Party clubs: what future?

It's time for the parties to carry out a reality check and realise that these clubs have become anachronistic.

Cartoon by Mark Scicluna
Cartoon by Mark Scicluna

The party clubs have come under the spotlight in the last few days. Alleged drug trafficking, along with the traditional arguments and fights, seem to be the order of the day. The stark reality is that these clubs, rather than being the centre of political formation or discussion, are fast becoming the centre for undesirable people who seek refuge.

Not all clubs suffer from this malaise, but many of them do.

Traditionally, they have also been places where one can easily hobnob with politicians. It's time that both political parties carry out a value assessment and see if they are in fact benefiting in any way from their existence or rather whether they have become a liability; a stain on the party's reputation.

What checks and balances do the parties exercise on these centres?

Are their barmen chosen following an examination of their police conduct certificate? Are the police called in immediately after an offence takes place, or only after a breach of the law is witnessed?

Recent revelations clearly show that the tendency is to avoid calling in the police at all costs, so as not to blemish the club reputation. Hardly an example of the kind of good practice that is expected from our political class. Is there an age threshold ensuring that young children do not enter these clubs? What law regulates these clubs? What control is there on any fundraising activities that take place in these centres of political activity?

Traditionally, these clubs were places where people with similar political views would hang out. They gave these persons a feeling of togetherness and belonging, which may have been a positive force in the darker 60s and 80s. They also allowed the parties to gauge their support in a particular village and to serve as street leaders, transmitting political allegiances to the party machinery.

Their very existence and importance however has been on the wane ever since the local councils were set up. The more local councils grew in importance, the smaller the role of the party clubs became, as they could no longer dispense their patronage to cater to the bread-and-butter needs of the residents.

Immediately, calls for electricity and water or road improvements started being made to the local council, with the result that the clubs began to gradually lose all their importance as 'centres of favours'.

The shift from club members elected by a handful of exclusively party members to local councillors elected from the whole village has been a democratic upgrade, and the experience of local councils has been extremely positive insofar as standards of cleaning, parking, traffic signs, waste collection and general order in a locality have all improved.

With this background in mind, it's time for the parties to carry out a reality check and realise that these clubs have become anachronistic. It's time to think out of the box and consider all possibilities. Firstly: should the buildings housing these clubs be sold, allowing the parties to realise their assets in the form of buildings very often in prime positions in the various villages? The monies realised would go a long way to reducing the big debts which both parties have arising from running unsustainable media.

If they are to be retained, then their very purpose needs to be re-examined. Can they be turned into real centres of political training and formation with libraries and modern learning tools? Can they be centres where talks, seminars and conferences take place?

Can they be changed into centres of sport, with gym and training facilities? Can they be changed into youth centres? Is it worth considering changing them into a centre where the elderly from the village can meet and socialise?

These are just a few examples to which use the clubs can be put. By so doing, they will be enjoyed by more people in a cleaner atmosphere and away from the centres of illegality that many of them have become.

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Joseph Pace
This is the usual issue, no major Political Party will take the first step to start closing up. It's another proof of how backward both parties are. Move on, will you? Treat people with intelligence not mud slinging and half truths or father christmasing...