Labour hits back at PN over billboard gaffe with a billboard of its own

The Nationalist Party kicked off its European parliament election campaign this morning however proceedings quickly turned comical and controversial

The Labour Party was quick to pounce on a spelling mistake in one of the billboards erected by the PN this morning
The Labour Party was quick to pounce on a spelling mistake in one of the billboards erected by the PN this morning

The Nationalist Party’s electoral campaign for next month’s local council and European Parliament elections got off to a rocky start this morning, after a glaring spelling mistake was noticed in one of the billboards erected by the party around the island.

“Il-ħajja tkompli tgħola għalik (The cost of living keeps rising for you),” read the billboard, which misspelt the word togħla (rises).

The billboard, along with another one with the same slogan has since been replaced with a corrected version.

"The spelling mistake doesn’t change the message: cost of living is at an all time high," a PN spokesperson was quoted as saying.

But the PL couldn't help itself, with the faux pas leading to a premature start to the party's own billboard campaign, which will officially kick off on 1 May.

In a matter of hours, Labour hit back at the PN’s gaffe with a billboard of its own showing the PN’s slogan ‘Together for our country’, with the words: “Sorry, we’ve found another mistake” on top, and the word “for” crossed out and replaced with “against”.

The Labour Party and the government have repeatedly accused PN MEPs of working against Malta at a European level, and has sought to pin the blame for a raft of negative reports about the current state of Malta’s democracy on the PN.

Nationalist Party deputy leader Robert Arrigo later uploaded a photo of this morning’s Times of Malta’s front page which carried a photo of last Sunday’s Easter celebrations with the words “Easter mourning” underneath.

“Mistakes on Monday mourning, sorry morning. We as PN slipped too, and we excuse ourselves. However, we thank our boys for their voluntary work,” Arrigo wrote.

However, upon closer inspection, one realises that the news report was actually about how the traditional processions with the statue of the risen Christ were dampened by the bomb blasts in hotels and churches in Sri Lanka. Arrigo also slipped.

Negative campaigning controversy

But mistakes apart, the PN’s billboards have so far delivered a critical message, which in marketing terms is considered negative campaigning.

A billboard took direct aim at Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. The billboard depicts a celebratory Mizzi and is captioned “Corruption is a €725 million annual tax – A government that doesn’t care”.

The reference is to a study commissioned recently by the European Greens which estimated €725 million to be the overall cost of corruption on the Maltese nation.

Reacting to the billboard this morning, Alternattiva Demokratika said the PN had shot itself in the foot with the billboard.

“If only corruption was an issue with one person, it would be very easy to control,” AD said in Facebook post.

“The corruption reports and estimates in fact show how corruption has flourished throughout both Nationalist and Labour governments because of purposeful neglect and weak institutions. What the reports show is that it is the PLPN system which enables corruption. Maybe some should actually read things before shooting themselves in the foot. What the reports show is that PN and PL led administrations are accomplices in corruption.”

The PN’s choice of billboard appears to have also irked some within the party, with sister paper Illum publishing screenshots of messages circulated in closed party chats showing Nationalist Party Secretary General Clyde Puli pushing back against claims by some activists that the party was once again opting to focus on corruption in its campaign.

“We won’t only be criticising corruption, but also the cost of living and pensions,” Puli wrote, adding however that the party “would be criticizing because it is in Opposition and that is a part of its job”.

The critical voice from Ingrid Brownrigg, a former party candidate, urged the party to deliver a positive message because people were fed up of hearing about corruption, an issue the EU had very little influence on.

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