Three contenders, one post: who will be Labour’s new deputy leader?

The Labour Party is searching for its new deputy leader: Helena Dalli, Edward Scicluna and Chris Fearne have stepped forward in a bid to convince the party’s delegates that they’re the most suitable for the post: what are the candidates offering?

miriam
Miriam Dalli
28 June 2017, 10:00am
Helena Dalli, Edward Scicluna and Chris Fearne have stepped forward in a bid for Labour Party deputy leadership
Helena Dalli, Edward Scicluna and Chris Fearne have stepped forward in a bid for Labour Party deputy leadership
  • Helena Dalli: Standing for justice and equality


Why are you contesting the deputy leadership post and how do you see yourself complementing Joseph Muscat’s vision for the country and the party?

I want to continue building on the successes the Labour government has had these past four years. My track record is evidence that I can complement the Prime Minister’s vision in the liberal leap forward he wants for our country.  I also think that Joseph Muscat’s feminist government, and parliament, stand to gain if this perspective is accentuated.   

The Prime Minister’s vote of confidence by giving me the responsibility for the portfolio previously held by [Louis Grech], as well as retaining almost all of my previous responsibilities, is very encouraging.

I fully share the Prime Minister’s vision of building a strong cosmopolitan Malta and I want to contribute in the best manner possible, particularly at parliamentary level where we have an ambitious legislative agenda for the years ahead.

The Labour Party has always been the party of progress and my participation in this race shows this, as we continue working on encouraging women for decision-making positions.

What do you stand for and, if elected, what will you bring to the table?

I stand for justice, equality and democracy; all that improves the lives of people and allows them to reach their full potential. I bring to the table all that I have learnt over my 21 years in parliament – two decades of experience in how parliamentary democracy works. 

Having been both a government and opposition MP, I equally understand the thinking of the opposition – something makes me an asset in understanding and pre-empting certain actions.

The role of deputy leader entails two important elements: being a good listener and delivering and the past four years show that I deliver and that I am a good listener, having strengthened dialogue in various policy matters.

Equality minister Helena Dalli
Equality minister Helena Dalli
The most recent deputy leadership race exposed disgruntled Labour supporters who felt the party had abandoned them after just three years in power. Has this sentiment changed?

I have been in the Labour Party since the age of 16, working at all levels – youths, local committees, women’s branch and the general executive – and growing with the people it represents.

From an early stage I was exposed to the reality of dealing with people’s problems. Many suffered injustices and discrimination during Labour’s time in opposition, and naturally, they expected some form of redress when Labour was elected. We worked on many grievances, but people don’t always get what they would have expected.  

We should continue to work for an equal society, one that is free from discrimination. Until we achieve that, there will be disgruntled people. Our job is to see that there is no single person who has been dealt with unfairly.

What should the party and the government focus on during this legislature?

There is so much that needs to be done.  Our manifesto is full of pledges and we will deliver on all, like we did in the last legislature. Amongst the priorities are housing, roads, better conditions and family-friendly structures for workers that reflect today’s family and work realities. All this will improve people’s lives and make Malta a better place, whilst performing well on the European and international stages. Our vision of being the best in Europe remains. 

As a party, we will keep our feet on the ground, listen to people’s aspirations and continue being the leading progressive force for Malta. 

‘Corruption’ was a central theme of the general election. Even though the PL won the election, it doesn’t mean that people are not concerned. How would you, in your new position, address this issue?

During the previous legislature we took unprecedented steps to fight corruption, particularly through the whistleblowers’ act and the removal of time-barring on cases of political corruption. We have many other initiatives planned for this legislature, including the publication of contracts signed by the government and a new code of ethics for holders of public office among others. 

I will ensure that what we promised in our manifesto in this regard will be implemented as soon as possible. These initiatives together with what we enacted during the last legislature will strengthen scrutiny.

People trusted Labour again because it delivered on its promises and we were loyal to the manifesto we were elected on. I will however continue working, even through widening the channels of dialogue, to address remaining concerns on corruption. 

