Arrigo resigns as PN deputy leader, open rebellion: 17 MPs want Adrian Delia to resign

Arrigo resigns • Unprecedented public statement from PN parliamentary group: 17 MPs say Delia should consider whether he should stay on as leader in view of latest MaltaToday survey

PN leader Adrian Delia with his two deputy leaders, David Agius and Robert Arrigo
PN leader Adrian Delia with his two deputy leaders, David Agius and Robert Arrigo

The Nationalist Party’s parliamentary group is in open rebellion against embattled party leader Adrian Delia, with a substantial chunk of his MPs publicly declaring its disappointment at his insistence to stay on as leader.

PN deputy leader for party affairs Robert Arrigo has confirmed with MaltaToday that he has resigned from his post.

Over half the parliamentary group was clear during the meeting that Delia had to reckon with disastrous polling against the new Labour prime minister Robert Abela.

In an unprecedented statement, the PN’s MPs – clearly a majority of the group – said Delia was incorrect to tell the press he will stay on. “The clear agreement was that he would report back to the group and inform us of his decision, and not to give out statements.”

The PN leader was facing pressure to resign after polling data showed the Nationalist Party has been unable to gain ground despite the political turmoil government faced last December. Delia’s trust rating has hit its lowest level in two years, according to a MaltaToday survey released last Sunday and the PN reversed gains made towards the end of last year.

The group said 21 MPs participated in the “calm and serene” meeting.

“There are 17 MPs who feel Delia should consider whether he should stay on as leader in view of what these surveys have indicated, in the interest of the party but especially that of the country. There were four MPs who did not agree with this request, while others did not speak.

“Delia informed the group that he had taken note of what was said and assured the group he would be coming back with a decision over what was said.”

MaltaToday was told that apart from Jason Azzopardi, joining the fray were MPs Claudio Grech, Mario De Marco, Karol Aquilina, Beppe Fenech Adami, Ryan Callus, Chris Said, MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa, Karl Gouder, Marthese Portelli, Toni Bezzina, Kevin Cutajar, Claudette Buttigieg, and Therese Comodini Cachia.

Jason Azzopardi fires first shot

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi was first to accuse Delia of deceiving the parliamentary group by declaring to the public he will lead the PN to the next general election.

“Practically all MPs took part with genuine respect shown towards each other. In his concluding remarks [Delia] made it clear he was going to reflect on what was said to him and come back to us, keeping in mind the greater good of the party and the country.”

“Reading the comments given to the media now by Dr Delia, I feel very upset, deceived and honestly, flabbergasted,” Azzopardi, a former PN junior minister, said.

“I, and I’m sure all of us present were, was led to believe by Dr Delia’s seemingly sincere conclusion that he would take some days to reflect and come back with his decision. I’m gobsmacked reading that a mere five minutes after the conclusion of the meeting, the time to go downstairs to the waiting media, he categorically told the media that he had decided going to lead the PN to the next general elections.

“This is not on. I feel used and my good faith abused. I feel it was a complete waste of time. Sadly, I feel he had already decided and merely used the meeting as a ruse to give a veneer of credence to his pre-planned decision. This is not fair. This is not just.”

Azzopardi said Delia should have been “man enough” to tell his MPs he had already decided to stay on. “No matter what the absolute majority of the MPs told him bluntly today, he was going to simply ride roughshod over our positions and what the absolute majority of the electorate feels about him.”

Other MPs react

MPs who spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity agreed it was now time to stop playing to Delia’s tune.

“Being democratic and appeasing did not work with him, and we must now therefore take matters into our own hands,” one said. “Enough bullshit, we must do what’s best for our party and the country.”

Another MP agreed with the sentiment and said that all the parliamentary group, save a handful, had made it clear to Delia that he should step down now.

“We all agreed that we would make sure Delia’s exit would be dignified and not turn it into a public farce,” they said. “But then he went and blindsided everyone by telling the media he would remain, minutes after we had agreed he would take a couple of days the consider his position.”

One other MP also confirmed that Delia had agreed during last night’s meeting that he would be reflecting over the matter, only to subsequently tell the press that he had would be staying on.

The MP said that “almost all the parliamentary group” were expecting Delia to make the decision to start the needed transition for a new party leader.

“Delia was advised that he had to be the one to take the step for a leadership change to take place in an orderly and honourable way,” the MP said, highlighting that the decision to resign had to be done immediately, since there was “no time to waste.”

Deputy leader for party affairs Robert Arrigo stopped short of laying the blame for the status quo solely at Delia’s feet, instead saying that all the parliamentary group were to blame for the current situation.

“We should recognise that the fault lies in all the parliamentary group,” Arrigo said, “The past 30 months have been uselessly spent.”

Arrigo did not directly answer questions on whether he could confirm Azzopardi’s version of events, and did not specify what he thought Delia should do at this point.

MaltaToday is informed that the only members who spoke out in defence of Delia were party secretary-general Clyde Puli, deputy leader David Agius, as well as veteran MP Edwin Vassallo.

Interestingly enough, deputy leader for party affairs Robert Arrigo and Kristy Debono, who traditionally fell on Delia’s side in previous meetings, remained silent throughout Wednesday’s meeting.

And Hermann Schiavone, considered to be one of Delia’s staunchest supporters, joined the chorus of voices asking Delia to ‘consider his situation’.

The sources also said that two MPs seem to be prepared to make an official bid for the leadership.

“Claudio Grech and MEP Roberta Metsola have both been sounding us all out over the past two weeks, in a bid to determine possible support should they make an official move,” one MP said.

“I met both of them separately, as have many of my colleagues in the (parliamentary) group,” one said. “And although neither of them flat out said they were making a run on Delia, it was obvious they were gauging what support they would have should they make a bid for the leadership.”

MEP Roberta Metsola reacts

Nationalist MEP Robert Metsola reacted to Arrigo’s resignation announcement, stating that the “PN is going through a moment of turmoil”.

“In his role, he has given without taking and that's why anyone should be in politics,” she said.

She also said that last Wednesday’s parliamentary group statement is clear that “nothing can remain the same”.

“I understand everyone's need for an immediate answer - and a clear solution there must be - it must be one that provides clear parameters for the strengthening of the PN as a credible alternative Government,” she said.