Will the new broom succeed?

Whether Delia will succeed is yet to be seen - however 'there is no doubt that he was elected on a wave of repressed anger, that the PN grassroots felt at the PN establishment'

Newly-elected PN leader, Adrian Delia
Newly-elected PN leader, Adrian Delia

Those who last Wednesday night expected some earth shattering speech from the new PN leader, Adrian Delia, were probably disappointed. He said nothing new. But he said it in a way that people prefer to hear it. He said it in a way that raised hopes for a more relevant PN. And that was the message that led to his unorthodox victory. On a personal note, although I slightly knew the man, his oratorical skills impressed me.

Adrian Delia’s meteoric rise to the PN leadership is a phenomenon in itself. It is not the result of the sudden discovery of the man as a possible PN leader. He became the only beacon of hope that the PN grassroots finally saw after so many years in which they saw the popularity of their party steadily dwindling. They felt that a new broom was needed.

Ever since Lawrence Gonzi took over the mantle of the PN leadership, the party’s popularity has steadily decreased. That is the only way one can read the results of the different elections when the ordinary citizens had the opportunity to express their support or otherwise for the PN.

It could well be that having achieved EU membership for Malta, the PN was at sixes and sevens as to its relevance to Maltese daily life. It could well be that Eddie Fenech Adami’s boots were too big for both Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil. No amount of false praise to the two leaders who suceeded Fenech Adami can gloss over the fact that during their tenure as party leaders, the PN’s share of the popular vote continued to decrease. The haemorrhage could not be stopped. 

Whether Delia will succeed where those two failed is still to be seen. However there is no doubt that he was elected on a wave of repressed anger that the PN grassroots felt at the PN establishment.

The contrived occasion for Simon Busuttil’s last speech on the eve of the vote for the new leader made matters worse – not better. Busuttil seemed to be in denial, even claiming a ‘moral victory’. Imagine what the reaction would have been if Napoleon claimed a ‘moral victory’ after Waterloo! Others who spoke before him were full of praise for him, depicting him as some Hercules who cleaned the Augean stables – the man who inherited a pile of rubble and rebuilt the party. All this went on in the presence of the ever-grinning Lawrence Gonzi who, logically, was reponsible for the PN becoming a pile of rubble. Could it get more surreal than that?

The incredible efforts made by the 'old guard' to avoid a Delia victory only helped to instil the idea that voting for him was the only was for the PN to be able to shake off those who had hijacked the party for their ends

That silly show only helped to confirm that the time had come for a new broom that sweeps clean. The incredible efforts made by the ‘old guard’ to avoid a Delia victory only helped to instil the idea that voting for him was the only way for the PN to be able to shake off those who had hijacked the party for their ends. Suddenly all those who preached democracy, integrity, transparency and the rule of law threw their principles to the dogs and fell into the error of the means justifying the end. Preventing Delia from becoming PN leader was the end and the means used by those who should have known better were shockingly undemocratic and abhorrent. It only proved that when push came to shove, all talk about doing the right thing went to the dogs.

At this juncture Delia has adopted a very careful attitude. He is treading on thin ice or – to use another metaphor – walking in a minefield. Every step will be criticised by those who inhabit the world of facebook and other social media and who are experts at everything. Meanwhile, he has to make serious efforts to reunite the party while ensuring that he does not disappoint those who challenged the party know-alls and elected him.

It will not be easy. The venom used by those who did not want him to be elected is not brushed off effortlessly.

He has been attacked for joining Simon Busuttil and Jason Azzopardi in the case about the magisterial inquiry on corruption. If he let them alone, he would have been attacked just the same – for precisely the opposite reasons. There is no letting down.

Delia will be confronted by many a dilemma. He has to ensure that the PN is inclusive and refrain from excluding those who preferred another candidate, albeit the enemy within could abuse of this policy to undermine him. He has to ensure that Chris Said is part of the new PN leadership set-up without sending the message that he is more of the same. The ‘old establishment’ is already planning to replace him if his efforts fail and the PN continues to lose votes: helping him to increase the PN’s share of the votes will not be on their agenda.

Some have even encouraged Marlene Farrugia to include in her group Opposition MPs who were dead set aginst Delia’s election. The fanaticism of fundamentalists knows no bounds. 

Meanwhile, Simon Busuttil’s incredible faux pas when he decided that the PN should ‘join forces’ with Marlene Farrugia’s PD is having even more serious consequences than initially thought.

Delia is still to meet Marlene Farrugia who has up to now simply raised her hackles against him, acting as if she was some political virgin fighting for the good of the PN – let alone the common good. I am sure that Adrian Delia is not so naive as to let her dupe him as she hoodwinked Simon Busuttil.

The next few weeks must confirm Delia’s determination to put the PN on track again by making it a relevant opposition and a really alternative government. 

When replies turn personal

I have had my fair share of commentators attacking me personally when this opinion piece is published on the MaltaToday website. I am not surprised.

All over the world, the messenger is hated when he brings bad news. So, when people hear things not to their liking, they just attack the messenger. More so when they cannot find fault with the message.

Margaret Thatcher is known to have responded to this phenomenon in a particularly intelligent way: ‘I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.’