‘Vote PN, get’... what, exactly?

Um... really? That's how democracy works, huh? You vote for a party... and that's the party you get if it wins the election? Hmmm

I see there’s been a bit of an online kerfuffle over a Facebook post by Andrew Borg Cardona (what’s new?) And there’s a lot to say about this one, so if you don’t mind I am going to dispense with all the customary formalities – explaining who’s who, what actually happened, etc. - as you can get a pretty good idea by reading this piece by my colleague Josanne Cassar. Just come back when you’re ready.

Ok, is everybody in? (I said... is everybody IN?)  You will probably have noticed how the discussion has veered into the territory of ‘misogyny’: questioning whether Borg Cardona’s act of blacking out the faces of Michela Spiteri and Claire Bonello betrays an underlying hatred of (or contempt for) women in general. Now: not to avoid the issue or anything, but... I’m going to avoid this issue (Me? Get involved in an argument about misogyny? In this post-Harvey Weinstein world? What do think I am, nuts?!).  And my official (lousy) excuse is that...  I am far more intrigued by what he actually scrawled over that Times page than in the violence with which he made those black-ink marker stabs: ‘Vote Labour, get Labour.’

Um... really? That’s how democracy works, huh? You vote for a party... and that’s the party you get if it wins the election? Hmmm. And there I was, thinking that voters expected to get totally different parties from the ones they actually voted for. Good thing we have people like Andrew Borg Cardona – who must have spent years studying the electoral system to reach that conclusion – to spell it out for us... and in such giant letters, too: for all the world as though declaiming some Great Universal Truth that had somehow escaped our collective notice for centuries...

All the same, however, for once I happen to agree with him. If it’s Labour you vote... it’s Labour you’re gonna get (doink!). And oh look: around 170,000, out of an electorate of 346,000, voted Labour in the last election. Why would they have done that, I wonder? Let’s see now... because they wanted another party to win? Not likely, is it? If they did want another party to win, they would have voted for another party. There were, after all, four other parties to choose from on the ballot sheet...

Lots of PN fans like Delia precisely because he's pretty similar to Muscat

So, if I may make a helpful suggestion at this juncture: instead of simply disfiguring people who may or may not have voted for that one particular party (for that’s another thing: who the hell knows how those two voted anyway?)... wouldn’t it be slightly more beneficial, at this stage, to question WHY so many people chose to vote the way they voted at the last election? And more to the point: how they are planning to vote in the next election, which (if you include European and local elections) will be upon us in no time at all?

Speaking for myself: if I had any form of interest or stake in a future Nationalist Party victory – as some people out there clearly do – that’s the one question I would be obsessing about right now. And I would be obsessing about it, even if there weren’t polls suggesting that the difference between the two parties may currently be as wide as 70 or 80,000 votes. Why are people choosing another party over the one I (hypothetically) want them to choose? What can be done to reverse that pattern, in time for the next election?   

Those are the questions I’d be asking... with an emphasis on the second one, naturally. But that’s just me, and I have a tendency to over-analyse things. Strangely, however, it seems that neither the Nationalist Party, nor the people who (like Borg Cardona) have appointed themselves as its unofficial spokespersons, have any interest whatsoever in asking (still less answering) those questions. Their only interest seems to be to just mutilate all who disagree with their political views – which, incidentally, aren’t even very clear or consistent to begin with – and then expect all those insulted and aggrieved voters to come flocking back of their own accord: begging for more mutilation... more disfigurement... more humiliation... more vitriol.

How the heck is that going to win the PN an election at any time in the next millennium (still less next year)? But I guess that’s a question for a psychiatrist to ponder... ideally, while writing out a prescription for something, um, helpful.

Meanwhile, at least part of the question answers itself... and to appreciate why how, all you have to do is invert Borg Cardona’s basic premise. ‘Vote Labour, get Labour’ – OK, no problems there... but: ‘Vote PN, get...’

Get what, exactly?   It’s not like there’s a clear-cut answer, you know. Just look at the extraordinary mess that is unfolding on the Opposition benches right now, as we speak. There has just been a parliamentary vote to ratify an international convention against domestic violence, and violence targeting women in general (can’t seem to get away from misogyny these days, can we?)... and a Nationalist Party MP votes against, because it’s about violence against women, and not about violence against unborn children.

Meanwhile, the rest of the PN votes in favour. So what do we get, if we elect the PN in an imaginary election held tomorrow? A party that both ratifies, and does not ratify, an international convention against gender-based violence, at the same time?

But wait, it gets better. A few days after letting Edwin Vassallo sink into (mostly contrived) ignominy, by becoming probably the only MP in Europe to vote against the Istanbul domestic violence convention... the PN now wants to include a specific reference to the unborn child in the same Bill. Huh? Sorry, but that was all along Edwin Vassallo’s own objection, in a nutshell. I’m going to have to stick up for that nutter now: all he wanted was some form of ‘condemnation of abortion’ to be written into the law... which is exactly what the PN is now demanding, a week after voting against Vassallo’s proposal.

And not only are they demanding the inclusion of a ‘condemnation of abortion’... but they are ‘challenging’ the Labour government to back their amendment. You know, just like they spectacularly failed to back Vassallo’s amendment, when he proposed exactly the same thing last week.

I mean... it’s almost as though the Opposition party has taken internal bets on how spectacularly it can contradict itself, in the shortest possible time.  But back to original question: ‘Vote PN, get...’ What? A party that argues one way today, the opposite way tomorrow, and yet another way the middle of next week?

And that, I need hardly add, is the tiniest and most inconsequential example I could possibly think of. If you want a more serious inconsistency, ask yourself how even the most diehard Nationalist is going to vote from now on. If the PN proved unelectable last June... when, for better or worse (worse, as it turned out) it was led by a natural extension of its former leadership... what about today, when it is led by Adrian Delia: a man more vilified by Nationalists than even Muscat himself, if that were possible?

This, for instance, is how Manuel Delia – not exactly a Labour sympathiser - reacted to receiving a Christmas invitation from the PN last December: “But neither can you win without the people who voted PN in 2017 (in the case of some several thousands having voted PL in 2013) and who right now are looking at the PN’s Christmas Drinks invitation like it came from the aunt that stole all the silver when grandma died.” (And please note I went miles out of my way to quote that, because it’s such a spectacularly effective image.)

In this, Andrew Borg Cardona and Manuel Delia are on the same page. And I mean that literally: further down the same page, Borg Cardona posted a spoof picture of the PN’s invitation... photo-shopped to include a close-up of someone shooting his own foot off.

But the most resonant expression of this sentiment came from some random commentator (whose identity is unimportant) further below. This is what at least one Nationalist voter had to say about the situation engulfing that party: “Lots of PN fans like Delia precisely because he's pretty similar to Muscat. But this is precisely the reason why PN supporters like me won't be voting for the Party whilst Delia is leader. We don't want a party led by a Muscat clone. If he wins, we end up in the same mess as now.”

There: at least one Nationalist voter has an answer to my earlier question. ‘Vote PN, get... um... Labour’. Viewed from that angle... well, you may as well just cut out the middleman, and simply vote Labour to begin with. At least, you’d know what you’d be getting, whether you actually want it or not.

So once again: if I had even the remotest concern with whether or not the PN ever gets another stab at being in government, ever again... it’s voters like that I would be worried about. Those are the concerns I would be trying to address. It would, in a nutshell, be my own party I’d be trying to rebuild... or, for that matter, replace.

After all, the PN is hardly going to win a great many elections, just by hating everyone and everything... itself most of all.