[WATCH] There must be something very wrong with the PN’s attitude | Adrian Delia

For former PN leader ADRIAN DELIA, the electorate’s message was crystal-clear. It’s not that Maltese voters are ‘comfortable with corruption’; it’s that they’re uncomfortable with the attitude of a party that refuses to acknowledge its mistakes

Nationalist MP Adrian Delia: the former leader was elected on two constituencies
Nationalist MP Adrian Delia: the former leader was elected on two constituencies
There must be something very wrong with the PN’s attitude | Adrian Delia

While the results of the last election were dismal for the PN, the same cannot be said about your own performance. After having been deposed as PN leader two years ago, not only did you get elected from two districts; but many of the MPs who rebelled against your leadership, either fared poorly, or failed to get elected at all. How do you interpret the significance of your own electoral result?

Let me put it this way: when you try and analyse the data of an election, there are a number of things you need to look at. First, there is the impression you get from people in the street; and the perceived reactions that you also pick up from tabloids, newspapers, etc. Then, there is the raw scientific data.

And there are several aspects to both. In fact, my own first reaction – fresh after the election result – was a [Facebook post] about the ‘Day of Reflection’. My point was that: on the Friday before voting, we give the electorate a ‘Day of Reflection’ for voters. But shouldn’t we – the politicians – also have at least one ‘Day of Reflection’? When there is so much for us to reflect about?

Was that your only reaction, though? Did you not celebrate your own success in private, having been elected in two districts?

No, I didn’t; and I’ll tell you why. It’s a question of ‘mixed reactions’. Don’t forget that [in an election campaign] you will never be on your own. Not just at the counting hall; but also at those moments when you rush home, to maybe get something to eat… at all times, you will be surrounded by other people. There will be your own volunteers; your own team; and then, the people of the party.

Because there are two races going on, in any election: your own personal race; and the race of the party as a whole. So when you see that your own party… I won’t say ‘lost’; because that, in itself, was not unexpected. I don’t think there was any real surprise, there… but looking at the overall result, it is obvious that there will be mixed reactions. On one hand, [the election showed that] people recognised the validity of what I was saying; but at the same time, my own party fell behind; and fell behind, by a lot…

When you say ‘people recognised the validity of what you were saying’; doesn’t that mean that they also rejected what others in your party said about you? Do you feel any sense of what the Germans call ‘schadenfreude’: taking pleasure, in the displeasure of others?

I’m not that type of person, really. I’m more the type who takes pleasure, when the country is doing well. I always say – and this is something that is said by many voters, at both poles of the political spectrum – that the country cannot ‘do well’, when there is only one winning party that gets to dominate everything, with an even larger majority.

Because that becomes ‘domination’; which is not a good thing, in itself; and which clearly does not benefit anybody…

But this election illustrated more than just a record defeat for the Nationalist Party. It also revealed that both Labour and PN alike seem to be losing their appeal with the electorate. Labour lost 8,700 votes; and the PN – which was already in free-fall, throughout the campaign – lost almost 12,000. How do you account for that?

There were 51,000 who didn’t vote; around nine thousand who invalidated their ballots; and others who voted either Labour or Pn in the past, who voted for smaller parties this time. Now: some of those may have been people who were complaining [about specific issues]; but some of them were also using their vote to send out a specific message.

But I can’t tell you exactly what this message was, in each and every case; for that, you need to look into who these people actually are; and talk to them.

But yes: the major parties are certainly in decline. Not just in Malta, but everywhere in Europe. We, perhaps, tend to take a little more time, to reach the stage where established parties get weaker; and smaller parties – which, in certain countries, unfortunately also include those at the extreme ends of the spectrum – get stronger.

On top of that, there is also the impact of the 16-18-year-olds [who were given the right to vote for the first time]. Unfortunately, we don’t have precise scientific data in hand; but what I heard on my house-visits – and from friends, and other parents like myself – was mostly along the lines that: ‘My kids are not even bothered to go out and vote.’ That could also be part of the phenomenon.

What is certain, however – and this is something I saw, heard, and felt myself – is that there were disgruntled Labourites, who didn’t want to vote for their own government this time round: so much so, that the Labour Party made a tremendous effort, at a certain time on voting day, to bring out the vote. But these had no interest in voting for the PN, either.

Then, there were people who had voted Nationalist in 2017 – and I don’t even call them ‘Nationalists’ any more: they are simply people who have traditionally voted PN in the past – who are clearly not happy…

What’s your own interpretation for that, though? Why, in your experience, do you think those Nationalists are unhappy? And why did those disgruntled Labourites not take the step of voting PN in this election?

The reasons are many, and various. For instance: there are those traditionally-Labour voters, who – when they look at the Nationalist Party – see that there are still elements within it, who display a certain sentiment of ‘elitism’. And this makes them uncomfortable, supporting that party.

Conversely, there are those traditionally-Nationalist voters who still refuse to ever vote Labour… but who remain unconvinced about their own party: because it hasn’t changed, or regenerated, enough.

