Was it all worth it? | Adrian Delia

Rejected by over two-thirds of the Nationalist Party members, outgoing leader ADRIAN DELIA opens up about the personal cost of his ill-fated, three-year leader-ship stint… but also vows to ‘continue the fight against injustice’

Adrian Delia
Adrian Delia

When you ran for Nationalist Party leader three years ago, part of your message was that the party had been ‘hijacked’ by a ‘small clique’. In light of the leadership election result: do you still stand by that view? How can almost 70% of the Nationalist Party’s membership be described as a ‘clique’?

That was, as you rightly say, part of the message I was trying to push forward three years ago. But if you look back at what was happening at the time… the real underlying battle-cry was: ‘A New Way’. Before even entering politics, I felt that there were many people out there – not just Nationalists, perhaps; but Nationalists in particular – who wanted the PN to go back to the people, and to no longer be ruled by those who, over the years, had reduced it to one electoral defeat after another.

That’s what I was hearing in the streets; and I think that, when I won [the 2017 leadership election], that is what people really wanted to see.

But it has since been evidenced that […] there were also those who not only didn’t want the situation to change; but who, from the very first day – even before, in fact – worked day and night, first to stop me from becoming leader in the first place; then to consistently put spokes in the wheels of my leadership, for three whole years.

But I carried on insisting: not for myself, but on behalf of those whom I represented, and who had voted for change.

Today, I can say that I am pleased with the [leadership election] result: in the sense that, if 67% are showing hope that the Nationalist Party can succeed in moving forward, under a new leader… that’s a good thing.

Doesn’t it also mean, however, that it wasn’t really true that the party had been taken over by a small group of people?

I don’t think that’s a matter of opinion, really. When you have a number of MPs who – while you’re still the party leader, elected for five years – go and ask the President to appoint a new Opposition leader… that’s not an opinion. That’s a statement of historical fact.

[…] What I can say for certain, however, is that – apart from putting spokes in the wheels, and not helping the party to grow under my leadership – they also blamed me for the state the Nationalist Party was in. One day it would be because of a survey; the next day, because of some ‘new information’ that came out; or on the basis of a newspaper editorial…

But let’s not beat about the bush. The reality is that… I’m not saying I’m perfect: far from it. I make mistakes, all the time. But I don’t think the solution to the PN’s problems should have been to remove the party leader; but rather, to remove the people who worked against the interests of both leader and party; and who persist in openly sowing division… creating a sense of disunity… preaching hatred…

I don’t believe in that. And my beliefs remain the same, whether I’m the party leader, a member of Parliament, or just an ordinary citizen. That’s why I will continue fighting for what I believe in…

You mention ‘unity’, but at the same time you are promising to keep up the fight against those who continually ‘put spokes in your wheels’. This means you will be contesting the next election, on the same party ticket as (among others) Jason Azzopardi. Meanwhile, others voices – e.g, Manuel Delia, Andrew Borg Cardona, etc.are calling for you to quit the party, in light of the result. How can the PN ever hope to achieve ‘unity’, under such circumstances?

I won’t say it ‘no longer bothers me’… but let’s just say I am now used to the fact that people like the ones you mention consistently attack me on a personal level. It’s something I disagree with, naturally… and not because they attack me. I don’t think anyone should be attacked personally: in politics or anywhere else.

But it especially bothers me that these people are not just attacking me; but also the party that I love… not to mention other people. You can’t call people ‘vermin’ [grieden], or ‘monsters’. You can’t divide people into ‘first, second, and third-class Nationalists’. You and I, for instance. We don’t know each other well, and we may not agree on a lot of things. But it doesn’t mean that I can insult you personally. It doesn’t mean I can label you ‘stupid’, or ‘ignorant’, or ‘third-class’ – still less ‘vermin’, or a ‘monster’ – simply because we disagree. Is that what politics should be about? Clearly, no. So let’s change it…

That is what precisely you said you were going to do three years ago…

… and I failed?

Some might see it that way, yes…

But who told you I’m giving up? Who said the fight is over? […] If you’ll remember, three years ago I said that I was going to fight, not just against corruption… but also against hatred. I said that as party leader; but the fact that I am no longer party leader today, doesn’t mean that I will stop my fight against hatred.

