About time, too. Labour needed a good kick in the arse...

And if the Steward-Vitals ruling even comes into it, at all: it is chiefly because – even more than any of those other, purely ‘local’ examples – it only served to finally ‘cement’

It might be a slightly unorthodox way to start an article: but I feel I ought to congratulate Dr George Vital Zammit – whom I interviewed a couple of Sundays ago – for making one of the the most spectacularly accurate (and short-lived) political predictions, that I’ve ever heard.

In that interview, I asked Dr Vital Zammit – who lectures in the University’s Political Science department – whether he thought the Steward-Vitals ruling would prove to be a ‘turning point’, for both the Nationalist Party’s electoral fortunes; as well as the Labour Party’s current [at the time, anyway] “political dominance”.

At the risk of butchering his answers (the full interview can be read here), Dr Vital Zammit basically predicted that: “there is a chance – possibly, in the next few months – that, whilst the Opposition might be slowly regrouping, Labour might start showing its first signs of ‘cracks’...”

“Looking back, [the Steward-Vitals ruling] may well prove to be a pivotal moment in Maltese politics.”

As evidence for the PN’s regrouping, he pointed towards a recent public display of ‘unity’ by Bernard Grech and Adrian Delia: arguing that – even if those efforts may have been slightly ‘cosmetic’ – what really matters is whether the Nationalist Party is actually succeeding, or not, in attracting voters back to its fold.

And here, Dr Vital Zammit expressed his own view that: ‘from what I see on social media, and other sources… it does seem to be working. There has been a very much-needed resurgence of confidence, within the Nationalist Party.”

Right, I’ll stop there for the moment: because already, this part of the prediction has demonstrably materialised (and way ahead of that ‘next few months’ schedule, too!)

Not just because of our latest survey, mind you; but also because we all just witnessed (those of us who watched, anyway) a spectacular confirmation of every last detail – exactly as described above - unfolding right before our very eyes... on last Monday’s XTRA, to be precise: where Saviour Balzan hosted the PN’s Ivan Bartolo, and PL president Ramona Attard, to discuss those very same survey results.

Ivan Bartolo? To say that he was “brimming with confidence” would probably be an understatement. The last time I saw a Nationalist Party exponent exuding such boundless ‘optimism’, on live TV, was probably on the eve of the 1987 election: when Eddie Fenech Adami could scarcely even conceal his childlike excitement, at the prospect of an imminent, ‘epoch-making’ Nationalist victory...

Ramona Attard, on the other hand? Let’s be kind, and say that she sounded as though her precious Labour Party had only just been hit – and obliterated - by the equivalent of a ‘nuclear missile’. (Which – funnily enough – also reminded me of another classic Eddie Fenech Adami moment: this time, in 1996... when the former Prime Minister’s ‘shrieks of horror’, upon hearing the election result, were reportedly mistaken for ‘earthquakes’ as far afield as London, Moscow and New York...)

Indeed, so ‘stunned and shell-shocked’ did the PL president appear to be, that at one point she actually said – in response to the survey results, please note - ‘We must remain... HUMBLE’! (For all the world as though ‘humility’ is not something that comes naturally, to a political party that has only just received the mother of all ‘kicks-in-the-backside’, from a giant cross-section of its own support-base...)

So, um, what can I say? Yes, Ramona. Perhaps ‘being humble’ might not be such a bad idea, after all: considering how our latest survey  - provided it is accurate, of course [Note: and if I raise such doubts at all, it’s only because the gap is now so tight, that it falls entirely ‘within the margin of error’) – also suggests that...

a) the PN has somehow managed to claw its way back up, from a staggering 54,000-vote deficit in 2020, to an entirely respectable gap of just 8,500 today (in other words, roughly analogous to how it always used to be, before around 2013), and;

b) the Labour Party has simultaneously managed to lose a staggering 40,000+ votes, over the last few weeks alone!

But this brings me back to that interview: which not only took place a full week before our latest survey... but also, at a time when the Nationalist Party itself was still visibly reeling from the results of our previous poll, published just a few weeks earlier: and which had given the PN its worst-ever drubbing, since around 1945 (so bad, in fact, that it was actually overtaken, for the first time ever, by the ‘non-voting cohort’.)

