Act 1, Scene 2 at Pietà

I can see the leadership taking shape: Delia flanked by the lacklustre Clyde Puli and David Agius, and ambitious Pierre Portelli pulling the strings from behind

Mmmm nice... political laxative
Mmmm nice... political laxative

Beyond the charade on Friday evening in reprimanding the disgraced MP Jean Pierre Debono with a silk glove, the situation in the Nationalist party is what it is. Incredibly sad and morbid.

Vying for the deputy leadership, we now come across three individuals – Robert Arrigo, David Agius and Edwin Vassallo. They have openly declared their intention to stand. Another potential and interested contestant is Clyde Puli. It is also an open secret that Chris Said would contest if the conditions were right. By that I understand that he wants the concession of an uncontested election.

The truth is that none of the declared deputy leader candidates (perhaps with the exception of Chris Said) has it in him to be deputy leader. The dearth of quality in the PN is abysmal.

There are several reasons for this cruel statement. David Agius and Clyde Puli stick out for being the most unsuitable, simply because they have never really shown what they stand for – except, that is, for being obedient servants of those who have made it to the top. You can hardly expect an original thought from either of them.

Puli and Agius have moved cautiously in the steps of Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil like two faithful Alsatians but were never really entrusted with any serious political responsibility dealing with policy. The same applies to Robert Arrigo who, in spite of his strong showing on his electoral district, never struck a chord with PN leaders. That was simply because in him they did not see any value as a politician with that special gift for bringing about change. All they could see was a successful businessman who simply considered politics to be a pastime and tickler for his ego.

For all their faults, Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami had all the forcefulness and perceptiveness needed in deputy leaders, and I cannot visualise David Agius performing as a deputy leader. Even when he tries to look serious you can see that he is putting on an act. When he delivers a political speech, it sounds like a script out of Pyongyang.

And ironically, Clyde and David (and Kristy Debono too) apart from their parliamentary salaries, also have fixed jobs with salaries from government entities they hung on to since the good old days of the Gonzi administration. And like all good MPs from both sides of the floor, they find no problem pontificating about double salaries for government parliamentarians. Even though there have been several stories about the fact that they do not work all their hours with these government agencies, companies or entities.

In the last few weeks I have been inundated with some very serious talk and apprehension from Nationalist MPs. They are apprehensive of the future.

It is no secret that the large majority of the MPs would have preferred Chris Said to Adrian Delia as leader. Many of them have confided personally with me that in spite of his verbose, chatty and friendly nature, the baggage Delia carries from his background as a lawyer and a businessman will come back to haunt him and the PN.

They are sure that Muscat will demolish him and take the Labour Party to new heights and throw the PN into further disarray – if that were still possible. Most of the parliamentarians who talked to me know this but do not have the proverbial balls to stand up and be counted. It is just incredible that none of them has been able to put a few words together and say it as it is. I suppose that in spite of the party’s dire situation, they are still looking out for their own interests – fighting the party openly could mean the loss of their seat in parliament at a future election.

This country deserves an opposition that can offer an alternative form of government. Instead there seem to be only men, and women, of clay.

This is what democracy is all about and that is why the decision between the two parties to manipulate the election of the association of local councils is worrying. There should be convergence between the two parties but not when it comes to electing their representatives.

Adrian Delia will be trying to set his own agenda. Advising around the clock, after having taken a sort of sabbatical from The Malta Independent but not from his TVM programmes, is Pierre Portelli. The man is also aiming to be the PN’s secretary-general and though not elected yet, he is already acting as if he were.

But in politics, one cannot succeed simply because the leader (il-kap) rates fantastically high in communication skills and is very good at chatting up big burly men in bars, or embracing angry, diehard PN housewives.

There needs to be a vision.

Busuttil had a vision, sort of, but it sounded like the Spanish inquisition, as led by an altar boy rather than a cardinal.

For politics that succeeds also needs to have some feel good factor. Beating Muscat on this will not be easy.

Simon Busuttil had many significant obstacles: he had an inflexible style, his arguments were often rendered irrelevant because of his party’s history, and he also lacked the appropriate communication skills. Apart from basing the party’s strategy on media stories, he misread the general public and underestimated Muscat. Most of the time he was negative, rather than providing an inspirational spiel. Eventually, he burned bridges with a business class that was still cosy with Labour.

But unlike Adrian Delia, Busuttil surely had no over the-top posturing and was unassuming in the way that political gravitas demands. Busuttil did believe in issues, but despite this crusading quality, thought that everyone would jump on his bandwagon. Some blunders, like the party financing debacle, continued to the very end. He ended up prolonging the PN leadership election over the entire summer, instead of resigning at once and pushing for an interim leader to take over.

This would have allowed for some soul searching and some rejuvenation. Today we are faced with a ‘new way’ of doing things, which has not yet shown us what is new about it.

Come on, just picture it, Delia at the top flanked by the lacklustre personas we know as Clyde Puli and David Agius at his side, and the ambitious Pierre Portelli pulling the strings from the back. It’s all political laxative if you ask me. No matter whether it comes as a capsule, syrup or suppository, it’s going to make your bowels dance for the toilet bowl.