Party loyalty is on the decline. I wonder why?

But that leaves us with yet another, niggling little question. Judging by his answer to Lou Bondi’s question, above... Robert Abela evidently understands the nature of the problem that is currently staring him (and the rest of the Labour Party) in the face

In my last article, I highlighted a specific moment in Lou Bondi’s interview with the Prime Minister last week – where Robert Abela expressed ‘discomfort’ at a recent abortion conviction – but looking back, I realise that there was a heck of a lot more to comment upon, in that interview.

Like that other moment, for instance, when Lou asked the Prime Minister to comment about the apparent ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde complex’ that – according to him, at any rate – still plagues Maltese politics, to this day.

In Lou’s own words: “People tend to criticise political wrongdoing [...] when their own party is in opposition. But then, the government changes; and the same people seem to shut their eyes, and cover their ears, to everything they previously used to criticise. Their sense of ‘what’s right and wrong’ seems to change, depending on which party is in government at the time. Your thoughts?”

Now: had Lou Bondi asked that same question, at almost any other point in the past 30 years (which, to be fair, he often did, throughout his long career as a journalist) I would have no doubt agreed with him wholeheartedly. In fact, if there is anything resembling a ‘central, thematic thread’, running through my own output, over the years:  it would probably boil down to that exact, same point.

Today, however? I’m not sure. And not just because the interview itself was based on the findings of the ‘State of the Nation’ conference: which – paradoxically enough – actually point in the clean opposite direction (i.e., that ‘political loyalty is shrinking’...)

No, there are various other reasons why I find myself agreeing with Robert Abela’s answer, more than with Lou’s question. To quote just the first part, for now:

“I don’t see things your way. Nor do I believe that the people’s judgment changes, depending on whether their party is in government or not.  I believe that the judgment of our people has always been consistently correct, in one election after another.  People have always looked at the criteria that they themselves base their judgments on; and those criteria have always been the same: their own quality-of-life...”

Once again, however, the same proviso applies: this time, in reverse. Had Robert Abela said exactly the same thing, at practically any other time before today...  he would have probably been ‘laughed out of the room’. Indeed, there is so much evidence that the opposite is true, that I could almost pick out any policy of the current Labour government, at random; compare it to the same party’s previous policies, on the same issue... and, hey presto!

Nine times out of 10, you will find that the Labour Party has changed its own ideological direction – sometimes (as in the case of EU membership) from one extreme, to the other – without ever, it seems, losing even a single vote in the transition.

The latest example – Labour’s U-turn on ‘membership in Partnership for Peace’ (which it now wants to join: 13 years after describing it as ‘incompatible with Malta’s Constitutional neutrality’) – couldn’t be more of a classic case, if it tried. This is, after all, the same Labour Party that almost suffered an apoplectic fit, when the Gonzi administration tried to re-activate that application, in 2010...

Yet fast forward the small matter of just 13 years, and... what happens? Why, Foreign Minister Ian Borg suddenly turns around, and – apparently oblivious to even the existence of any form of ‘contradiction’, whatsoever – casually suggests that his own government does exactly the same thing, today!

[Note: I say ‘the same thing’, but there IS a teenie-weenie little difference. For one thing, there was no ‘Ukraine war’ going on, that I remember, back in 2010. And for another... I mean, honestly, though: what better time, to just consign Malta’s neutrality to the scrap-heap of history, than slap-bang in the middle of an international war - between the equivalent of ‘two superpowers’, to boot! – that might ‘go nuclear’, at literally any minute?]

But that was just an aside. The bottom line is that: this is the same Labour Party that was so fiercely protective of Malta’s Constitutional neutrality, when still in opposition, that it ‘torpedoed’ Gonzi’s proposal, outright... not to mention, the entire career of a certain ‘Cachia Caruana, Richard’.

How, then, can it so nonchalantly perform what can only described as ‘the mother of all U-turns’ – and on the subject of Neutrality, too! You know: ‘Mintoff’s Baby’, and all that! – without so much as even batting an eye-lid; or indeed, expecting any of us to even notice, at all?

