Wanted: another dreamer

'Can Muscat be left with a strong opposition? Absolutely not. I hope a dream out there is getting ready to assume the mantle that will offer a reply to the Labour monolith'

I spent three days in Vienna this week meeting up with some old friends over some good wine and food. Vienna, home to Klimt and countless other artists is perhaps the ideal city for those who seek the arts even if it might lack the pleasant chaos, clamour and smells of Naples, Marseille or Barcelona.

Vienna is a noble city with a long history. But what
 is more interesting is what has been happening in Austria where a 31-year-old has been elected Chancellor and what’s more? The young man hails from the conservatives.

I asked why the right had prevailed in Austria in what has always been a social democratic state. The answer was forthcoming: “We always thought we understood the Austrians, brushing aside their fears of migrants. We found ourselves unwilling to tackle this subject and see what has happened to us. Our social democratic base has been eroded and shifted to the right. Vienna, the capital, run and administered by social democrats for decades, now risks losing out to the far-right in the next elections with the dire consequences that the Austrian social democrats may be no more.”

I do not want to recite a litany in honour of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He does not need me to do this job. But the man has been pushing the right buttons, and those who love to hate him cannot fault him for getting it right.

There is a big catch here. Muscat bases all his successes on economic well-being with doses of social reform to sensitise those sizeable minorities. People feel better off, no matter what is said or written by those whose anger is actually preventing them from putting forward much-needed policies for change.

Muscat is repeatedly accused of being corrupt, but
in four and a half years, no one has been able to nail him to any irrefutable proof of corruption. And that
is the problem. You cannot make accusations without hard facts. If I am asked to come up with the beef... the simple answer is that I cannot come up with the beef because I do not have it.

The social media mavens who wish to kill real journalism think they can simply write stories without any real facts. I could use the same yardstick with other politicians of other political parties and the same rule would apply. Many people would come up to me in the past and tell me George Pullicino is very corrupt, and I would say: “OK, thank you, where and how?”

Hearsay does not get printed. This time around, it seems not even that rule holds. I said as much to Politico earlier this week: “If you said that Juncker is corrupt, and you do not come with the hard facts, would your editor publish your story?”

I made it very clear that that is exactly what happens in Malta. People just throw accusations, publish and then be damned. Conflict of interest, bad judgement, ethical issues are abundant in politics and in Malta... but corruption is something you have to prove. And that is never easy.

But back to Joseph Muscat, a politician who also seems to have an element of luck about him, although there is definitely much more to it which is a direct result of his political style. As he sails with a tailwind in his stern, he knows that he faces no opposition. He is aware that the Nationalist Opposition is in tatters, with no feet to stand on and with no money in the coffers. Worse still, there is a gaping black hole of €25 million!

Apart from this problem for the PN, or its own soulless state (although let’s not say Labour is big on ‘soul’ either...) there is the upright fact that it cannot offer a dream to the people. And Adrian Delia is surely in no position to cook up a dream. For someone in his position where the party does not even have the money to pay for his salary, a dream is the last thing on his mind. And it gets worse when you realise that most of the top brass in the PN are running after their tails and trying to find a sponsor for their wages, getting paid by third parties and breaking all the rules in the book of ethics.

But for someone to tackle Muscat, politics must be more of an adventure and ego-trip. And let us face it, Delia may not have yet quite figured out what he is supposed to do.

Indeed, this is why I insist that the country needs 
a dreamer: someone who can serve the country and offer a worthy opposition. It won’t be a hard-right conservative, or a radical leftist, or someone who views business as intrinsically immoral, who cannot serve the human rights agenda or whose view of Maltese society is narrow and locked in class prejudice.

We definitely need to go back to basics.

Without a dreamer this country is doomed to have two centrist monoliths that aim to replace each other alternatively and repeat the same mistakes that both of them are very good at repeating and realising.
What I can be sure of is that at present the supremacy of Muscat is here to stay.

It cannot be any different. He has only finalised his four and half years in his position in government. The Nationalist administration did five times more time in Castille and most people still need plenty of time to forget what the PN had been up to.

The surveys are telling a story of a population that
is not buying in to the narratives of doom and gloom coming from the other side. Truth be told, not even Delia seems to be warming up to the same statements. Maybe he views politics differently.

But can Muscat be left without a strong Opposition? Absolutely not. I hope that a dreamer out there is getting read to assume the mantle that will offer a reply to the Labour monolith, an opposition built on policies that solve people’s problems led by somenone who can change the way this nation conceives its happiness.