Updated | Bernard Grech caves in, most PN MPs hang on to shadow portfolios

Backlash forces Bernard Grech to retain Nationalist MPs Stephen Spiteri and Robert Arrigo as shadow spokespersons for health and tourism respectively • Claudio Grech given task to prepare PN manifesto

PN leader Bernard Grech
PN leader Bernard Grech

Updated at 11.55am with PN official communication

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech was forced to retain most of the MPs in their current shadow positions after facing backlash from his parliamentary group and their constituents.

Stephen Spiteri and Robert Arrigo were retained as spokespersons for health and tourism respectively after facing stiff opposition from their constituents. In the case of tourism, an MP who was offered the portfolio said he did not want to take it off Arrigo.

The PN has communicated the official list of portfolios this afternoon.

Grech also did a U-turn on Mario Galea and reappointed him as spokesperson for mental health and animal rights after having initially withdrawn the mental health portfolio.

The changes were forced on Grech after a radical reshuffle of portfolios unsettled the PN parliamentary group and caused backlash in some of the districts where the MPs hail from.

The party’s 2nd District committees yesterday evening threatened to resign en masse if Spiteri, a popular doctor, was removed from his portfolio in what was perceived as a demotion. Arrigo rebelled after being deprived of the tourism portfolio.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the PN confirmed that Beppe Fenech Adami retained responsibility for home affairs and national security. Mario De Marco was confirmed as spokesperson for finance and Carm Mifsud Bonnici also retained responsibility for foreign affairs.

Chris Said has been confirmed as spokesperson for Gozo and Edwin Vassallo retained agriculture, fishing and small business. Ivan Bartolo remains responsible for social accommodation and the fight against poverty. Toni Bezzina remains responsible for transport and infrastructure, a portfolio that was initially taken away from him.

Clyde Puli retained education and had sport added to his responsibility. Deputy leader David Agius was confirmed responsible for family affairs and children's rights.

Kristy Debono is now spokesperson for the economy, in what is seen as a boost for the 9th District MP.

Robert Cutajar, previously responsible for youths, lifelong sports, NGOs and the fight against obesity, has now been assigned the environment and climate change portfolio. He remains Whip of the parliamentary group.

Karol Aquilina had good governance taken from him and is now spokesperson for justice. Good governance is now the responsibility of Therese Comodini Cachia.

Comodini Cachia handed human rights and good governance

The former MEP was also left smarting after declining to accept a portfolio to shadow only the media, after Grech clipped her responsibilities.

She previously shadowed national heritage, the arts, culture and media. However, Grech recanted and now Comodini Cachia will be shadowing human rights and good governance, a portfolio close to her profession as a lawyer who has practised extensively in the European Court of Human Rights.

Comodini Cachia had stepped aside from contesting the leadership contest last summer in a move that ensured Grech was the only candidate to take on Adrian Delia.

Radical changes

Another radical change is that concerning Jason Azzopardi’s removal from the justice portfolio to be given responsibility for work, Malta Enterprise and industrial relations.

Kevin Cutajar is now responsible for European funds and voluntary organisations. Local government remains under Karl Gouder.

Claudette Buttugieg is now spokesperson for social policy and the family.

Another forced change appears to be that involving David Thake, who was initially deprived of the environment portfolio to be given research and development in an apparent demotion. Thake has now been confirmed as spokesperson for the green economy and capital projects.

Claudio Grech was appointed to a new role in his party, becoming responsible for policy transformation inside the PN.

Party sources said Grech, a management consultant who has previously shadowed the health and economy portfolios, will be placed in a “significant” position that will transform and innovate the PN’s policy, its programme, and initiatives.

“Bernard Grech has been focused on gearing up the PN for the general election,” said one source close to the Opposition leader, who was yesterday caught in the middle of a storm over his shadow cabinet reshuffle, which had been left unattended since his election last year.

Claudio Grech will also be responsible for drafting the party's electoral manifesto and coordinating the policy clusters.

Upon agreement with Bernard Grech, former PN leader Adrian Delia was assigned any portfolio.

Full list of PN spokespersons and shadow portfolios

Bernard Grech, Opposition leader

David Agius, deputy leader parliamentary affairs
Inclusion and quality of life: Responsible for pensions, children, inclusion and social well-being

Robert Arrigo, deputy leader for party affairs

Robert Cutajar, Whip
Environment and climate change: Environmental policy, waste management, urban greening and Natura 2000 sites

Karol Aquilina, secretary of the parliamentary group
Justice: Justice and electoral reform

Kevin Cutajar, deputy Whip
European funds and voluntary organisations: European funds, state aid and NGOs

Karl Gouder, deputy Whip
Local government, national heritage and youth: Local councils, public cleansing, national heritage, culture, arts and youth

Claudette Buttigieg, deputy Speaker
Social policy and family: Social policy, social security, consumer protection and a member of the COVID action team

Jason Azzopardi
Work, training, competitiveness and enterprise: Work, Malta Enterprise, competitiveness and industrial relations

Ivan Bartolo
Social accommodation, fight against poverty: Social and affordable accommodation and the fight against poverty

Anthony Bezzina
Transport and infrastructure: Transport, infrastructure, ports, aviation and maritime affairs

Ryan Callus
Energy, water and sustainable development: Energy, alternative energy, management of parks and sustainable development

Therese Comodini Cachia
Human rights and good governance: Human rights, rule of law and good governance

Mario de Marco
Finance and Airmalta

Kristy Debono
Economy and Industry: Economy, financial services, gaming, lands and industry
Maria Deguara
Elderly and community care: Elderly and a member of the COVID action team

Joseph Ellis
Constitutional reform, social dialogue and public broadcasting: Constitutional reform, social dialogue, public broadcasting and public administration

Beppe Fenech Adami
Home affairs and national security: Home affairs, immigration and citizenship

Mario Galea
Mental health and animal rights: Mental health, dementia, the fight against diabetes and animal rights and welfare

Claudio Grech
Political renewal, research and development: Political transformation of the PN, drafting of socio-economic vision, implementation of policy clusters, drafting of electoral programme, research, science and technology and a member of the COVID action team

Carm Mifsud Bonnici
Foreign and European affairs

Clyde Puli
Education and sport: Education, sport, fight against obesity and a member of the COVID action team

Chris Said

Hermann Schiavone
Planning and construction industry: Planning, property market, construction industry and the Freeport

Stephen Spiteri
Health: Health, response to the pandemic and a member of the COVID action team

David Thake
Green economy and capital projects

Edwin Vassallo
Agriculture, fisheries and small businesses: Agriculture and fisheries, hunting and trapping, cooperatives and small business

Adrian Delia
No shadow portfolio: Delia chose not to have a shadow portfolio as per agreement in October