A Pyrrhic victory on the cards

Malta is suffering a serious democratic deficit because of the irresponsible behaviour of a few self-serving and short-sighted politician

A Pyrrhic victory is one that is offset by staggering losses. The expression refers to King Pyrrhus of Epirus, who defeated the Romans in 279 BC, but lost his best officers and many of his troops.

Whether Adrian Delia or his detractors will eventually ‘win’ the current tussle between them, the winner would only be able to celebrate a Pyrrhic victory because the loss in terms of the PN’s support among voters is certainly staggering.

The reaction of the man in the street to the shenanigans of the last two weeks is one of disgust – except for the stupid chunk of Labour supporters who kept wringing their hands and ‘enjoying’ it.

I met old PN stalwarts who were almost in tears. Many had voted for Delia because he promised a ‘new way’ that would help reinvent the party after two humiliating electoral defeats. At this point, it is immaterial whether this did not materialise because Delia was not up to it or because his own MPs never gave him the chance to move the party in the promised direction. It could be a bit of both. That is an issue that will eventually be judged by history.

There is no doubt, however, that those who never accepted him as leader did not act in good faith on several occasions and were behind the dirty manoeuvres that led to Delia’s predicament.

In electing Delia as leader, the party members had acted in good faith – that same good faith that has kept on dwindling ever since that election. More so as, in contrast with the party card-carrying members (tesserati) the ‘established’ party never accepted Delia as a leader.

I am irked with the lack of loyalty and the obscene manoeuvres that paved the way for Delia’s downfall. Whether this downfall is imminent or can be postponed to after the election is irrelevant – the methods used were disloyal and the guiding notion was that the end justifies the means.

Loyalty to one’s principles and to other people is not tantamount to submission to another’s will.

I still remember that when I was a doting father of a ten-year old boy seeking to enjoy playing at football, I had taken the opportunity to expound to him the virtue of loyalty. Loyalty to the other members of your team, loyalty to the game itself and loyalty to your adversary were all strands of loyalty that one should respect and hold dear in life.

This is where both sides of the PN divide have failed miserably.

And this why whichever way the issue is resolved, the PN will suffer yet another humiliating defeat in the next general election, whenever it is called.

The irony is that both sides have now lost their way – they have failed to keep on recalling the reasons for the very existence of the posts that they occupy. And – what is even worse – they are oblivious of the disgust of the people who genuinely support the PN.

If anybody thinks that on replacing Delia, everything will be forgotten and the party will suddenly become united under his successor, they are completely wrong. Talk to the tesserati in the street and you will find that the amount of resentment caused by the methods of those who never wanted Delia in the first place is much more than it seems on the surface.

The self-inflicted wounds of the PN will take a long time to heal.

Meanwhile, the prospects of Malta having an alternative opposition party ready to be in government – when the need arises – are becoming more and more a far-fetched possibility.

Malta is suffering a serious democratic deficit because of the irresponsible behaviour of a few self-serving and short-sighted politicians.

Intriguing parallel

A guest post written by Luke Frendo and published on Lovin Malta makes an interesting comparison between the vote of no-confidence in Adrian Delia passed by the PN parliamentary group and a very similar episode in the British House of Commons.

Frendo recalls how in 2016, the Labour Party in the United Kingdom was facing a situation almost identical to that in which the PN found itself recently when on 28 June of that year, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party and of the Opposition at the time, lost a no-confidence motion amongst his own parliamentary group, by an overwhelming majority of 172 to 40.

Frendo points out that Corbyn’s reaction was uncannily similar to that of Delia: “I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning.”

Frendo recalls that the day following Corbyn’s heavy defeat, a point of order was raised in the House of Commons. An MP argued that Corbyn could no longer hold the position of Leader of the Opposition. He also asserted that the Labour Party should no longer be deemed the official opposition party because it could not reasonably be expected to assume office in the event of the resignation of government. He asked for the Speaker of the House to address these issues.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons at the time, gave an interesting ruling that is very relevant in the context of recent events in Malta. Faced with a situation wherein the Leader of the Opposition had lost the support of his parliamentary group by a significant majority, Bercow’s response was: “I can confirm that the Labour Party currently constitutes the official Opposition and that its leader is recognised by me, for statutory and parliamentary purposes, as the Leader of the Opposition.”

Bercow did not remove Corbyn nor did he make any attempt to identify a replacement.

He simply confirmed the Labour Party as the official Opposition, ignoring the dissent amongst its Parliamentary Group, and confirmed its party leader as the Leader of the Opposition.

Frendo points out that this is practically the same position that was taken up by the President of Malta.

As the UK stubbornly soldiers on without a written constitution, Bercow’s ruling is now entrenched in Erskine May, the bible of parliamentary procedure for the UK House of Commons.

Corbyn stubbornly stayed on, only stepping down as Leader of the Labour Party after it was subjected to a humiliating rout in the 2019 election.