17 blue heroes, standing on a wall...

They never once challenged him for the leadership themselves; nor have they ever availed of their presumed majority in Parliament to strip him of the title of Opposition leader

You’ve got to hand it to what’s left of the Nationalist Party, though. It might have lost nearly all the qualities that once made it such an unbeatable electoral force in this country… but you’d never guess that from the way it still tries to project itself in public.

‘Heroes’, no less. And self-appointed heroes, too… as though ‘heroism’ were a quality that can somehow be conferred upon oneself (instead of being conferred by others, which is how it usually works with genuine public idols).

But before turning our attention to their great deeds of courage and valour… let’s take a brief look at who these ‘17 Blue Heroes’ actually are.

The title appears to have been coined by Jason Azzopardi, who uploaded mugshots of 15 heroic Nationalist MPs (modestly including his own), and two equally heroic MEPs, who are heroically insisting on Adrian Delia’s resignation as PN leader… over and over again.

Obviously, the ‘17 Blue’ reference is intended as a pun on ‘17 Black’… and it seems that the numbers themselves may even have been inflated to reach that specific target. Within days of Azzopardi’s post, one of those 17 heroes – Stephen Spiteri – publicly dissociated himself from the label, arguing that: “I do not want to be part of a group which did a coup d’état against the leader…”

Suddenly, then, we are down to 16 heroes from 17: which also means that the ‘majority’ this group claims to represent on the Opposition benches (17 out of 28) is already on shakier grounds.

On closer scrutiny, their number dwindles further still. For another of those ‘heroes’ is former PN leader Simon Busuttil: who is in the process of resigning from Parliament, to take up a new post as secretary of the European People’s Party in Brussels.

As such, he cannot be counted as part of the Parliamentary Group anymore; his vote can no longer be used to oust Delia as Opposition leader.

Besides: as already indicated, the figure of 17 also includes two MEPs (Roberta Metsola and David Casa) who don’t have a vote in Malta’s Parliament either.

By my count, then, the 17-strong majority has already been scaled down to only 13… out of a total of 28 Opposition MPs. Now: I’ll concede that mathematics has never been my strong point; but I’m fairly certain that half of 28 is not 13, but 14… i.e., one more than the amount of ‘heroes’ claiming to form what appears to be a phantom majority.

Effectively, this means that Adrian Delia may still enjoy the necessary backing to claim the post of Opposition leader, according to the rules established by the Constitution… if, admittedly, only by the skin of his teeth.

More than ‘17 Blue Heroes’, then, our rebel MPs start looking a little like ‘17 Blue Bottles, standing on a wall’ (and we all know what would happen, if more of them should also ‘accidentally fall’…)

But still: whether or not their number is enough to topple Delia in a Parliamentary vote of confidence, it remains clear evidence that the Nationalist Party is now neatly divided into two warring halves. And for the first time, we have a rough idea of who is actually represented by either side.

Looking at those 17 heroic mugshots again, the first thing you’ll notice is that they happen to be the same people responsible for the disastrous 2017 election result: i.e., the most brutal drubbing the PN ever received in its entire history.

Apart from former leader (and manifesto author) Busuttil, there are also former deputy leaders Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami; chief party strategists like Karol Aquilina and Jason Azzopardi… and also Chris Said, who went on to unsuccessfully contest the PN leadership election against none other than Adrian Delia himself (whose legitimacy our heroes openly dispute).

In other words, we are looking at the exact same leadership team that was so emphatically rejected by the electorate – and subsequently by the Nationalist Party’s General Council - just under three years ago.

Do I need to pinpoint the glaring irony there? Those same people constitute the very reason Adrian Delia won the PN leadership election in the first place. And now, they are heroically trying to unseat a Nationalist Party leader who was not merely elected to that role by the party’s own counsellors… but even reconfirmed in a confidence vote held last July, on their own insistence.

So ultimately, what makes these people ‘heroes’ – in their own esteem, naturally - is nothing but their own stubborn refusal to ever accept repeated rejections by both the electorate and the Nationalist Party.

Hmm. I don’t know about you, but somehow, I always imagined ‘heroism’ to be made of slightly more ‘heroic’ stuff…

Meanwhile, there is something else that’s missing from the traditional definition of ‘hero’: action.

Let’s face it: the only action these people ever resort to is to repeatedly call for Adrian Delia’s head on a plate. They never once challenged him for the leadership themselves; nor have they ever availed of their presumed majority in Parliament to strip him of the title of Opposition leader (which should hardly surprise us, seeing as the existence of this ‘majority’ is at best questionable).

Instead, they all seem to expect Adrian Delia to just curl up into a ball and simply disappear of his own accord… for no other reason than because they told him to. In other words, they want to win all their victories without fighting a single battle (you know, just like all the most famous heroes of old: Gilgamesh, Hercules, Theseus, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, et al.)

Small wonder the Opposition can’t seem to extricate itself from this unsightly mess it has created for itself. One half is merely complaining about the other half… without ever actually trying to resolve the situation it is complaining about.

Yet there is plenty that our heroes could be doing right now, if they really want to unseat Adrian Delia and reclaim the PN for themselves. One path they could choose is to emulate Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia before them, and simply resign from the Nationalist Party while retaining their Parliamentary seats.

Effectively, this would create a new (well, ‘newish’) political force that already has at least 13 sitting MPs. And if the number of our heroes is closer to their own estimate of 17… they might even find themselves in a position to claim the Opposition leadership for themselves (a possibility that may become more realistic, given that the Farrugias might easily be persuaded join the new party… and that Busuttil’s vacated seat is likely to be won by another ‘hero’ through by-election).

Naturally, this would result in the PN literally splitting into two parties – echoing how the Malta Labour Party had similarly split after the Mintoff-Boffa debacle of 1949 – and one of those parties would almost certainly face utter annihilation at the next election.

The advantage (and risk) of this strategy is that it would place the onus of defining the Nationalist Party back with the Nationalist voter, where it should really belong.  And this also means that – given a chance – a majority of Nationalist voters might conceivably choose Adrian Delia instead.

But if our heroes are so convinced in the justness of their cause, they should have no difficulty in persuading the electorate which of the two PN splinter groups is indeed the legitimate heir of the Nationalist Party of old. And if they truly feel they are the legitimate inheritors of Eddie Fenech Adami’s legacy… the ‘new’ PN led by our 17 Blue Heroes should easily trounce the ‘old’ one led by Adrian Delia: which (if the experience of Sir Paul Boffa’s ‘Christian Workers Party’ is anything to go by) would almost certainly fade into oblivion over time.

Et voila’: our heroes would have finally lived up to their proud claims of heroism, by saving the day for the PN.

But it hasn’t happened yet, has it? And the chances are it never will… at least, not for as long as our ‘heroes’ carry on expecting victory to simply fall into their lap, without making even the slightest effort of their own to actually achieve it.

After all, ‘heroes’ do have to occasionally lift a finger here and there, if they ever want to justify their self-conferred ‘heroic’ status in the eyes of the public. Just saying, that’s all…

More in Blogs