We want to ensure the public maintains confidence in the institutions and that is why we are strengthening them. I am determined to see this through in the coming years.

Where do you see the Labour Party after Joseph Muscat?

We hope there will be no ‘after Joseph Muscat’ as yet. His legacy will be a strong, confident party that will continue to be the leading force of change for the better. 

I have been continuously meeting party delegates in the last few days and our conversations fill me with hope that what we have today is going to last. We will all continue to be guided by one principle: improving the life of every individual. 
  • Edward Scicluna: The facilitator for future leaders


Why are you contesting the deputy leadership post and how do you see yourself complementing Joseph Muscat’s vision for the country and the party?

Contesting the PL deputy leadership is my answer to a fourth call-to-serve by the Prime Minister within a span of eight years. The first call was made in 2008 to contest the European Parliamentary elections, which I did successfully some months later. The second was to relinquish my Vice-President post in EP ECON committee in 2013 and contest the local elections, again successfully being elected from two districts and appointed Finance Minister. I again asked the PM whether he needs me to contest this last election. His reply was to ask back whether I was joking: he wanted me by his side during the campaign. The last call was to contest the deputy leadership after the successful election this month where I managed to double the number of votes polled in two districts, and again appointed to Cabinet as Minister for Finance. Each time it was a call to serve the country in a trustworthy and correct manner.

Working side by side and in tandem with the Prime Minister over the life of five successful budgets has stood the test of time. We see eye to eye both with respect to the vision and the method of reaching that vision. We are both as eager and proud of our accomplishments.

I believe that the 40,000-majority has been an expression of the population that they want the economic and financial team lead by the Prime Minister and myself to continue.

What do you stand for and, if elected, what will you bring to the table?

I share progressive values where everyone gets a fair chance, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. In the middle of the political divide I call on those to my left to appreciate that wealth needs to be created, whilst those to my right that unless that wealth is fairly distributed it will not be enjoyed in peace by the respective society.

My personal values have given priority to honesty, credibility, backed by competence and experience. While the latter depends on the variety of roles one has throughout one’s lifetime, the other values depend on the combination of life educators and sheer personal will power. My track record at a number of leading institutions which include the University, the Central Bank, the Electoral Commission, the MFSA, the MCESD, the EP, and the Cabinet itself is there for all to see and scrutinise.

I believe that these qualities are needed for good government, even though politics is cynically seen as contributing to their repudiation. My political experience has taught me however that the electorate hold these overall qualities in high esteem.

As a deputy leader I would like to think that my presence would strengthen the leadership qualities of both the party and the government.

Finance minister Edward Scicluna
Finance minister Edward Scicluna
The most recent deputy leadership race exposed disgruntled Labour supporters who felt the party had abandoned them after just three years in power. Has this sentiment changed?

There is more understanding today of how government works and the balance of justice and fair play which the government has to abide by. What I think is required is more ongoing contact of MPs especially Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries with the electorate including party delegates. This has been addressed by the Prime Minister who lays great store in the bi-annually held ‘Gvern li Jisma’ series and in my case complemented by my public Pre-Budget meetings.

Those who have been MEPs however realise that these contacts need to be institutionalised in the Parliamentary calendar itself where, say a week every six weeks, is established as so-called ‘green week’ where MPs are given time-off by the parliament to meet in public meetings with the electorate. In the EP’s case resources are given for the purpose because halls have to be rented and services paid for.

What should the party and the government focus on during this legislature?

Bringing up the country’s infrastructure to the same high level the economy has grown up to. Am referring to better quality buildings, roads and mass transportation, and a government bureaucracy which is efficient and prepared for the future challenges the country will be facing.

‘Corruption’ was a central theme of the general election. Even though the PL won the election, it doesn’t mean that people are not concerned. How would you, in your new position, address this issue?

