The pursuit of happiness and why Grech will get nowhere

Bernard Grech has no clue of where the PN should go politically, how it can make change, and win with change

PN leader Bernard Grech
PN leader Bernard Grech

Legal Notice 161/22 seems to be geared at turning the status of Valletta – until some time ago striving to attain international cultural status – into a second Paceville, with bars allowed to have blaring music into the early hours. It is thanks to the media that we know this has happened.

With Comino taken over by the deckchair pirates and now also the Hili Group, it is thanks to Moviment Graffitti that the entire nation has woken up to this injustice and the unenforced access to the public’s shoreline.

And when a bunch of speculators are planning to deface the valley or a village, it is usually the media, and a few NGOs, who raise the alarm.

But generally, the government prefers using its policy of ‘say nothing and stay silent and look the other way’. Aware that its majority requires it to do nothing and simply get on with its business, it will only tend to the other niches it needs to keep being elected into power.

So who would people, in the circumstances that we woke up to on Saturday morning, expect to be the rallying cry for their grievances, if not Opposition leader Bernard Grech? They would expect him to be a reference point for all that is wrong in the country, right? Not their personal concerns, but the problems that affect the country and the common good.

But when I interviewed Bernard Grech last week on Xtra, I did not only see a diminished man, but someone who could not put his finger on a problem, could not proceed to outline his vision and when confronted to come up with a clear position on IVF – the current hot debate in the House – he entertained the answer with his typical neither-yes-or-no reply.

He insisted on holding PBS responsible for his failure in not attaining higher support in the last election and the far more cash-rich Labour Party.

I thought it was his worst interview in months... blaming his electoral loss on everyone but himself.

He would not complain of the spending spree that left the PN with its shocking legacy of debt under Lawrence Gonzi, Tonio Borg and Joe Saliba; neither could he justify why the PN’s loss-making TV station was such a burden on the party.

But to me the most worrying thing was that I saw in Grech a politician with very little appetite for political discourse or battle, lacking a clear understanding of what it took to gain people’s confidence. He was someone with nothing new to say, and someone finding it very difficult to inspire.

And worst of all, is seeing once again the PN strangled by its ideological past on IVF, buckling under the pressure of conservative groups. It seems ready to repeat the same mistakes it made in the past on LGBT rights, cannabis and of course divorce.

So I am afraid that Bernard Grech has no clue of where the PN should go politically and how it can make change and win with change. And that is very bad news, because even though Robert Abela can be applauded on some fronts, this country is in very dire need of an active opposition that can also make the electorate believe that it can support the PN.

So Abela has a free hand to do as he pleases. And as a colleague succinctly described to me, Labour’s success is based on a loose adaptation of the “pursuit of happiness”,  a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The same goes for IVF and PGT – Labour is targeting a group of people that deserves to have some happiness. The ones denying this, the Church’s curmudgeons and other hypocrites, are the antithesis to this goal.

Labour has targeted niches across the board, seeing to their needs, and sometimes it has also done this to the detriment of the common good but to the benefit of profiteers. But it has also targeted groups that are in need of emancipatory politics.

In this mix of part-social democracy, part-populism, you see a winning formula that is aided by the Nationalist Party being effectively dead, with a leader who seems to be unable to chart a future for the party.

I cannot see the PN making inroads until the party is led by a new leader that understands politics, the art of doing politics, and the importance of winning the middle ground.

Used car racket

It is just incredible that after last Sunday’s exclusive story in MaltaToday over how some second-hand car dealers had defrauded people by tampering with the cars’ mileage, the police have not let us known what is happening. And neither has government much.

It is as if this kind of activity is not such a big deal, or such a serious offence. It is perhaps typical for the current climate that everything is going to be okay ‘so let us not make such a big fuss.’  

Or could it be that since most of us are so used or involved in living around irregularities, such a story should not really come as a big surprise?

Candid Giglio

Joe Giglio’s appraisal of Maria Efimova, the so-called Egrant whistleblower, which saw him express serious reservations about her, led to his ‘colleague’ Karol Aquilina, Aquilina’s brother Robert and David Casa to tell Giglio that “undermining the credibility of the Egrant whistleblower is not only highly irresponsible but also an insult to the memory of courageous journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and activists who have been fighting relentlessly for truth and justice.”

Harsh words, indeed words that have dominated the Talibanesque attitude towards anyone who does follow the doctrine they have long set out.

But surely the three men who came out screaming against Joe Giglio (a potential future leader of the Nationalist Party) should be more honest and distinguish between the work Caruana Galizia uncovered in the Panama Papers and also the seeds of 17 Black, and the story constructed around Efimova’s unreliable claims.

Surely it cannot be that if someone speaks his mind or states some uncomfortable truth, they are immediately declared to be an affront to the memory of Caruana Galizia.

Those who dealt directly and talked to Efimova told me that when it came to the beef, Efimova was unable to deliver and give ‘them’ more constructive proof.  In other words, she was unable to join the dots. Whether Efimova was a fraud or a daring whistleblower changes nothing about the work carried out by Caruana Galizia, work that no one imagined would have led to her murder and reveal the involvement of the people inside Castille.

I sense that the outburst against Giglio is more about the fear that this successful criminal defence lawyer may be the solution to returning the Nationalist party to some form of normality.

Time will tell.