[WATCH] Gżira mayor opens up on Robert Abela: ‘No way to lead a country’

In the days after his resignation from the Labour Party, Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manchè sits down with Matthew Farrugia to discuss the party’s dwindling popularity, socialism and his political future 

Conrad Borg Manche resigned from the Labour Party last week (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Conrad Borg Manche resigned from the Labour Party last week (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Government’s string of bad decisions and foot-dragging on certain issues are to blame for the Labour Party’s loss of popularity, independent Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manchè believes. 

Borg Manchè speaks to MaltaToday just a few days after quitting the Labour Party. In a letter of resignation sent to the party’s top brass, he cited a litany of reasons, including government’s stubbornness and subsequent U-turn on the Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry. 

The Gżira mayor says he was considering resigning from the party during that particular episode. "I regret not quitting at that time... I felt I was in the wrong party,” he says. 

Borg Manchè adds that his resignation was met with complete silence by Prime Minister Robert Abela and the PL’s administration. “They’re either not interested or they’re afraid of my reaction if they respond; honestly, I don’t know what to make of it,” the mayor says. 

He reflects on the significant abstention rate at the last general election, which was strongly reflected in MaltaToday’s October survey published on 8 October. 

“The people are tired of the current system, myself included,” he says, calling the two-party system, “a vicious cycle” that does not benefit the electorate. 

On his future political aspirations, Borg Manchè says he is unsure whether he should contest next year’s local council election.  

And while he does not exclude a career move into national politics in the future, he has no concrete plans for this at the moment. 

The following are excerpts from the interview. Watch the full interview on our website and Facebook or listen on Spotify.

If you had to boil down the reasons behind your resignation and your anger towards the PL, how would you group it all together? 

First of all I was a member of the PL because of my beliefs. Everyone knows that I have a different background but I’ve always stuck to my beliefs. I was a socialist, I still am and I will always be a socialist and I’ve always wanted to stand up for the little guy... There was a clear example of how a worker’s party should have acted [in the Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry]. If there is a worker appealing for an inquiry, you cannot go against that call... I told the Prime Minister to his face: 'Thank God that I’m not with you in parliament because I would’ve voted against you.’ I know that there were ministers who voted against their own wishes. 

And then he changed his mind because of a protest. That’s no way to lead a country. I’m not saying that he shouldn't have changed his decision but when you’re a leader, you have to be sure of your decision.  

You’ve described yourself as a socialist, however you do have your own conservative beliefs. You came out against an event that promoted equality to children. 

Let’s just say we can promote equality through other means. I have children of my own. I don’t want my son to come home and ask me questions that he shouldn’t ask. You don’t need a drag queen to explain equality. All you need is to talk with your children and they’ll understand. We can explain equality in a more educational manner, rather than placing unnecessary questions in children’s heads. There were people who interpreted what I said as me being against civil liberties. That’s absolutely not the case. I believe everyone has the right to live as they please without bothering anyone.   

What’s so wrong with children seeing a drag queen? 

It can be avoided. President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca has just said that children nowadays are stressed before they’re born. Why should we add these questions when children are already stressed? For me, children’s innocence is sacrosanct. When they’re aged between zero and nine years old, children are forming their character. My kids are seven and four years old. I love their innocence. Why should they ask certain questions, and then research certain topics, turning their curiosity into other things? 

You resigned on the same day that MaltaToday’s survey was published. It seems you’re not the only Labourite who feels estranged from the party. What do you make of people’s anger towards Labour? 

I can only speak for myself. For example this foot-dragging on a public garden [the Gżira Garden]. All this fanfare when we complete a minor project, but when it comes to a garden that should’ve started at the beginning of the legislature, we do nothing because there are private interests... Everyone expects government to make good decisions. No arguments there. You can’t make mistakes like these in a country this small. And I won’t even call that case a mistake because it was intentional. But money cannot trump public interest. 

There were many decisions that I wasn’t in favour of. For example I had given advice during the pandemic [against an amnesty to those fined for breaching social distancing rules] that was ignored and ultimately government was humiliated [when the Prime Minister made the suggestion]. 

Is government leading the country or is it being lead? These issues anger me greatly, I’ve been patient for long enough but now I’ve had it.