Raphael Vassallo

Just beat each other up, and get it over with...

Raphael Vassallo writes: Honestly, I sometimes wonder how an entire political party can collectively take leave of its senses like that.

Raphael Vassallo
31 August 2017, 7:30am
Watching Adrian Delia’s... um... ‘press conference’ outside the Stamperija last Monday, I was visited by an idea. Not just any old random idea, of the kind that comes to me three or four times a week (but never, it seems, to anyone running for the PN leadership). No, it was what the Grinch who stole Christmas might have described as: ‘an awful, wonderful IDEA!’ (Mu-wa-haha-haha!)

How about we just dispense with the democratic process altogether, and settle this the old-fashioned way? With a good, dad-blasted old punch-up in the street?

That’s the way to do it! Like Floyd Mayweather and Ewan McGregor. (No, wait, was it his brother Conor? Anyway, it doesn’t matter.) Those two middleweight boxers didn’t limit their hostilities to blog posts, libel suits and ‘press conferences’, did they? No! They just got down to it where it matters most: in the ring. Wham, bam, thank you Ma’am! And oh look: there was a clear winner, too. The issue was settled, without the need for ‘ethics committees’, self-eviscerating recriminations, Black Op espionage tactics, etc. All it took was a little bit of violence.

Trust me, it would be much better for all concerned. ‘Fisticuffs’ may not exactly be the most civilised activity imaginable... but it remains infinitely preferable (and less dangerous) to the sort of verbal violence now indulged in by Nationalists against Nationalists every day. A punch in the face might bloody your nose or break a tooth – nothing that can’t be medically treated afterwards – but the wounds being inflicted in this unsightly fracas, right now, are the type of wounds that will simply never, ever heal.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not even referring to the allegations against Adrian Delia. Those are now on the table... and some are supported by pretty extensive documentation. They are therefore part of the legitimate areas of debate in this leadership campaign. No, I’m talking about the completely irrational (let me repeat that word: irrational) way this war is now being waged. Adrian Delia is no longer the only target, it seems. Anyone who even remotely associates with him in any way – like, for instance. supporting his leadership bid... as anyone has a right to do, in any democratic country – is now considered legitimate cannon-fodder, too.

People like Kristy and Jean Pierre Debono, for instance. One minute they’re the darlings of the Nationalist Party, elevated almost on a par with ‘The Holy Family’ (Simon Busuttil even announced Kristy’s pregnancy in Parliament like he was the Archangel Gabriel: ‘hark the herald angels sing!’, and all that) – and next thing we know... BOOM! The Debonos are the physical embodiment of everything that is evil: ‘Mafiosi’ to be ‘run out of the party’.

Why? Erm... because they support one candidate for the party leadership, and not another. Why else?

Rationality, huh? I thought it would be made of more rational stuff. But wait, it gets better. Now, the same person who openly invites ‘informants’ (i.e., any old crackpot or nutjob with an axe to grind) to contact her by ‘Whatsapp’... because it’s ‘safe and secure’... hacks into the Delia campaign team’s Whatsapp accounts, and spills out all their ‘safe and secure’ communications for all the world to see.

It’s funny, because I seem to remember being advised to ‘get Whatsapp’ when I complained about the similar security and privacy breaches we all saw before the election. I won’t repeat my original answer now (apparently some people thought it was rude) but... I mean...

Oh well, I suppose you just have to laugh. But let’s get back to what really matters.

Earlier, I stressed ‘right now’, not just because of the above-mentioned escalation of irrationality... but also because there has been a monumentally important development since Monday.

Delia’s show of force outside the PN headquarters was prompted by that party’s decision to convene its Ethics Committee to ‘evaluate the situation’. In other words, to put Adrian Delia on trial, on charges brought against him by Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the leadership election is already under way.

Honestly, I sometimes wonder how an entire political party can collectively take leave of its senses like that. How on earth could anyone within its structures – anyone at all – possibly think that was a good idea?

Let’s take a look at a few of the things Delia actually said during that... event. What got him the biggest (and rowdiest) applause? His assertive declaration that he intends to reclaim a party that has been hijacked by third parties. The roar was so thunderous it shook the whole building. Not physically, perhaps... that edifice was after all built by contractors like Charles Polidano, Carmelo Penza, etc., so I suppose it can withstand a few physical jolts. No, it rocked the party structures to their very foundations. An open declaration of war between one half of the PN and the other. ‘Alea Jacta Est’, etc.

Now look at how the PN’s decision played into that perception. What, exactly, is the PN’s ethics commission going to discuss here, anyway? The original request, by a PN councillor, was ‘to investigate allegations against Delia’. When it was drawn to the party’s attention that this might be construed as ‘allowing the PN’s agenda to be dictated by others’ – i.e., precisely the claim that elicited most enthusiasm among (probably) thousands of Nationalist supporters at home – they changed it to... erm... not entirely sure what. ‘All four candidates’? ‘The electoral process’? What on earth is any of that supposed to mean?

Sorry, but we all know there’s only one thing to discuss here. Is the PN going to allow Delia the possibility of becoming leader, or not? And there are only two possible answers, as far as I can see. It’s either ‘yes’, or ‘no’.

So just look at how the PN has straitjacketed itself into a choice of evils.

If it’s a ‘yes’, then everything carries on as is, and Delia’s fate will be sealed by the PN councillors. As I suppose it should be... they are, after all, the people who should be taking this decision. If Delia loses under those circumstances, his supporters will be angry (to put it mildly) and disappointed. But where, until last Monday, they would have directed all that anger and resentment only towards the ‘external source’ they feel has hijacked the party’s agenda... now, it will be felt towards the PN itself. The party that needlessly intervened in a perfectly legitimate democratic process, at the instigation of someone trying to destroy their preferred candidate.

I’ll leave you to work out the consequences for yourselves.

If, on the other hand, it’s a ‘no’... Goodness. I don’t even want to think. My guess is that the next time that crowd descends upon the Stamperija – i.e. five minutes after the decision is announced – it will not be to chant ‘DEL-I-A, DE-LI-A!’ and cheer enthusiastically, like good Nationalist supporters are meant to do. No, it will be to tear that building down with their bare hands: stone by stone, marble plaque by marble plaque, steel beam by steel beam... until all that’s left of it is a giant, ‘Ground Zero’-style crater.

Either way, whoever wins the race will become the leader of only half the Nationalist Party. Exactly how that’s meant to be ‘a good thing’ is the part that has eluded me in all this from the very beginning.

There is, however, another consideration since Monday. The enthusiasm of Delia’s support will not have been lost on those PN councillors. They know Delia’s claim that the ‘party has been hijacked’ will certainly resonate among a great many of its supporters (regardless what they may think of Delia himself). This adds a very interesting dimension to the decision they are now facing. It is now a straight choice between a party that continues to let Daphne set its agenda... or one which cuts ties with her altogether.

There will be a price for choosing the latter, true... but who knows? Just look at the state the party is in right now. Can it get any worse?

Under these circumstances, the PN kunsilliera – or whatever mediaeval word they still use to describe themselves – may very easily conclude that Adrian Delia, with all his baggage and flaws, is actually the only way to rid the PN of what has very clearly become an albatross around its neck. He might go on to lose spectacularly in 2022... but let’s be honest: that was always going to be on the cards anyway.

Much more importantly, it would also allow the party to finally rebuild itself after 2022, without outside interference. Call me ‘irrational’, but I see the logic and long-term thinking in that strategy. What I can’t see any logic in, however, is...

Oh well, you know all that already.