A party pulled in different directions

It is no wonder that the party’s leadership looks and sounds as if it is being pulled in two opposite directions at once – because it is.

PN leader Simon Busuttil and deputy leader Mario deMarco. Photo: Chris Mangion
PN leader Simon Busuttil and deputy leader Mario deMarco. Photo: Chris Mangion

I was listening to Simon Busuttil’s closing speech at the party’s convention yesterday, when he listed the people who had spoken over the two days, as proof that the party was “opening up”.

One was a black man who identified himself as being Maltese.

The second was a woman whose son had just come out and was now living openly with his gay partner.

And the third was a transgender man.

It was such a blatant exercise in tokenism that I half expected him to add that there was also a “little person” (the PC term used nowadays for midgets). The only reason women were not included in this list was that having a woman on a speaking panel is no longer considered to be such a big deal any more.

It must always bear in mind that the public is not suffering from short-term memory loss either. A little acknowledgement and a nod to its own ineffective policies on these issues would be nice

It is painfully obvious that the PN is trying to backpedal on getting it so wrong when it came to civil liberties, but I don’t think that this is the way to do it. Drawing such focused attention to these minority, special interest groups (“oh look, a black person!”) is simply emphasizing once again that they are different and need to be given a specific mention. It would have been so much better if they had not been mentioned one by one at all by Busuttil but simply allowed to merge seamlessly with the other speakers - that is how you show that you are an inclusive party.  With politics, as with so much else in life, sometimes less is more.

Try as it might, the Nationalist party still has not hit upon the best way to move forward. Part of the reason, as has already been pointed out by others before me, is that there are just too many instances where anything the PN accuses the Labour government of doing (or not doing) is going to be met with a derisive laugh, “Huh, look who’s talking”.  Just to mention a few, we have:

  • The illegal boathouses in Armier and Ghadira
  • The National Bank saga
  • Illegal hunting
  • The mess which is ARMs and the hefty Enemalta debt
  • The lack of reliable public transport 
  • The snarling traffic jams and terrible road planning

None of these were ever solved and no headway was ever made. This is not to say that the PN Opposition should not criticize the Labour government, of course it should, that is what it is there for. But it must always bear in mind that the public is not suffering from short-term memory loss either. A little acknowledgement and a nod to its own ineffective policies on these issues would be nice, rather than acting all sanctimonious and gasping with faux horror because a change in government has not magically solved all these longstanding problems overnight.

Then there are other problem areas; for example the supporters cannot seem to decide between themselves whether their party should come out with all guns blazing, hitting below the belt and ridiculing the PL every chance it gets in the most abrasive style possible, or whether it should take a more moderate, kid gloves approach where Labour’s failings (of which there are plenty) are pointed out succinctly, yet firmly but minus any name calling. 

It is no wonder that the party’s leadership looks and sounds as if it is being pulled in two opposite directions at once – because it is.

There didn’t even seem to be consensus on who the speakers at the convention should be: the presence of Godfrey Grima did not go down too well, which again indicates that there is no clear vision within the party.

This current schizophrenic state of mind is evidenced by the contrast between someone like (former PN Information Officer) Frank Psaila who is regularly writing about what kind of leader Simon Busuttil needs to be, and certain lame radio programmes on the party station which can only be described, at best, as very juvenile. 

Maybe these programmes are fulfilling a need with the party faithful who are absolutely loving the opportunity it gives them to release their frustration and disgust with being lumped with a Labour government, but I have my doubts whether they will bring back any of those who switched their vote.

There didn’t even seem to be consensus on who the speakers at the convention should be: the presence of Godfrey Grima did not go down too well, which again indicates that there is no clear vision within the party. 

In yesterday’s column Psaila wrote: “… the task for the PN leader this morning is to outline how they’d be better off under a new Nationalist government. He needs to present a blueprint for Malta.”

After hearing Dr Busuttil’s speech, I cannot say I am any the wiser because all I heard was the usual partisan rhetoric rather than a blueprint.

Frank Psaila also pointed out that, “Busuttil definitely needs to work on his image before 2018, starting from his speeches, which need to be more passionate.”

As it turns out we have now learned that Simon is actually being trained on public speaking and body language because he is perceived as weak and not having a strong media presence. That is not something which should have been leaked to the press and the fact that it has emerged signals that there is no real control over the party’s PR and image. Unless whoever leaked it is a party insider working with a faction which wants to see the back of Simon and have another leader elected in his stead.

More in Blogs