An uncanny parallel

The majority of Opposition MPs - not so surprisingly - shied away from taking sides. Yet, the claim that the majority do not support Adrian Delia is no capricious allegation made in the media

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) with leadership challenger Angela Eagle
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) with leadership challenger Angela Eagle

With Adrian Delia having managed to find a way on how to get a seat in Parliament, much has been said on the claim that he does not enjoy the support of the majority of the PN Parliamentary group. Those who openly – and vociferously – opposed his election in all manners were just a few Opposition MPs. Those who openly supported him seemed to be more. But together they still make a minority. 

The majority of Opposition MPs – not so surprisingly – shied away from taking sides, probably thinking that they would rather not be seen as having backed a loser rather than the winning horse. Yet the claim that the majority of MPs do not support him is no spurious capricious allegation made in the media by journalists who are always looking for an interesting ‘scoop’. It has a ring of truth to it.

In this, there seems to be an uncanny parallel with the situation that Jeremy Corbyn found himself in when he was elected Leader of the Labour Party in Britain and Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. This is the sort of thing that can happen when the final decision on who is elected leader is taken by the party members rather than by the party MPs: there is no guarantee that the majority of the Parliamentary group must necessarily agree with the majority of the card-carrying party members (tesserati) on the choice of party leader. Electing the party leader by a vote among a large number of party members always carries this risk.

Last year Jeremy Corbyn was snubbed by Labour MPs in the ‘most impressive parliamentarian’ poll: not even one Labour MP backed Jeremy Corbyn when asked – in a survey – to name the UK’s most impressive parliamentarian in that year. In similar surveys, previous Labour leaders Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband had all received positive mentions from their own MPs. 

The majority of MPs even tried to depose him – unsuccessfully as his popularity among the party members never waned. Subsequently last June, Labour under Corbyn won its highest number of seats since 2005 and its highest vote share since 2001. No one in the Labour party today thinks about the possibility of ditching Corbyn unless he loses the next election.

Of course, it is much too early for one to try to figure out whether Delia’s leadership will have a similar impact on the Maltese electorate. My point, however, is that if Delia does not enjoy the support of the majority of his party’s MPs, it does not mean that his days are numbered.

If Delia does not enjoy the support of the majority of his party’s MPs, it does not mean that his days are numbered

Again, under Corbyn, Labour in Britain has gone back to its socialist roots, with young people, who are normally more idealistic than practical, supporting him all the way. Delia has also made an attempt at appealing to the PN roots with old-timers supporting him all the way but he has risked making the PN an exclusive party rather than the inclusive one it should be. How to bridge the old with the new will be Delia’s biggest dilemma.

We still have to see what the real Adrian Delia looks like as Leader of the Opposition. We still have to see how much his strategy actually differs from that of his predecessor and how much this will resonate positively among the Maltese electorate.

If truth must be said, we have not seen enough for anyone to risk making a credible prediction on Delia’s capabilities.

The courtesy visit that Delia paid to the Prime Minister at the Labour Party’s headquarters does not mean anything more than a civilised encounter between Malta’s most important two political adversaries. Even so, there were those in the media who tried to depict it as something meaningful, rather than a run of the mill encounter that happens every time that one of the two parties elects a new leader.

The two leaders did touch on some issues but there were no in depth discussions and no earth-shaking ideas were floated. 

Delia is still not translating his ‘new way’ concept into some new sensible approach to politics, while keeping his distance from Labour. This is his real test. Hopefully, he will be able to do this in his first major speech in Parliament which would be his reply to the budget speech. This is a rare occasion when he has the opportunity to speak about anything, on subjects that are relevant or irrelevant to the budget speech. 

Some issues might be irrelevant to the budget but relevant to his future leadership strategy. This is where Delia has to be fresh and innovative, if his leadership is to have an influential impact in the Maltese political arena

Even more important, we still have to see whether those who opposed Delia’s bid for the leadership will call it a day with the feud having been won and lost, or whether underhand tactics intended to destabilise Delia’s leadership will be the order of the day.

Never a dull moment, of course.

Hero and villain

I get the impression that the number of people in Malta who can think clearly and objectively is diminishing. This is not necessarily true but a phenomenon that has been exacerbated by what is daily being written on the social media. The effect of the fake news era seems to have taken its toll, as well. 

People just react to whatever happens – often without thinking – in line with their pre-conceived ideas and prejudices that, they feel, they must confirm. No wonder that objectivity has gone to the dogs. This is the biggest disservice that the influence of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog has rendered to Maltese society.

People are considered heroes or villains according to what happens in the light of the most recent events, seen in a background of prejudices. So it was no surprise that in this blog the former PN leader and PM, the late George Borg Olivier, was depicted as a respected politician on one day and as a despicable failure on another. 

Contradictions are of no consequence. It is the bias and prejudice that must be clung on to at all costs all the time... at the expense of the objective truth.