A boy-scout cannot win elections

Grech knows he cannot win the next European elections... he lacks gravitas, charisma, rhetorical will-power and the vision to pull the electorate away from Labour

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

There are two things that happen to you when you exit politics. You either become more cynical about politics – or else you become more truthful to yourself, less hypocritical and start speaking the truth more freely. 

Therese Comodini Cachia, the former Nationalist MEP and MP, in my view falls in the second category. I may not agree with all her viewpoints, but her decision to stand up to Tonio Borg’s diatribe in the press against the pro-choice lobby was commendable. 

Comodini Cachia did not at least mince her words when Joseph Muscat chose to get back into the limelight with his role representing Malta Premier league clubs. I guess Hibs fan and football fanatic Jason Azzopardi, another former MP, chose not to say anything about Muscat, in full cognisance that Hibs actually backed Muscat’s nomination. Such is life! 

When Tonio Borg was quizzed in 2012 as a nominee for the EC’s health and consumer commissioner after the forced resignation of John Dalli, Borg was very careful not to irritate MEPs who questioned him about abortion. In 2012 Borg was careful not to say the wrong thing. After having served as Lawrence Gonzi’s deputy and as self-appointed arch-conservative persecutor of the ‘liberal elite’, Borg landed himself with sizeable Commissioner’s pension by assuring his MEP inquisitors that he would uphold women’s rights, gay rights and all that. 

It was, in similar fashion, the same kind of declaration of faith of Roberta Metsola, when she needed the backing of Renew, the liberals under the Macronite wave of politics, and proceeded to sign the Simone Veil Pact so as to quell any French doubts on her commitment to reproductive rights. I’m sure that, had she decided to return to Maltese politics – which I doubt – she would be taking a different stand on abortion. 

Abortion is certainly no light-hearted subject, but it cannot be seen from the political lens of 2012. That political class is totally out of synch with today’s society.   

Instead of scribbling about abortion, Borg would be better off reflecting on his time as home affairs minister, and the legacy of some his decisions there; or perhaps acknowledge that his time together with Lawrence Gonzi contributed to the spiralling demise of the Nationalist Party, with the hubris they showed that started a downward trend. You could say that that trend has now brought the party to the Bernard Grech leadership, a politician who seems to lack the respect of his peers, and is now hanging on to his post for reasons known only to himself. 

Grech is out of his depth. He has been abandoned by most, if not all his advisers and close aides. And it is now that he needs the most support and inspiration: why they chose to leave him now, beggar’s belief. 

His former campaign manager Chris Peregin vowed to help Grech save the country from its rot, quitting the day after the most damaging electoral result ever experienced by the PN, a party now seemingly in a state of irreversible decay. 

Grech’s new deputy-to-be, Alex Perici Calascione, was as much a surprise for us as Grech himself. For it is inconceivable that a leader of a party does not attempt to manoeuvre the choice of his deputy leader. I guess that’s Grech for you. 

What’s more worrying is that many loyal Nationalists have given up trying to change what’s wrong from within. They are grouping together so that when time comes, they will simply move in and jack him out. 

Bernard Grech knows that he cannot win the next European elections in 2024. He lacks the leader’s gravitas, the charisma, the rhetorical will-power and vision to pull the electorate towards the Nationalist Party and away from Labour. 

That this government needs to have a watchdog goes without saying. But you cannot confront a government without an opposition. And you cannot have an opposition if its leader is a boy scout.