surveys confirm that the Maltese, in their absolute majority, are worried about corruption at the highest levels; that no less than seventy nine per cent believe that ‘corruption is widespread’; but then – and this is the most significant finding (Eurobarometer, November 2017) fifty three per cent believe that ‘corruption does not affect them personally’. And it is precisely here where many believe that, at the last general election, the Nationalist Party failed.

"Were it not for the grave allegations levelled at the Prime Minister, his spouse and their top aides, Labour would have secured an even bigger electoral landslide"
 

It’s personal

It must be said that others believe that, were it not for the grave allegations levelled at the Prime Minister, his spouse and their top aides – including, most significantly, the fact that Konrad Mizzi, and Keith Schembri opened a secret offshore account in Panama – Labour would have secured an even bigger electoral landslide.

I’m of the ‘school of thought’, with the benefit of hindsight, that the Nationalist Party failed to explain the implications of corruption on the ‘personal’ economy; that in the long run, corruption eats away at the country’s basic foundations, which eventually wreaks havoc to jobs, and salaries. And then, it failed to articulate how, with immediate effect, it intends to boost the economy.

The Nationalist Party took a long-term view, and tried to build its vision around that. The electorate, experiencing the positive effects of a booming economy, felt, and understandably so, it was pointless changing a winning horse mid-stream. And then, the Nationalists had only been out of power for four years – after two decades in government. Which explains why the Nationalist Party, stood no chance in hell of unseating a victorious Joseph Muscat; but it failed to make inroads in bridging the gap with Labour.

 

A new leader

It is useless to point fingers now. A new leadership team is in place – led by a man whose first day in office was his first day in politics. Perhaps, time will prove that a political novice held the key for the Nationalist Party to believe in itself, again, and convince the electorate that it has what it takes to deliver a better government than the current one.

These are early days of the Adrian Delia leadership. But the first indications are that he understands what makes the electorate tick – the majority at least. Recently I followed him at a good number of his party club addresses. Public security; traffic management; immigration; a stronger economy for all; and good governance tops his agenda. These are the issues that make people tick.

Unfortunately for him, the public surveys which gauge people’s trust in his leadership when compared to Joseph Muscat’s leadership, are not good. But then again, it’s early days – he’s the new kid on the block, literally, and he still needs to make inroads with those who, barely four months ago, voted for his ‘rival’. It will take time, but the first indications – not yet reflected in public surveys, are that he’s making inroads.

Adrian Delia is aware. His speeches are a clear indication that if the Nationalist Party wants to become electable again, it must be much more ambitious. To get there, the Party mustn’t abandon its principles – far from it. But it must leave behind its old way of doing things. It must abandon nostalgia for its glorious past – those were different times, and society was different then along with ‘preaching-to-the-converted’ mentality. None of those things will appeal to the middle-of-the-road voters the party needs to win over.

To achieve this, more than anger the PN needs hope. That is where three key figures of its membership team and the party media’s boss, come in.

For the first time, the secretary-general of the Nationalist Party is a sociologist, and sociologists come handy when an organisation needs to identify what it stands for, and chart the way forward. Clyde Puli’s task is precisely that. He needs, through deep reflection, and professional analysis, to identify what the Party stands for: what it means to different people, and how to articulate a vision in synch with people’s aspirations.

The deputy leader for parliamentary affairs brings to the table what Delia lacks: long years of experience in politics; especially street politics. Along the years, the Party lost touch with the so-called ‘common man in the street’ – and the ‘I’m-too-busy-call-me-later’ mentality set in. That must go. David Agius must see to that.

The deputy leader in charge of party affairs is a successful businessman, and boy, the party badly needs a businessman to make heads and tails of its financial situation. It is no secret that the Nationalist Party is asset-rich, but has a difficult (to put it mildly) cash flow situation. Robert Arrigo’s task is to be creative – and put the party, financially, back on its feet. Election campaigns cannot run on a shoe-string budget, if they are to be successful.

Media boss Pierre Portelli has ample experience in his field. He has repeatedly declared that he wants the party’s media to reach out, and stop preaching to the converted. The party’s media has already made inroads in that respect, but much, much more needs to be done. Bold decisions are needed in this respect. You don’t convince middle-of-the-road voters by telling them that Labour is the devil incarnate, and the Nationalist Party is God’s gift to the country. It is a formula which failed, repeatedly. Sensible people don’t buy it.

"I see the will and determination of Adrian Delia to achieve what the Nationalist Party badly needs: a revolution of confidence"
 

Reach-out

Outside the Nationalist Party headquarters, there are people – some of the best economic minds in the country – willing to help the party develop a real alternative to the short-term economic policies of this government. The party should lose no time in roping them in.

I still encounter the occasional Nationalist Party supporter who, following Delia’s election, feels politically orphaned. But there is an increasing number of PN supporters who, despite not having voted for Delia, are aware that deserting the party is not an option – for that would only help Labour to continue riding roughshod over those who oppose it; and they see that Delia is doing his best to reach out to them too; and appreciate that.

Delia needs to ensure that his efforts are not wasted by the occasional individual who thinks that, because he/she supported his leadership bid, can speak on his behalf – their effect is the polar opposite of what Delia is trying to achieve. His predecessors had the misfortune of having individuals who thought that they could speak, and act on their behalf. The rest is history. Delia should be wary of that – at all times. They come in sheep’s clothing, and wreak havoc wherever they are.

Those who wish that Delia fails are foolishly cutting their nose to spite their face – for if the Nationalist Party suffers another heavy defeat in 2022 its very existence would be at stake; and they politically dead. The new Nationalist Party leader should be allowed to carry on with his job. Those who have misgivings about the Delia leadership, but want to give the man and their party another chance, should be given the platform to contribute in the party’s revolution of confidence.

 

Bridging currents

There will come a time when the Nationalist Party will be returned to government. Till then, the current leadership needs to tread carefully. A balancing act is needed to bridge two currents within the party: one which argues in favour of addressing people’s daily needs with the need for good governance; the other, a small but significant part of its electorate, maintains that good governance should be the party’s priority number one. No side should be dismissed – but it is the party leadership’s responsibility to bridge these two currents. If it does, it would be in a better position to reach out to an electorate which currently, sees no reason why it should vote Labour out of power but which, eventually, would want a change and when that happens the Nationalist Party has to be ready to show the way. I trust that it will.

For despite a widening gap between the leaders, I see the will and determination of Adrian Delia to achieve what the Nationalist Party badly needs: a revolution of confidence. The Nationalist Party needs to believe that it can do it; that it can offer the electorate a better alternative to Labour.

There will be enormous difficulties along the way. It will take time, and a lot of effort, but given the right attitude it will get there; perhaps sooner than expected. Minds can be changed by standing with people, listening to them and giving them hope.

The Nationalist Party should focus on putting across this simple message: “We erred, at times greatly. We thought we had a divine right to govern – that was arrogant; and we regret it. But, together, we laid the foundations which led to the current economic success. Our ambition is to make that better – for you, and your family. A stronger, fairer Malta is our solution.”

 

Frank Psaila is a lawyer, and anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on NET TV

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