‘Nobody does it better…’

And I’ll stop there, because…. honestly, though… what sort of ‘chance’ did Bernard Grech even think he ever had: when THAT’s the sort of thing he’s actually up against, in this election

Honestly, though. It almost ‘makes me feel sad for the rest’… and especially for Bernard Grech: who – by the time you read this – will have emerged either ‘victorious’, or ‘vanquished’, from his epochal PN leadership battle against… (drums rolling)…

… Nobody!

Hmm. Tough one to call, isn’t it? For even if this contest has been pre-emptively dismissed as a ‘one-horse race’… as far as I can see, there are still ‘two horses’ technically competing in it. One of them is, of course, Bernard Grech; and the other, by the looks of it, is… ‘an empty chair’.

And that might also explain why Grech himself appears to be panicking about it, right now. Judging by his own recent statements (more of which in a sec) he seems to have only just woken up to the fact that… well, this is, after all, ‘Nobody’ we’re talking about here; and, as we all know from the lyrics of a certain Carly Simon song… ‘Nobody does it better!’ (Oh, and please note: ‘better than ALL THE REST’, too… let alone, ‘than someone who has only just lost another election, literally a few short weeks ago…’)

As such, we must also retrospectively concede that Bernard Grech has really been the ‘underdog’, all this time (in fact, the song’s lyrics even take the trouble to quantify his chances for us: they’re roughly “half as good [as Nobody’s]…”)

And besides: who would have ever guessed that this same ‘Nobody’ fellow – despite all the practical disadvantages of ‘not actually existing’, and all that – would end up showing such extraordinary promise, as a potential future PN leader in his own right … that both Bernard Grech himself, and the PN executive as a whole, are now clearly bracing themselves for the possibility that the unthinkable might, indeed, actually happen?

Or in other words: that – faced with such a stark choice between ‘Bernard Grech’, and, um, ‘NOBODY AT ALL’ – a sizeable percentage of PN councillors might conceivably weigh up their options, and conclude that… “You know what? I think I’ll actually go with ‘Nobody’ this time, thank you very much…”

Now: exactly why this realisation came as such a ‘shock’, to Bernard Grech – or indeed, anyone else – is something of a mystery unto itself. In fact, the moment I heard that ‘Nobody’ (of all people!) had decided to actually challenge Grech for the PN leadership, in the end… well, I said it to myself, right there and then: ‘Bernard Grech is basically TOAST’.

For let’s face it, people. How on earth can anyone possibly hope to ever ‘compete’… against a political adversary who is (by definition) not only ‘better than everyone else’ at pretty much ‘everything’ (including, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘winning elections’)… but also perfectly capable of single-handedly solving ALL the Nationalist Party’s current problems (not to mention any other problem, of any kind whatsoever, that might conceivably ever crop up in future)?

Think about it for a second. Just consider all the instant campaign slogans that ‘Nobody’ could easily come up – without even thinking too hard – if it were to actually TRY and win this particular contest, for a change.

I’ve already mentioned ‘Nobody Does It Better’ (and let’s face it: I can just see it on a campaign billboard already… can’t you?) but there’s also…

a) ‘Nobody can solve the PN’s financial crisis!’

b) ‘Nobody can lead the PN to electoral victory by 2026!’

c) ‘Nobody can guarantee that the PN will win at least three seats, in the 2024 MEP elections!’; and – the one I myself would choose as an official campaign anthem (if I was ‘Nobody’s canvasser’, naturally):

d) ‘Nobody knows what it’s like… to be the bad man… to be the sad man… BEHIND BLUE EYES!”

And I’ll stop there, because…. honestly, though… what sort of ‘chance’ did Bernard Grech even think he ever had: when THAT’s the sort of thing he’s actually up against, in this election?

But, well, this brings me to the most interesting part.  Notwithstanding my own – sarcastic, in case you hadn’t noticed – references to that Carly Simon song… we all know perfectly well that it is highly (but HIGHLY) unlikely, for any uncontested candidate to really ‘lose an election to an empty chair.’

Or at least, not according to the definition of ‘electoral defeat’ that we’re all accustomed to (and which, in this instance, happens to be the same as in General Elections anyway: ‘Failure to secure a simple majority of 50%+1’…)

No, no, make no mistake: regardless of the precise margin of his inevitable victory – though it will, I fear, make a small difference, in the end – there is no doubt whatsoever that Bernard Grech will indeed secure the ‘50%+1’ he needs, to comfortably win his ‘two-horse race against nobody’. (For what it’s worth: my own guess is that he’ll actually get a heck of a lot closer to 90%, than 50%...)