On both sides, then, there is an ever-growing number of people – which, at over 60,000, has never been higher, than in this election – who are simply not comfortable voting for any party at all. So I would say that both parties need to analyse, and deeply reflect on this result. Both need to do an ‘examination of conscience’.

Having said this, the Nationalist Party does need to examine its conscience slightly more. Because it did not just ‘lose’ this election; it was defeated, it in a way that we haven’t actually seen since 1955. So the analysis it needs to carry out, has to be far more in-depth than ever before. It can’t just be a case of discussing ‘values’, and ‘principles’, as usual. It is our entire attitude that needs to change.

Because let’s be honest: there must be something very wrong with our attitude, if so many people are abandoning the party, and we are not attracting any new support. And even the way we address existing shortcomings, or how we respond to complaints: we cannot carry on saying that, “Oh, it’s because those people ‘didn’t understand’ our message; or because they ‘were bought’…”

No! It’s the other way round. We are the ones who ‘don’t understand’, when we say things like that. And that is why we keep failing to get the desired results. So if we are to truly to regenerate the party: our point of departure has to be ‘humility’ […]

This is something I learnt, even from my own experience; not just in politics (because I have limited political experience, at the end of the day) but even just as a man with a family; as someone who has worked as a lawyer for 30 years; and as someone who spent all my life rubbing shoulders with many, many people, from all social strata, and walks of life.

You can never generalise. I could never have the audacity to judge others, myself. Because if I am in politics… I am the one who’d be at fault, for not understanding others. Not the other way round…

Let’s go back to when you were elected PN leader, in 2017. From the very outset – even before – you were on the receiving end of criticism: for being perceived as a ‘Labour Trojan Horse’; as well as for your connections with businessmen involved in a Soho prostitution racket. Don’t you think it was problematic, on your part, to contest that leadership election at all, under those circumstances? Didn’t it limit your ability to criticise the government over corruption, for instance?

Let me put it this way: at the time, it would never have even entered my mind, in a thousand years, that anyone would pick on something like [the Soho connection] – with which there was absolutely nothing ‘wrong’, or ‘illegal’; I was just doing my job, within the parameters of the law – and then spin it, in a way that was completely false, and dishonest, to cast a dark shadow over my reputation.

No, that didn’t even cross my mind, when I took the decision to contest for the leadership…

But do you think that’s the real reason why so many Nationalist MPs opposed you?

No, not at all. It wasn’t because of any ‘service’ I was supposed to have rendered to criminals; the real reason was because some people had a personal interest in spinning it; in turning it around, into something that it wasn’t… and to keep persisting with that fabrication.

But to answer your question more directly: yes, at the time it did work to my disadvantage. If you have exponents of your own party who are working to undermine you – instead of supporting and helping you, as leader – isn’t it obviously going to be a disadvantage?

But then, if you look at what actually emerged, from that point on, from all those rumours and allegations about me… Nothing! What actually happened, after all that, was that those people who said those things about me, had to either retract their words; or even make a declaration, in writing, that what they said was a lie. A lie…

I take it you’re referring specifically to the spat between yourself and Jason Azzopardi…

No, I wasn’t referring to that. I was talking only in generic terms…

… nonetheless, that incident resulted in a patchy ‘compromise’, hammered out by Bernard Grech, which only revealed the sheer extent of the fall-out within the party. Now, we’ve all seen the election result. Jason Azzopardi is no longer an MP (though he might regain his seat in the casual election). Don’t you think, however, that the PN still needs voices like Jason Azzopardi: who was, at the end of the day, a Nationalist bulwark against Labour corruption?

Look: when we are still just a few days after an election, it is certainly not my place to dictate who should, or should not, be the people’s representatives in parliament. It would arrogant of me, or anyone else, to say: ‘yes, that one should’; or ‘no, that one shouldn’t’… when the people have only just spoken! Surely, we should be listening to what the people have decided; not taking that decision ourselves…

But doesn’t their decision also mean that the people are ‘irritated’, by consistent anti-corruption voices like those of Jason Azzopardi… or Karol Aquilina?

Or Adrian Delia: who also fought a battle against the corrupt [VHS] hospitals deal. Now: was there a single [Nationalist MP} who did not support me, in that battle? Was there anyone who said that I wasn’t putting up a good fight? And was there a single one – all the way down to today –  who claimed that I uttered a word against anyone else, that wasn’t true? Was what I said, mere ‘speculation’? Or did I base myself only on the facts? 

Ultimately, the people are capable of seeing, and weighing up, these things...

Coming back to your earlier point about ‘elitism’, though: isn’t there some truth to the perception that the typical Maltese voter has come to see the anti-corruption battle itself, as an ‘elitist’ cause? And if so, isn’t that a dangerous path to take?

I don’t see it that way, myself. I speak out against corruption; and like you yourself said, I got elected from two districts. So no, I don’t think he issue is whether politicians ‘speak about corruption’, or not. It’s more about HOW they speak about corruption.

It is one thing to take action to remove corruption; or to fight against corruption, and injustice. But it’s another thing altogether if your tonality is always… ‘extreme’. And it is the people – not me – who are making their own judgment, on such matters.

And their judgment is not just ‘clear’. It’s as clear as crystal…