Shrimp cocktail at the General Council

What is needed is a clear vision and a realisation that nobody owes the PN anything. Nor to any other party

I watched part of the proceedings from the short speeches at the PN General Council before Sunday’s speech by Nationalist leader Adrian Delia. I am sure that only news junkies like me would have tuned to the live Facebook stream or NET TV.

There were the usual recriminations, the fact that the Labour government is corrupt and only working to enrich itself and quite a number of references to the grandee Eddie Fenech Adami.

I waited earnestly for someone to trigger some oxytocin in my brain, that chemical that increases trust and bonding – just like in a relationship.

But I was taken aback by most of the speakers, most of them running in the local elections of 2019, seemingly plagued by the same mediocrity that plagued the Labour party in their anti-EU opposition heyday. There was something inside the PN that just did not look good.

The slogan ‘Wealth for All: In a Society That Cares’ is just not simple enough to kickstart that shift to the PN.

What is needed is a clear vision and a realisation that nobody owes the PN anything. Nor to any other party.

And nothing as dumb as a “smart migration” policy will serve to fill in the vacuum of this vision.

All the speakers’ pandering to cheap populist gains, some with a clear right-wing agenda, others riding on the nostalgia of the past, just won’t work.

I recall when in March 2013, in the last mass meeting for Gonzi et al, someone thought it was a great idea to drag Eddie Fenech Adami with a last-minute appearance at the mass meeting. His speech was as refreshing as a shrimp cocktail at some 1960s’ embassy reception.

His appearance had done nothing to alter the impending doom of Labour’s 36,000 majority. Surely nothing that came after could alter the 40,000 majority despite the political bloodbath of 2017.

And this is where Delia has to step in, to replace all the boring rhetoric of the General Council’s political neonates, with a speech that spells out the PN’s vision.

The second consideration that Delia must stay true to is to keep the economy in mind.

The latest twist to the state of the economy is that this feel-good factor will come to an end in two years’ time. But ask anyone for an indication of this and they come up with a mixture of shrugs, groans and croaks.

For when the economy is doing fine, one does not address a motley audience of councillors in ill-fitting suits to warn them that the threat to our country are foreign workers when everyone is crying for people to employ. One does not wave the red flag because we have too
much business.

The PN must jump on the bandwagon of success and argue for better efficiencies, the need to address new business concerns, and more intelligently of underlining how important the formative years in the previous administration were to ensure a strong economy.

And to think of the future and the threats of new industries, such as AI’s advances, to jobs.

But the third, very important point, is to highlight corruption and potential corrupt elements inside government.

Delia and individuals such as Mario De Marco think that the best way to talk about corruption is to repeat ad nauseam the allegations about top government officials. They believe that by mentioning them or finding the right metaphors they will tantalise the audience listening to them and the electorate beyond.

The truth is that most people will continue to vote if the economy is doing fine, and they are doing fine, and probably even take it for granted that all politicians are naturally corruptible.

Quite an unpleasant truth to behold. What they would like to hear from the Nationalist Party is what they will do to stop corruption or potential corruption in real terms: the checks and balances needed to prevent the entire political class from being corrupt.

Delia needs to come up with some very interesting and innovative ideas and proposals. Proposals that are workable.

When Simon Busuttil issued his good governance package, a whole stock of proposals were not workable because they applied lofty two-thirds parliamentary approvals for appointments that should enjoy the government’s confidence; there was serious overreach in some proposals that appeared to be using the ‘good governance’ banner as a way of coming down on critics, rather than holding the government to account.

The difficulty for Delia is an obvious one: his business and legal profession has placed him at the centre of controversial revelations. The same applies to other MPs.

So, unless his electorate can get on board some truly concrete proposals that will ensure that politicians become more transparent, more dedicated to their job and less prone to impropriety, there are going to be very few people willing to follow Delia’s narrative on this subject.

People may have forgotten how the Gharghur landscape or Xemxija skyline looked decades back, or how the prettiness of old Bahrija and Tower Road’s elegant townhouses were razed to the ground.

But the memories of a previous PN administration with all its crooked folk and nepotism is not too distant a memory from the past.

This article was written before Adrian Delia's speech on Sunday.