If I want to do some good in society, because I feel that the party in government is corrupt… I will not stop fighting corruption, just because I am no longer PN leader. It’s not about where you are in life; it’s about who you are. To put it another way: when I fought against corruption in Maltese football… I didn’t do it because I was party leader. You don’t have to be a party leader, to fight against injustice.

On the contrary: the very fact that you are fighting these battles because you believe in justice – and not because you stand to gain any political benefit or advantage – can only strengthen your credibility.

And it’s the same with democracy. Three years ago, the party delegates elected a leader: not just for the sake of it, but for that leader to serve the full five-year term.  If I believed in democracy back then… do I stop believing in democracy, just because the voted against me this time round? No.

So today, when 67% of the tesserati chose someone else to lead the party: that decision has to be respected. It has to be fought for. We have to say, ’we are loyal to the party, and therefore to the tesserati’s decision… and therefore, to the leader.’

That’s why, literally minutes before the result was announced – because it was clear where things were going – I made an appeal for the decision to be respected. And I said I am ready to offer my full loyalty to my new party leader – and I salute him from here – but also that we have to protect him from those who will try to hinder him from working… from those who want to be the ones to dictate matters, and set the party’s agenda for him… as they did to me.

You seem to be suggesting that the same people who worked against you as party leader, will go on to similarly shackle Bernard Grech. Do you think that Grech will suffer your same fate?

It’s not me who’s saying that; they’re saying it themselves. Earlier, you mentioned Manuel Delia. On his blog, he wrote [something along the lines of]: ‘we put you [Bernard Grech] where you are; so if you want to stay there, you had better to do what we tell you.’ Since when is the Nationalist Party owned by Manuel Delia? Or by Repubblika? Or by ‘Occupy Justice’… who have now, by that argument, become ‘Occupy PN’?

I don’t believe in that kind of politics.  I believe that the party leader should be given the space and authority to serve his full term. So Bernard Grech should not give in to any pressure; he should not be forced to accept an agenda set for him by others.  On the contrary: he has to be his own man; his own leader. And I will protect, defend and help him to do that…

You seem to be echoing a point made by Joseph Muscat this week: that the same ‘klikka’ which worked against you, will now turn their guns onto the new leader. Isn’t it ironic that you and the former Labour prime minister are using the same argument?

I didn’t watch the Joseph Muscat interview. All I can say is that, when it comes to Joseph Muscat, what interests me is not ‘what he thinks about the Nationalist Party’. It is how he managed to take a country that had a golden reputation, and cast it into the abyss of international opprobrium and condemnation. How we had a strong economy, and he managed to wreck it. How he spent years playing the populist card, and now suddenly comes out in favour of abortion. That’s what interests me about Joseph Muscat… not his views about the PN.

One last question: and it’s a personal one, if you don’t mind. Your three-year stint as Nationalist Party leader has undeniably taken its toll. It has arguably cost you your marriage, your family life… even your home, as attested by reports that you were sleeping at the PN headquarters. Looking back on it all today… was it worth it, in the end?

First of all – and maybe I’m pouring out here – I honestly wouldn’t want anyone else to go through the same experience… that, when people cannot win you over you by arguments, or persuasion, or a hundred other things, they resort to threats, or attacking your family.

I won’t say ‘it’s not fair’ - because let’s face it: life isn’t fair – but how can we ever hope to attract people to politics, if at the same time we show them that, when people do try to make a contribution – however big, small, good or bad – we destroy them, and destroy the people around them? Who will ever be attracted to politics this way?

I myself might be very strong; but those other people – my friends, my family, and so on – maybe they’re not that strong.  And they will continue to suffer.

[…] But to go back to your question: was it all worth it? [Pause] I lost… and believe me, I lost a lot… but the truth is, I also gained. ‘In giving, there is taking’… because you also discover loyalties that you never knew about before. You realise that there are people out there – old acquaintances, perhaps, that you haven’t been in touch with in years – who, at the moment of need, will be there for you.

Until just yesterday, I had the privilege of going into people’s homes; and within five minutes, they would start confiding even their most personal and intimate issues…because they believe they can trust me. They believe I can help them, or give them hope…

I also have the privilege of not having given up. Those people who trusted me, who wanted me [to stay on leader]… I didn’t fail them. I may not have succeeded in getting to where they wanted me to be; but what is certain is that I continued fighting for what I believe in; and I will continue to fight.. even more so now than before, in fact.

So to answer you bluntly: I have no regrets; and if I had to do it all over again… I would.