[WATCH] New PN leader must be a good communicator, journalists argue

Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi says PN must pick a communicator 'as good as Joseph Muscat' as its next leader 

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
8 June 2017, 10:30pm
Journalists Laurence Grech, Jes Saliba, Peppi Azzopardi and Godfrey Grima on Xtra. Photo: James Bianchi
Journalists Laurence Grech, Jes Saliba, Peppi Azzopardi and Godfrey Grima on Xtra. Photo: James Bianchi
Veteran journalists called on the Nationalist Party to take a lead out of the Labour Party’s playbook and appoint a “good communicator” as its next leader.

Speaking on tonight’s edition of Xtra, Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi hailed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as “the best sort of communicator”, a skill which he said allowed him to get the people riled up about corruption under the previous PN administration in a way Simon Busuttil never could.

“Take the Xarabank debate between Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi back in 2013…Gonzi had brought out a small hospital pipe to say that something so small costs €500. Muscat quickly responded that it had cost the same as the weekly honoraria raise PN ministers had given themselves.

“The PN must choose a communicator on his level.”

Azzopardi also argued that it is imperative that the PN’s new leader be much closer to ordinary people than their predecessor was.

“That was part of Joseph Muscat’s secret…he spent three years in Opposition meeting with people,” he said. “Disgruntled Nationalists will not forgive the PN if they just appear on TV to apologize. No, the new leader must be ready to meet people in their homes and look at them in

Peppi Azzopardi said that the PN's new leader must be as good a communicator as Joseph Muscat. Photo: James Bianchi
Peppi Azzopardi said that the PN's new leader must be as good a communicator as Joseph Muscat. Photo: James Bianchi
Azzopardi’s call for the PN’s next leader to possess good communication skills was welcomed by former Times of Malta editor Laurence Grech and radio presenter Jes Saliba.

Grech said that, apart from being a good communicator, Busuttil’s replacement must be persuasive, firm in his beliefs, in touch with the public and be able to appeal to all sorts of social classes.

Jes Saliba similarly said that the new leader must be able to appeal to as many Maltese people as possible and present itself from the start as an alternative government to Labour.

However, veteran journalist Godfrey Grima said that Azzopardi’s arguments were “superficial”, arguing that communication and public speaking skills can be learned while on the job.

“The most important thing is that the PN’s new leader must have the capacity to dream and to develop a vision for Malta that he must believe in himself,” he said. “It all boils down to whether the people trust one leader or the other, and trust is the result of fact-based beliefs.”

Journalists at odds over PN’s ‘unity’ with independent media

The four journalists were also quizzed by programme host Savour Balzan about whether the PN’s “unity’ with the Times of Malta and the Malta Independent – which both endorsed the PN – as well as with Daphne Caruana Galizia had ultimately backfired.

Godfrey Grima pulled no punches, claiming that some newspaper had become “an extension of the PN” throughout the election campaign.

“It was a mess. The Times and the Independent broke all the elements of objective journalism, which state that journalists’ obligation is to the press. The Egrant story was nothing but a lie, and yet they kept reporting that it belongs to Michelle Muscat as though it were fact...”

Godfrey Grima accused independent media houses of acting as 'extensions of the PN'. Photo: James Bianchi
Godfrey Grima accused independent media houses of acting as 'extensions of the PN'. Photo: James Bianchi
Peppi Azzopardi offered a different account, arguing that the PN’s mistake was to over-estimate the power of the independent media.

“The PN thought that the media makes a massive difference in influencing public opinion, when in reality it only makes a small difference…”

He also said that Busuttil had failed to get people properly riled up at the corruption scandals, because he was unable to convince them that it was harming their quality of life.

“As Opposition leader, Joseph Muscat had said that electricity bills were expensive because people at the top of the PN government were taking commissions off the procurement of oil,” he said. “Unfortunately, the PN Opposition didn’t manage to show people that they were paying the price for corruption.”

He added that Busuttil had shot himself in the foot by riding on the bandwagon of reports that the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat owns the offshore company Egrant but then failed to provide proof to back the allegations up.

“The result was that Labour pounced on the Egrant story and said that, if it’s false, then all other corruption stories must be false too. The people lapped this explanation up.”

Jes Saliba argued that the problem was a result of political parties pouncing onto the agendas of media houses, thereby giving people the impression that the media house is in bed with the party.

“Once politicians take over certain battles from the hands of the media, the media’s objectivity takes a hit.”

Laurence Grech offered the staunchest defence of the independent media throughout the election campaign, arguing that they filled the void that was left by the country’s institutions.

“The FIAU had filed reports to the police, but the police failed to act on them. These reports were eventually leaked to the press...”