People want to regain their trust in our national regulatory authorities and institutions. These have been buffeted beyond one’s imagination and in the most violent of manners. The damage suffered will take some years to repair. Unfortunately they were not prepared for this political confrontation and failed to keep communication channels open with the people. It is a moot point whether the media would have transmitted their message clearly and objectively given the massive political frenzy surrounding the case.

Where do you see the Labour Party after Joseph Muscat?

The Labour Party has been an opposition party for many years leaving itself to be painted in the most negative of colours. Today it turned itself into a big progressive and inclusive movement, with all sectors of Maltese and Gozitan society represented. Attending one of the pre-election PL mass meeting would give any independent observer what I mean by a real cross-section of society. Its structures, statute and organs have been rebuilt, are continuously reformed and one can say reached self-sustainability with a life of their own. The new recruits on Cabinet and MPs in general guarantee a bright future. Together with the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and as Deputy Prime Minister I would like to see these future precious years to observe these new future leaders and provide them with a level playing field. I would like to be their facilitator and not their competitor.
  • Chris Fearne: Delivering loyalty


Why are you contesting the deputy leadership post and how do you see yourself complementing Joseph Muscat’s vision for the country and the party?

I have been involved in the Labour Party since I was a teenager. I have always been driven by the cause of social justice, about giving a real and fair opportunity to everyone to improve his own lot, to support people at the vulnerable moments of their life, and to see full emancipation of all segments of society. Never has a government in the history of Malta delivered so much, in such little time, on all of these fronts. Joseph Muscat has a vision based on these beliefs, and both as Minster for Health, and as DPM, if elected, he has me 100% behind him, in making sure that this is vision achieved.

What do you stand for and, if elected, what will you bring to the table?

I have always believed that politics is about improving the quality of life of your and subsequent generations. This can only be achieved by a sound vision, competence, hard work, integrity and loyalty to the party and the party leader. I believe that I can deliver on all of these. My long experience in politics, and my performance as Health Minister over the last years, has resulted in a good electoral result for me, which means that people endorse what I stand for and how I work. 

With this endorsement I feel comfortable in offering my services for the post in question.

The most recent deputy leadership race exposed disgruntled Labour supporters who felt the party had abandoned them after just three years in power. Has this sentiment changed?

I think the last election has shown that not only core Labour supporters, but also a lot of others who traditionally did not come from Labour backgrounds, have decided to make this vision their own, and supported it with their vote. People from my districts know that I am one who believes in keeping contact with people on a weekly basis. This is key in politics. One needs to keep in constant touch with the reality of how people are living their lives, listen to their problems and understand their issues. When one does not do that one becomes detached from reality, with the consequences that we have seen happen to the opposition in Malta, as well as to several governments overseas. 

Health minister Chris Fearne
Health minister Chris Fearne
What should the party and the government focus on during this legislature?

The vision is very clear: we want a better Malta in every way and be the best in class. We have already managed to do that in some sectors, and our focus remains to achieve this. We will be focusing on making Malta a centre of excellence in health, education, fintec and logistics. We will continue to drive our liberal agenda of true equality for all, and above all we will continue to focus on ensuring that the people who need it most, will find the necessary support to bounce back and will have the opportunity of moving up in their quality of life.

‘Corruption’ was a central theme of the general election. Even though the PL won the election, it doesn’t mean that people are not concerned. How would you, in your new position, address this issue?

No one is in favour of corruption, and in this legislature, the Prime Minister has promised a number of new measures, which together with the ones taken in the last four years, will make the fight against any form of corruption easier. I stand four square behind the Prime Minister in this, and he will find my full support in ensuring that these measures are introduced. 

Where do you see the Labour Party after Joseph Muscat?

Let me say, that I truly believe that Joseph Muscat has still a lot to offer to local politics, and I will be one who will encourage him to stay on as Leader of the Labour Party, not only till the next election, but also to the one following that.  

If, and when he decides to step down, I am sure that like any great leader, he will leave a legacy of strategy, organisation and human capital within the party to ensure that his vision will continue to be implemented in a successful way.
miriam
Miriam Dalli joined MaltaToday.com.mt in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...