The king is dead, long live the king

If Adrian Delia does become leader he will enforce his autocratic style that goes beyond the rhetoric we have heard. His talk of inclusivity is not something he can vouch for

Adrian Delia obtained the most votes in Satruday's first round of the PN leadership elections
Adrian Delia obtained the most votes in Satruday's first round of the PN leadership elections

I cannot read the future and this opinion has been penned well before the final outcome of the election for a new Nationalist leader.

The truth is that at militant level in the Nationalist Party, many believe that Adrian Delia is the choice for the party, and with him at the helm the PN would be in a position to be catapulted back into power. To them all the allegations and truths about Delia’s financial dealings, legal or not, above or below board, are rather irrelevant. Gone are all the principles, Panama hats and head banging about good governance.

To them the most important thing is that their team wins the game - no matter what. Suddenly, the value of the person who choreographed more than one protest against the Labour government on governance and transparency is no longer the hot ticket. He is passé. And why? Because Daphne Caruana Galizia has campaigned ferociously against Delia.

There is little doubt why she has done this.

Politics to the party faithful is just like football. When I quizzed a panel of political observers this week on TVM’s Xtrasajf about the kind of guys that turned up at the PN HQ to support Adrian Delia, l was quite impetuously told that these were the grassroots of the party. “They cannot be ignored,” said PN journalist Dione Borg.

A cursory look at some of them would lead one to the conclusion that the band of burly men were holders of some interesting curriculum vitae making them eligible to what in Maltese we describe as the ‘universita tat-triq.’

Adrian Delia may well be a colourful and charismatic leader but he has enough baggage to put a big, broad smile across the mouth of many of his political opponents. Like Joseph Muscat he is a pro-business guy, but unlike Muscat he himself has business interests. Unlike Muscat, he lived off government consultancies  under a PN administration and unlike Muscat he engaged in legal work which will place him in the line of fire.

It cannot be unknown to Delia’s delirious and apparently purblind supporters, that the Labour party will eventually turn to their data banks and dig up every little detail of Delia’s background and history and throw it back at him for the public to mull. He will spend more time defending his position than proposing policies and every time he hits out at the Labour government he will be reminded of his own 'misdemeanours’.

The one thing that amazed me in this campaign (apart from the fact that the Malta Independent’s director and drama producer at PBS, Pierre Portelli, was very careful not to show his hidden hand) was Delia’s great cool in fending off a question and turning the guns on the journalist who asked it.

He did worse, when asked whether he would show some form of magnanimity with PN leader Simon Busuttil and MP Jason Azzopardi, he had little or no remorse, and no placatory words. On the contrary, he said that these were people who had attacked him.

Anyone who has done dealings or business with Delia knows that he is a tough and ruthless man. If he does become leader he will enforce his autocratic style that goes beyond the rhetoric we have heard. His talk of inclusivity is not something he can vouch for.

His tenure at the Birkirkara football club was the furthest thing to democratic rule.

It is a pity that Labour has chosen to treat Delia with kid gloves. They have done so because they are under the wrong impression that Delia will not raise the governance issue again and that he will play fair. They are of course very mistaken and super naive. Delia will do what any Nationalist leader would: hound the government with whatever he can find in his newly discovered armoury. And the PL will eventually do the same. Such is the art of politics.

In a blog I uploaded on Friday I argued that the choice of the councillors and members of the PN was very limited. But they have to go beyond their dream of electing a super charismatic leader that could possibly match Joseph Muscat. They need someone with a little more dignity and vision than they have had, at least beyond the fracas of the Busuttil years and the inward looking politics of the Gonzi era.

But on the other hand if Delia wins the democratic competition against all odds, we will have to accept him just in the same way we accepted other politicians and political leaders.

And as a journalist I will have to respect the democratic process which surely cannot ever be described as skewed in Delia’s favour. And I am not sure he would think the same of journalists, at least not after hearing his stance on Busuttil and Jason Azzopardi.