Clearly, there is a level at which the Labour Party still expects precisely the sort of ‘unswerving political loyalty’, that would – under normal circumstances – blind its own supporters to even the most drastic of sudden, ideological changes-of-direction...

And – up until recently, at least – it had good reason to retain that supposition. It had always ‘worked’ for Labour, in the past. [Note: yes, and for the PN, too, back when it was in power.]

At the same time, however: this is where the situation starts resembling a certain chapter in Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy’ (the radio version, if my memory serves correctly)... where a ‘meteor-strike’ happens to take out the only part, of an entire spaceship, that was designed to ‘assume emergency control, in the event of (Oh, dear!) A METEOR-STRIKE!!’...

Or something like that, anyway. The point is... the results of that ‘State of the Nation’ conference (on top of countless other indications: including our own recent surveys) seem to suggest that the entire premise of the above argument, has been similarly ‘taken out by a meteor-strike’.

Simply put:  the same ‘blind political allegiance’ that always used to guarantee both parties a certain level of popular support, is now crumbling before our eyes... and precisely for the reasons given by the Prime Minister, above.

Namely, that: ‘People have always looked at the criteria that they themselves base their judgments on: that is to say, their own quality of life’. (And in fact, Robert Abela’s very next sentence was: “To me, improving the people’s quality of life remains the primary function of any government...”)

All of which raises a rather obvious question. If Robert Abela is correct, to state that people have ALWAYS consistently reasoned that way, in all previous elections... what has actually changed, in the equation, to result in a decline in political allegiance, only today (and never before)?

By Abela’s own logic, there can only be one answer, really. It cannot be ‘disillusionment with the political parties themselves’ – because (let’s be honest) that has always been a factor affecting both sides before; without ever really making much of a difference, to election results.

Nor can it be put down to a (very real) dissatisfaction with Malta’s current economic model... for the simple reason that the Nationalist Party  - for all its recent criticism of certain aspects of that model (namely, the increase in Malta’s ‘foreign population’)  - is not actually offering the country any alternative that is realistically different, from what we have today.

This leaves us with only one remaining variable: the people’s ‘quality of life’. THAT, it seems, is what a growing number of people, in this country, feel has ‘deteriorated’, in recent years. And some of those people clearly feel it has deteriorated so very drastically, that it’s time for them to take ‘drastic action’, themselves.

Such as, for instance, what happened this morning: when residents of Zurrieq plastered protest banners onto the offices of Labour ministers such as Miriam Dalli (Environment), and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi (Land-Use)... against a local development project that the Labour Party itself is trying to ‘spin away’, as the result of the PN’s extension of the development zones, way back in 2005/6.

Once again, it’s the sort of strategy that Labour could always comfortably rely on, in the past. And in this particular instance, there are multiple reasons to expect that it should actually work, all the more.

Not only is the Zurrieq land that is now scheduled for zoning, part of that notorious 2005/6 ODZ ‘rationalisation scheme’ (and not only can ‘Zurrieq’ itself safely be classified - on the basis of countless past election results - as something of a ‘Labour stronghold’, to begin with...)

...but the project’s architect turns out to be none other than George Pullicino, no less! You know: the former Nationalist Environment Minister, who had piloted that entire scheme, in the first place!

And yet, and yet... no amount of ‘spin’ has succeeded in convincing those Zurrieq residents (and I could add other Labour-leaning localities to the list, too: among them, Santa Lucija) to vent their anger directly on George Pullicino himself... or, even less, on the Nationalist government he was once part of (in what feels like another lifetime: long, long ago).

No, indeed. They are venting their anger at the political party which had previously always supported them, in their bid to halt the rape of their own hometown... but which has now inexplicably ‘betrayed them’: by morphing, ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde’-like, into the very opposite of the political party it once was, in their own eyes. (I.e.,: a party which actually WORSENS their own ‘quality of life’; instead of ‘improving it’...)

But that leaves us with yet another, niggling little question. Judging by his answer to Lou Bondi’s question, above... Robert Abela evidently understands the nature of the problem that is currently staring him (and the rest of the Labour Party) in the face.

Why, then, is he not actually DOING anything, to solve it?