The PN now really has no other option, but to split….

Even two much smaller, unelectable parties could do a much better job of opposing the government, right now… than a party that is far too busy ‘opposing itself

Adrian Delia
Adrian Delia

OK, I know what you’re probably thinking. Wouldn’t a PN split just leave us with two much smaller (and equally unelectable) Opposition parties, instead of only one? And if so: wouldn’t that only strengthen an already all-but ‘unopposable’ Labour government… instead of weakening it?

And yes, granted, those are both very valid objections: especially now, when – as recent events have so spectacularly illustrated – there literally IS no political opposition to the present government, of any kind whatsoever.

Unless you count Moviment Graffiti, of course. And civil society as a whole: including the five NGOs which are now crowdfunding a legal challenge against Joseph Portelli’s ODZ swimming pool in Gozo (an initiative that, all things considered, should really have been taken by the Opposition party, don’t you think?)

But… well, that’s the whole point, right there. There is, after all, a reason why NGOs like Moviment Graffiti, Din L-Art Helwa, FoE, FAA, and so many others, feel they have to consistently step in, and assume the mantle of political parties themselves.

Part of it is because Robert Abela’s government has simply been ‘gobbled up’, by the wolfish greed of all those predatory interests it was foolish enough to fatten in the first place (but I wrote all about that two weekends ago, so never mind for now)…

But the other part concerns the utter ‘pointlessness’, of a political party that is so utterly absorbed by its own (let’s face it: increasingly bizarre) internecine battles, that it seems to have completely forgotten all the things it is SUPPOSED to be doing, as Malta’s only Parliamentary Opposition. Yes, even all the most basic, entry-level stuff… like, um, ‘representing the concerns and aspirations of its own prospective voters’, and all that.

And that’s just one of the reasons why a PN split has become not just ‘inevitable’ (it has, after all, been that way for a while now), but also… ‘desirable’. Or at least: infinitely preferable to the travesty of an Opposition that we’ve been witnessing for the past few weeks; i.e., one which cannot seem to ever actually agree with itself - on even a single, solitary issue - for longer than five seconds flat.

So to briefly return to those two objections: even ‘two much smaller, unelectable parties’ could do a much better job of opposing the government, right now… than a party that is far too busy ‘opposing itself’.

And besides: however bruised and battered those new-born parties may emerge, as they finally crawl out of the wreckage of the PN: both would individually stand a much better chance of one day evolving into a political ‘force-to-be-reckoned-with’ (Even for the simple reason that, by virtue of the split itself, most of the more divisive issues will have been ironed out: leaving both factions free to do what today’s Nationalist Party is so clearly incapable of ever doing… i.e., building up their own, UNIFIED political platforms, for a change).

And all this, by the way, before we even get to the latest (if such it can even be called) ‘cause’ to have re-ignited the Nationalist Party’s never-ending feud. So just to put it all into perspective: consider, for a moment, the following two headlines – which, by pure coincidence, were uploaded literally minutes apart last Sunday.

Here they are, in chronological order:

1) ‘A Nationalist government would have taken back Żonqor without compensation - Bernard Grech’

2) ‘PGT splits PN: Adrian Delia breaks ranks with Bernard Grech on embryo genetic testing’

For the sake of argument, let’s take them in the order they actually appear online. By the time you read this, we will probably already know how the ‘split’, revealed in Headline 2, will have panned out in the end.

The Parliamentary vote on amendments to the Embryo Protection Act will in fact be taken later today: even though – at the time the article was uploaded – it was still scheduled for Monday (i.e., the day after Adrian Delia ‘broke ranks with Bernard Grech’.)

In other words, Adrian Delia chose to inform his party that leader that: ‘No, actually: I am NOT going to support the PGT amendments after all’… not just on the eve of the vote itself; but AFTER the Nationalist Party’s Parliamentary group had already reached a consensus to back the IVF bill… which was in turn after (according to Mark-Anthony Sammut, anyway) 10 WHOLE HOURS of deliberation.

