And then there was a party

What will not happen surely is the decapitation of Delia, and his replacement by a level-headed politician who brings some clarity and sense

What will not happen surely is the decapitation of Delia, and his replacement by a level-headed politician who brings some clarity and sense
What will not happen surely is the decapitation of Delia, and his replacement by a level-headed politician who brings some clarity and sense

There are those who argue that the Labour party has not quite won this round of elections and that it is only the PN which has diminished in votes. It is, of course, a very positive way of looking at the fact that the PL under Muscat has basically wiped out the PN for the third time running.

I have not heard one genuine, hand on heart declaration from those that militate in the PN of why this has happened. Everyone is blaming the factionalism that has torn apart the party, led by the likes of Beppe Fenech Adami and Jason Azzopardi, and the campaigns created by Clyde Puli and Pierre Portelli, with their lacklustre billboards, the lack of finances and of course, Adrian Delia.

But to me another problem is equally clear. Quite simply, the PN basically stands for nothing.

As it enjoys the nostalgia of its grand political history in leading Malta to its emancipation from colonisation, and then to integration into the EU, the once natural party of government is now in the dark.

Even potential leadership material like the successful MEP Roberta Metsola is unwilling to take on the floundering party’s command, to take on Muscat. And all other possible candidates are too busy making money for themselves in their lucrative occupations (when I say making money, I mean it… most leading PN MPs are enjoying influential jobs, retainers and even consultancies with the government – the others who are close to big business are taking handsome payments just to stay in line)… they’d be rather biding their time than take the reins of a burning wagon.

So those who believe the PN is dead as a party have no need to think twice. Right now it is a band of amateurs, drunk on past glories, who simply want to win the league because they think they have the divine right to swan into Castille and run the country. That kind of hubris is the shortest path to the graveyard (Labour, too, should take note of this possible pitfall…)

But the PN’s roots are not superficial. It has deep historical and cultural links with Maltese society that to many people makes it a reference point, a once-symbol for hope, indeed at a certain point in history, salvation for so many people. That was 30 years ago, when the country needed a change and was falling apart.

But to me another problem is equally clear. Quite simply, the PN basically stands for nothing

Today that landscape is different. Labour presides over an economic boom and big social changes, and with it new challenges, yet for many youths – unlike in the 1980s – never before has life in Malta offered so much opportunity, and with a new palette of multicultural experiences that serves society well. Sure enough, the flipside to Muscat’s project are grave concerns on good governance and the allegations of corruption, amplified in no uncertain way disproportionately by Brussels and MEPs while they conveniently ignored the scandals of ABLV, Dankse Bank, the cum ex scandal at Deutsche Bank, and of course, the panem et circenses of the City of London.

Yes: Pilatus Bank’s operations merit vigorous scrutiny, and mistakes were committed in facilitating the bank’s operations in the first place. Yet no financial advisor will disagree that the operations of this private bank are just a miniscule percentage of Maltese banking, hardly enough to reflect some systemic breakdown of financial governance.

Pilatus was under the scrutiny of certain investigators, and those stories were leaked – par for the course in our world – but they were turned into a running commentary to aid the Nationalist Party’s claim on power. This direct connivance proved fatal for the PN when the Egrant allegation failed to pass the muster, first journalistically, and then criminally and legally. That sin still hurts the PN today.

Instead of taking responsibility, we must listen to MEPs like Roberta Metsola and David Casa take the country to the cleaners, without perhaps justifying whether they saw it fit to submit someone like… Jean-Claude Juncker, erstwhile prime minister of Luxembourg and EPP doyen, when he was at the centre of the LuxLeaks scandal, giving favoured companies arriving at the Duchy sweetheart tax deals. A whistleblower is still facing the threat of incarceration for that – and yet, which of these Maltese MEPs called for Juncker’s exit?

The same can be said for the EPP’s kid gloves with Hungarian anti-EU leader Viktor Orban, or the cum ex scandal and the accusations that Deutsche Bank had laundered millions of euros for disreputable firms. The EPP was always willing to dilute the gravity of these stories. Neither Casa nor Metsola were in a position to suggest a reprimand for these countries, to request that the Federal Republic of Germany’s FIAU or financial regulator be torn to shreds, or face an Article 7 threat. Only small Malta was the right candidate for Brussels’ wrath.

In the end, the obsession of partisan gladiators seeking Muscat’s head on a plate left the public gasping for air, and so it switched off. Casa and Metsola retained the hardcore Nationalists, but they know their voters are not the game-changers that win elections.

They have now left the PN with three options: hobble on with Delia and hope for the best, end the disastrous romance, or split. The latter option would allow MPs like Simon Busuttil to run riot on their resilient narratives.

What will not happen surely is the decapitation of Delia, and his replacement by a level-headed politician who brings some clarity and sense. Some would hope for PN grandee Louis Galea to step in and take the reins during a transitionary period for the party. But the old guard is not going to get the PN anywhere. It’s like having to watch someone like Lawrence Gonzi pontificating about what Delia should do: not a good idea.

It was after all Gonzi who pressed the PN’s self-destruct button with his apartheid policy towards PN dissidents. That happened sometime in 2008… and that party still shows no signs of stepping down.

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