Fearne, Muscat and the Labour leadership

Muscat’s Qormi statement makes Fearne’s ambitions increasingly difficult to attain. Muscat has – in not so many words – told him to back off

Last Sunday I wrote how Konrad Mizzi might cost Chris Fearne the Labour Party leadership. It is a well-known fact that the rivalry between Mizzi and Fearne who both contest and get elected from the same electoral district, is big – and that is to put it mildly.

Konrad Mizzi has no ambitions to contest the Labour leadership. He did, but that ship has long sailed. If Chris Fearne succeeds Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi’s days in politics are counted. But that’s a big ‘if’ – for there are two factors which might cost Fearne the leadership.

Two Sundays ago, I stated the obvious: Chris Fearne’s refusal to scrap the Vitals Global Healthcare deal, negotiated by Konrad Mizzi, might cost Fearne the leadership. The Vitals deal is scandalous. Millions of tax-payers’ money have been lost, unaccounted for – and the people behind Vitals remain a mystery to this day. From the Prime Minister downwards, no one wants to tell the people of Malta who owns Vitals. Chris Fearne had a golden opportunity to scrap that deal, and start afresh. He did not – for a number of reasons: primarily because Konrad Mizzi has the Prime Minister’s and Keith Schembri’s support.

People in the know say that Muscat won’t seek a third term but he doesn’t want anyone, especially Chris Fearne, to muscle in on his authority

The second major hurdle faced by Chris Fearne in his quest to claim the top post is the Prime Minister himself. Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister, interviewed by radio show host Andrew Azzopardi, reaffirmed his intention not to contest the next general election.

Muscat had already stated a few days after his second landslide victory that he won’t be seeking a third term. Two weeks ago, he reminded us of that promise. As expected, the Prime Minister’s statement created shock waves within the Labour Party – and behind closed doors his potential successors ignited their leadership campaign machines. At the forefront are Chris Fearne, and Labour MEP Miriam Dalli. They are the clear favourites to succeed Muscat, although MP Robert Abela cannot be dismissed.

However, within a few days after the Andrew Azzopardi interview, the Prime Minister poured cold water over his announcement and at the Qormi Labour Party club stated that he won’t stop midway. As expected, that was met with a warm round of applause from his audience. I’m sure that Chris Fearne, and his people weren’t amused.

Muscat secured two landslide victories for the Labour Party, and he is viewed by many as the man who brought Labour back in from the cold. When he leaves, his legacy would be a stronger Labour party – and that’s a feather in his cap – but as Prime Minister, that’s a different matter. No legacy to speak of – unless rampant construction and the sale of passports scheme qualify as ‘political legacies’ – which I think they do not. But that’s not the purpose of this article.

People in the know say that Muscat won’t be seeking a third term. He would step down after the European Parliament election but in the meantime he doesn’t want anyone, especially Chris Fearne, to muscle in on his authority. Muscat showed this through his ‘I won’t stop midway’ statement in Qormi.

Chris Fearne’s chances to bag the Labour Party leadership are becoming increasingly difficult. It’s an uphill struggle for the health minister. Konrad Mizzi’s Vitals deal – which Fearne refuses to scrap, might cost Fearne the leadership.

Mizzi’s friendship with Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri also weakens Fearne’s chances.

But it is Joseph Muscat, and his Qormi statement which makes Chris Fearne’s ambitions increasingly difficult to attain. The Prime Minister has – in not so many words – told him to keep his place; to back off because he doesn’t want Fearne to muscle in on his authority – not now, not ever.

Frank Psaila presents Iswed Fuq l-Abjad on Net TV

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