Making the proposals known

The two motions tabled by the Labour Party against Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Malta’s Permanent Representative to the EU Richard Cachia Caruana call into question the strategy being adopted by Labour.

While believing that the Nicholas Azzopardi tragedy and the easy access to drugs in prison are grounds for questioning the grip Mifsud Bonnici has on his portfolio, one cannot help but ask whether these motions are being tabled in an attempt to simply embarrass the government or whether Labour really believe that their motions will be approved by parliament.

Whatever its motives, it seems that Labour has learnt little from its failed vote of confidence in government, presented last January. It is becoming abundantly clear that Labour is only tabling these motions conditioned by the belief that a backbencher will also vote in its favour. If not based on such a premise, the tabling of these motions is political folly. The Labour strategy is being dictated and is dependent on a belief - or possibly - of an assurance that a backbencher will back the motion. The tabling of the motions appear egged on by backbenchers who so far - when push comes to shove - have failed to 'play the game'.

In such a scenario, Labour risks denting its credibility and creating the impression that they are hell-bent on achieving power by tailing onto backbench disgruntlement. With hindsight, the Labour leader would have been well-advised not to have tabled the vote of confidence, the result of which left him with egg on his face. He should simply have allowed Franco Debono to carry on with his daily theatrics - which were haemorrhaging a weakened government like a sort of Chinese torture - while allowing Labour to simply gloat on the sidelines.

Similar questions arise in the motions being debated. Why did Labour attempt to modify the motion on Mifsud Bonnici by adding a call for his resignation? Was a vote of censure not sufficient? Would any minister censured by the highest institution in the land not resign soon after the vote was successfully passed? Political correctness demands nothing less. The continuous attacks on Mifsud Bonnici and Cachia Caruana risk being seen as witch-hunts, which are ironically fostering a sense of sympathy for the minister and the permanent secretary.

The timing of these motions also appears suspect. With the economic European climate verging on crisis point and electorate political fatigue taking over, was it wise to table these motions? Does it not appear as though the thirst for power is taking over sensitivity for the day-to-day concerns of the citizens? An electorate bombarded with bad economic news all around Europe may consider these motions as somewhat capricious when well-being and living standards in Malta have fared relatively well in comparison to the European mainland, with high unemployment and no growth.

Labour must come to terms with the probability of a delayed general election - possibly in March - and use the remaining months to carry on winning the voters' trust.

This is further won by making known its concrete proposals regarding the economy, education and health. It must set out its proposals and place them before the electorate for public scrutiny. We are assured that meritocracy will be the order of the day, yet we are not told what corrective measures to outlaw nepotism-mad party affiliation will be taken.

The tendency of all opposition parties to pamper to all sections of society leaves it vulnerable to contradictions. How can one encourage development and allay the fears of environmentalists? Waiting queues are rightly criticised, yet we are not told how they will be contained. The shortcomings of the reformed transport system is rightly exposed, yet what changes are in store, we do not know. We are told that poverty is on the increase, though the way to eliminate and/or reduce it is not explained. In a nutshell: Labour needs to tell us all how it intends to change this country, rather than just clamour for change.

The stakes are high, and with the growing economic malaise in Europe, the election could be fought on the battlefield of the economy rather than on the desire for change. The electorate may well consider it risky to change the economic captaincy of the ship of State. Its up to Labour to concretely expose its economic platform, showing that the ship of State will be in safe hands under its direction.

The electoral call could well be, "why risk?" - rather than, "it's time for a change". Labour must use the next nine months to convince the electorate that it has what it takes. The polls show its great lead, and it appears insurmountable for government to roll back Labour's lead. Its leaders' trust is far ahead of the Prime Minister's.

It has all going for it to win the next election. So why not show us the beef, rather than keep its proposals up its sleeve?


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