And yet, and yet: I wasn’t exactly ‘joking’ when I said that Bernard Grech (and also the entire Nationalist Party, by the looks of it) is in full-blown ‘panic-mode’. This time last week, for instance, Grech was heard on radio practically imploring the PN Executive Council “to give the leader, who is the only person participating in the election, a strong mandate, so that [he] can take the needed decisions…”

Later (and much more unwisely, if you ask me), he went on to specify exactly what he meant by a ‘strong mandate’, too. In his own words: “Securing the support of less than 70% of party councillors, would be a disappointing result…”

Erm… yeah, you could sort of ‘say that again’, Bernard. Except, perhaps, the ‘disappointing’ part: because, let’s face it… under these specific circumstances, I can think of quite a few other words (all starting with a ‘D’) to describe a final result of ‘anything less than 70% for Bernard Grech’. Such as, for instance, ‘a downright, dismal, devastating DISASTER’… (and, much as I hate to say it: yes, possibly even a ‘DEFEAT’, too...)

For starters, because ‘70%’ happens to be almost exactly the same benchmark by which Bernard Grech won his last PN leadership election, in 2020 (to be precise: he got 69.3% of the vote, on that occasion; and it wasn’t exactly against ‘an empty chair’, was it now?)

So if nothing else: to secure that same margin of victory today – or, even worse, LESS – would simply mean that Bernard Grech himself was incapable of improving on his last, analogous electoral performance: even though, this time, he didn’t even have any real adversaries to actually ‘beat’…

I need hardly add that the same result would automatically place Bernard Grech in an even less secure position, as PN leader, than he has been in for the past two years. (And we all recently got a glimpse, from the election result, of just how ‘insecure’ that position all along was…)

Much more worryingly, however: it would also represent a graphic confirmation, that the Nationalist Party remains every bit as ‘divided’ in 2022, as it was in 2020. That is to say: torn between a (roughly 70%) majority supporting Bernard Grech… and a (roughly 30%) minority, who – either because they are either still loyal to former leader Adrian Delia; or for whatever other reason you care to name, really – still somehow concluded that ‘voting for Nobody’ was actually the more sensible option, in this particular election.

Either way: you can’t exactly call that a ‘victory for Bernard Grech’, can you? (And given that he remains the only official candidate in this race: well, I guess that already makes it a ‘victory for Nobody’, right there…)

But naturally, having said all this… it still all hinges on whether the final result does indeed turn out to be anywhere near the ‘dismally disastrous 70%-mark’, that Bernard Grech would have us believe he is realistically anticipating; or whether (as I am beginning to suspect) it was actually just a little political ‘red-herring’ of his own….

You know: a classic case of expectation-management, whereby the public is first led to believe that the ‘worst-case scenario’ will no doubt materialise… so that, when the actual scenario DOES materialise – and, on closer inspection, it turns out to be just slightly less cataclysmic, than predicted – well, it only makes the final victory look that much more ‘respectable’ (and therefore, that much less like than the unmitigated fiasco it would really be).

And if so… well, ‘fair play to Bernard’, I suppose. All the same, however, it still doesn’t explain the state of panic that has now clearly gripped the PN Executive Council; which – on Friday, by the way (when voting was already in full swing) – decided to change the electoral proceedings themselves, in way that was clearly intended to ‘maximise the turn-out’.

On its own, this should be enough to dispel the illusion that what we are looking at is, in fact, a ‘one-horse race’. For in an election where there is only one living, human candidate on the ballot-sheet… every vote that is NOT cast for that living candidate, has to (by definition) be counted as a ‘vote for Nobody’.

So when you put it all together – i.e., Bernard Grech’s self-appointed electoral ‘target’ of 70%; all the last-minute, underhand manouevres to avoid an electoral humiliation; and (last but not least) the sheer appeal, to PN councillors, of a non-existent candidate who can actually deliver EXACTLY what the party needs, right now (where Grech himself can only make vague promises, of ‘difficult decisions that have to be taken’) – ooh, I don’t know.

Suddenly, their panic seems entirely justified…