Simon’s broad church

The so-called ‘colourful language’ of the maverick PN candidate Salvu Mallia has thrown the problem of the tension within Simon Busuttil’s broad church to the fore

The PN’s attempts to discredit Joseph Muscat with the powers that be in the EU have failed miserably
The PN’s attempts to discredit Joseph Muscat with the powers that be in the EU have failed miserably

Looking at Maltese politics in the last 70 years – the post-war period – one finds that the Nationalist Party (PN) had never garnered the majority of votes before the 1981 election, even though it was in government for several periods when it had won the relative majority of votes.

After the 2013 election debacle, the task that Simon Busuttil faced – and is still facing – in his quest to lure a majority of voters to opt for the PN is nothing but a gargantuan one. He cannot afford to push back anyone. He knows that the PN must become an inclusive broad church rather than the exclusive ‘club’ it had become under the leadership of his predecessor.

The PN’s attempts to discredit Joseph Muscat with the powers that be in the EU have failed miserably. Joseph Muscat won that game both on the passports for sale programme and on his energy policy. The PN’s attack, therefore, will certainly centre on the good governance issue.

That is why among those militating within the PN today one finds practising Catholic fundamentalists, lapsed Catholics, Muslims, atheists and others. They have different values and the ideal that bonds them is their antagonism to Joseph Muscat’s way of doing things: mostly his lack of good governance that contradicts his solemn electoral promises. This has irked many. The burning question as regards the next general election is: how many of those who voted Labour in 2013 (plus new voters) are irked for this reason to the extent that they will be voting PN to ‘get rid’ of Muscat’s government, described by some as ‘just a corrupt clique’. Simon Busuttil’s competence as a leader will take second place to this consideration. 

The so-called ‘colourful language’ of the maverick PN candidate Salvu Mallia has thrown the problem of the tension within Simon Busuttil’s broad church to the fore, with issues like abortion and euthanasia being raised unnecessarily to weaken the PN’s appeal. 

These are just red herrings cleverly concocted by the Labour Party. Joseph Muscat is, naturally, doing his best to exploit this tension to his advantage – conveniently ignoring the tension that he has between the old Labour socialist supporters and his so-called ‘business friendly’ policies. Joseph Muscat seems to have turned the tables and is himself doing to the PN what the PN should have been doing to his quasi-schizophrenic ‘movement’.

This situation is giving the political rivalry between our two main parties and the electoral race an interesting twist – just as Labour’s term of office started its last full year before the next general election. 

The majority of votes garnered by the PN in the 1981 and 1987 elections was also the result of many citizens – who had never considered voting for the PN – being irked by what the Mintoff regime was doing; besides being attracted to the PN’s then new leader, Eddie Fenech Adami whose home and family were victims of Labour Party thugs.

Mintoff had taken so many unpopular decisions with every one of them, repelling some of Labour’s own voters, that it was Mintoff himself who unwittingly pushed voters to Fenech Adami’s welcoming embrace.

Looking back at the Mintoff years, one finds an extraordinary number of controversial issues that led to the PN winning the majority of votes in 1981 and 1987. The list includes massive unemployment and the setting up of labour corps under military discipline; the reduction of public holidays; the dispute with doctors; the ‘reform’ in University education; the abuse in the state broadcasting system that enjoyed a monopoly; the perceived kowtowing to Muammar Gaddafi; the violence that led to the sacking of Fenech Adami’s house, the arson at Progress Press, the sacking of the Curia in Floriana; the closing of the Church’s hospitals; and the murder of Raymond Caruana.

The cumulative upshot of these issues was much more effective than the well known corruption issues of those times, such as those concerning building permits and import licences. 

I dare say the PN would not have made it on the corruption issue alone.

Unlike Dom Mintoff, Joseph Muscat does not have any chips on his shoulders and has been careful not to irritate people. However he has failed to shake off the lack of good governance and corruption issue. Labour has reacted by raising what it considers to be similar experiences that happened on the PN watch. 

For me, this is a weak defence in that it simply says that those criticising the current administration are no virgins. However the floating voter might fall into the trap of considering both parties as vehicles of corruption and decide to abstain or else vote Labour solely because of the current economic boom.  

The unprecedented economic boom under a Labour government, after all, seems to be the big hurdle that Simon Busuttil’s broad church cannot overcome.

Streep’s speech

The Golden Globes award ceremony last weekend will be remembered for quite some dramatic moments during the speech made by Meryl Streep, while accepting her lifetime achievement award. 

Although the three-time Oscar winner never mentioned Donald Trump’s name, she said the most heart breaking performance of the year came “when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter”.

I was impressed by her telling line: ‘Disrespect incites disrespect; violence invites violence’.

Violence, of course, is not only physical – it can be verbal. All those who use the social media making wild accusations and writing in the most disrespectful manner about others should perhaps keep a recording of Streep delivering her speech.

I never expected Donald Trump to react, but he did. He twittered not by defending the indefensible stance for which he was criticised but by saying that he always believed that Meryl Streep was over-rated! Much like many of our politicians defending themselves by making irrelevant personal statements about those who criticise them. The messenger is always a handy scapegoat for one’s shortcomings.

I have always admired the acting prowess of 67-year-old Meryl Streep, who is undoubtedly the most respected actress of her generation. After her speech I admire her also for her values.

As for Trump... the twittering President-elect will eventually be hoisted by his own petard.

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