And while there may already have been indications of a possible ‘turn-around’, even at the time: I don’t think anyone could have realistically predicted - and that includes Dr Vital Zammit, by the way - the sheer size (and speed) of the pendulum-swing, itself.

So make no mistake: there certainly has been some kind of ‘reversal of political fortune’, occurring at some point over the past few weeks... and more than ‘cracks’, I would say that significant chunks of the Labour Party’s entire ‘fortress’, are now starting to visibly crumble...

Ah, but that leaves one question tantalisingly unanswered. How much of this ‘earthquake of change’ – to borrow one of Joseph Muscat’s less fortunate predictions – can really be attributable to that one, single, solitary court ruling: even if it did shake the Labour government to its very foundations, by branding the Steward-Vitals contract as (in Vital Zammit’s words) “one of the greatest ‘swindles’ ever perpetrated against the Maltese people”?

And if the answer is (as I personally suspect) ‘a lot, but not everything’... then what other explanations could there even even be, to account for such a calatimous ‘reversal of fortunes’, is so short a time?  What else could have happened, in the last two or three weeks, that could turn a 54,000 voter-deficit, into a wafer-thin majority of just 8,500?

Well, this brings me right back to that Xtra episode: where a highly-energized Ivan Bartolo also argued that there is a ‘vast array of issues behind the PN’s positive showings’... including the rise in cost of living, environmental degradation and (last but not least) the court’s decision on the hospitals deal.”

Dr Vital Zammit, too, intimated that those ‘cracks’ he mentioned earlier, had already started appearing on the Labour Party facade, some time before the actual court ruling itself. And if I repeat his arguments here: it’s only because I would have probably made them myself, anyway [in fact, I believe I already have – in relation to other issues – quite a few times, in recent years...).

Sticking to the example in the interview:  while the Labour government was busy defending a public contract that defrauded the Maltese taxpayer out of millions of euros... it was also busy fighting a full-on, street-level ‘war’ against several of its own local councillors.

Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manche; Xaghra mayor Dr Christian Zammit; Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg... all mayors elected on the Labour Party ticket; and all of them at loggerheads with their own party... over issues – a ‘public garden’ here; an ‘unsustainable mega-project’ there; and ‘overdevelopment’, pretty much everywhere - that directly affect the quality of life of their own (i.e., the Labour Party’s) constituents.

And in all three of those cases – to which a lot more can be added: look under Marsaskala, St Julian’s, Comino, etc., for further details - the Labour government’s response has always, without fail, been to ‘side with the commercial interests of those would exploit those public localities, for their own profit’....

... and therefore, by definition, AGAINST the interests and concerns of the Maltese general public (including families who would – not entirely unreasonably, I would say - much rather see their children grow up playing in a ‘public garden’... than, say, a flipping ‘petrol station’, for crying out loud!! )

But leaving aside some of the truly indefensible things, that the Labour Party has tried (all too often successfully) to defend, in the recent past... the fact remains that the PL happens to be consistently militating AGAINST their own local council representatives: quite forgetting, it seems, that it is actually those Labour local councillors – and NOT the Labour Party, itself – that directly represent the concerns (and complaints) of Labour Party voters, on the ground.

Simply put, then... the Labour Party has unaccountably chosen to ‘go to war’ with its own supporters: not just once, but over, and over, and over again. And something tells me that it is these ‘street-level’ grievances – where Labour seems to be directly ‘giving the middle-finger’, to the very people it depends on the most – that ultimately contributed the most, to the Labour Party’s sudden (and spectacular) ‘nosedive’ this week.

And if the Steward-Vitals ruling even comes into it, at all: it is chiefly because – even more than any of those other, purely ‘local’ examples – it only served to finally ‘cement’, beyond all reasonable doubt, the impression that the Labour Party has long ceased to even pretend to be ‘serving the national interest’, anymore...

...and that – as Gzira’s Conrad Manche so recently accused Ramona Attard herself, no less – it has ‘betrayed the core principles of socialism’.

As such: the results of our survey should not have really come as so much of a ‘surprise’ – still less ‘shock’ - to the Labour Party. After all, there is a limit to how often you can ‘kick your own supporters, directly in the butt’... before they finally decide they’ve had enough, and start ‘kicking back’.