But wait, it gets better. Adrian Delia then claimed that he had asked for a ‘free vote’ – after the PN had already officially communicated its earlier decision to the press - and when Bernard Grech complained that: ‘Hang on a second: if you wanted a free vote all along… why the bleeding hell didn’t you speak up about it once: during those 10 WHOLE HOURS in which we discussed the whole damn thing, back at Dar Centrali?!’

Well, that’s how I would have put it, anyway. But it doesn’t really matter, because Adrian Delia’s reply was… to call Bernard Grech a ‘liar’, basically. Not in such specific terms, naturally. No, he just contradicted Grech, by claiming that he had, in fact, informed him about his earlier request… and IN WRITING, too.

At which point, we find ourselves back in that all-too familiar territory, where we once again have to base our opinions on which of those two conflicting versions we ‘believe’. (And let’s face it: it’s not exactly a comforting thought, when you realise that they can’t BOTH be telling the truth, can they?)

But no matter: because the issue here is not whether Adrian Delia asked for his free vote, ‘before’ or ‘after’ the party took up a position in favour if the bill (PGT and all); no, the issue here is that…

… actually, this is a good time to dive straight into ‘Headline 1’: which, as you’ll remember, starts ‘A Nationalist government would have…’

And I won’t even bother continuing, because… it doesn’t really matter what other words you slap onto the end of that sentence, does it? Leaving aside the most obvious problem: i.e., that ‘a Nationalist government’ would not be able to even exist at all – no, not even in the ‘unforeseeable future’ - unless the PN somehow manages to overcome these internal divisions, once and for all…

No, the real problem is that: well, it’s kind of staring us all in the face right now, isn’t it? The PN had only just informed us that it was going to unanimously back the IVF bill; yet we now know that anywhere up to three, four or more Nationalist MPs – including Adrian Delia, and some of his more vocal supporters – might either abstain, or vote against the party line.

So if the Nationalist Party can’t even tell us how it is going to vote in Parliament TODAY – and I really do mean TODAY: at around 5 o’ clock in the afternoon, to be precise – how the heck can it also give assurances about how it ‘would have voted, if it was in government last week’? Or, even less, how it will ever vote in future, on any issue whatsoever (even as an Opposition party: still less, as the ‘Government’ it will certainly never be, under these circumstances)?

And OK: I concede that there may be a small flaw in the above argument… in the sense that the Nationalist Party would almost certainly NOT face the same sort of internal divisions, over as issue such as ‘requisitioning Żonqor Point from AUM’…

But that only forces us to confront the precise nature of these internal divisions; and, more specifically, how they actually play out in the IVF scenario. Personally, I have no doubt whatsoever that Adrian Delia himself is genuinely opposed to PGT, on purely conscientious grounds; and I think we can safely say the same for all the other ‘rebels’ to date: Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, Ivan Bartolo, and Alex Borg.

All of those certainly have been consistent, in championing pro-life causes – and that’s already more than we can say about Bernard Grech, by the way – but, by an interesting coincidence… they have all also been very critical of Grech himself, recently: for other, unrelated reasons of their own.

And while this doesn’t change the fact that their objections to ‘genetic embryo testing’ are ideologically motivated … it does explain why their tactics, to date, seem to have been designed to cause maximum embarrassment and discomfort, to their own party leader.

Now: would the same thing happen, in a vote to ‘take back Żonqor without compensation?’ Probably not, no…

But it could easily happen on a host of other issues: starting with the next, inevitable ‘pro-life’ controversy… i.e., when (or if) Health Minister Chris Fearne tables his promised ‘reform of Malta’s abortion laws’, in the wake of the Andrea Prudente case.

So whichever way you cut it – be it from the ‘ideological’, or ‘purely personal angle - this latest ‘disagreement’ marks the exact frontier…  the ‘dotted line on the toilet-paper’, if you will… where the PN’s now-inevitable ‘split’ will sooner or later have to happen.

And all things considered: it might, in the end, be the only way to rescue Malta’s Parliamentary Opposition, from the bottomless quagmire into which it is slowly sinking.