Claudio Grech, PN ideologue-in-chief, wants to bring common-sense politics back

Claudio Grech has never been a tub-thumping politico. Yet during several leadership crises, it was his name that MPs suggested would be the one to carry the PN back into power

Claudio Grech: “My efforts will be focused on one simple yet determining approach: heralding the era of common-sense politics.”
Claudio Grech: “My efforts will be focused on one simple yet determining approach: heralding the era of common-sense politics.”

Claudio Grech has never been a tub-thumping politico. Yet during several leadership crises, it was his name that MPs suggested would be the one to carry the PN back into power. Seven years since becoming an MP after a career at the side of former minister Austin Gatt and later as CEO of Smart City Malta, Grech remains an unassuming yet forceful voice inside the PN.

In a reshuffle this week, Grech was elevated to the party’s chief ideologue, a fitting role for an MP who has shied away from partisan battles and power struggles. His previous roles shadowing health and the economy led him to formulate the party’s economic vision for 2030. Now he will be overhauling the PN’s policy framework, working on the implementation of the PN ‘clusters’ – which he dubs the party’s engine room for new talent – to carve out the electoral manifesto for the upcoming elections.

“My efforts will be focused on one simple yet determining approach: heralding the era of common-sense politics.

“Unfortunately over the years, the political narrative has been radically debased, side-lining logic and the common good to make space for populist discourse, short-term measures and negative campaigning. We want to circuit-break this vicious circle of cheap political stunts and shift the efforts to evidence-based policy development, which serves the people and does not prejudice the future of the next generations.”

That is already a generous portion of management talk from Grech, a business consultant for whom terms such as ‘social economy’ are however not mere buzzwords. Together with his wife Charmaine, the MP donates his parliamentary honorarium to fund their Save A Life Foundation, a charity that works mainly within his first district constituency but earlier this week also announced financing for Malta’s pro-life lobby’s digital presence. Conservative, but not an antediluvian.

“I don’t think it is a mission impossible,” Grech says on his vision for the PN’s electoral programme. “Many of those in politics are yearning for a political environment driven by vision and policy rather than drama and finger-pointing.”

Some of these priorities which Grech says he has discussed with Bernard Grech will be entrenching social justice across all policy domains, how to achieve economic growth without jeopardising the natural environment, restoring human dignity for residents, improving wages and pensions, but crucially – he adds – “a determined effort to dilute the toxic tribalism in our political mechanics.”

But what does ‘renewal’ mean for the PN, in terms of being a prospective government-in-waiting? Keep in mind that only this week, Bernard Grech’s reshuffle prompted MPs to kick back against his proposed changes, a move that did not go down to well with a public that has been yearning for a united opposition. Apart from that, the PN has long been outflanked by the Labour’s civil liberties programme, a convenient tool to pit liberals and conservatives against each other.

“You have to keep one thing in mind that the PN is not a party with a homogenous base but one that is more akin to a coalition of diverse groups that converge together on a number of common principles and goals,” Grech says.

“Over the years, I learnt that the strongest element that bonds the elements in the party together is our collective aspiration to shape and deliver policies which nurture the common good in our country: policy is a strong converging factor.

“In this sense, renewal means reviewing each major policy domain, realigning it to our collective goals in both social and economic facets of the equation, and doing this in the most representative way possible to reflect the aspirations of the diversity we stand for.”

While Grech will retain a portfolio on research and innovation and the post-COVID response, shadowing minister Owen Bonnici, his horizontal policy-shaping role will be a central one in terms of shadowing. “I shall be supporting my colleagues in reviewing and enhancing our existing policy lines to bring them closer to the citizens’ expectations. This is a cornerstone of effective shadowing as we cannot be taken seriously if we just cry wolf at any mishap that occurs but we need to also contribute to improvements whilst we serve in Opposition.”

Grech hopes that by bringing together the public and stakeholders to develop the PN’s policies, he can help the party evolve into “an exceptional alternative to this government.”

“I am a firm believer that the strong policy base we shall be creating will shift the political narrative from one which is reactive to one that is visionary, passionate to bring about positive changes for our country.”

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