Frustrated, resigned and ostracised: PN voices blame Grech for bad results

Multiple sources within the party said many MPs are 'resigned' to the fact that the PN will remain in Opposition after the next general election

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

There is growing dissatisfaction within the Nationalist Party parliamentary group over its dismal poll performances as the stronger voices get side-lined by Bernard Grech, MaltaToday has learnt.

Multiple sources within the party said many MPs are “resigned” to the fact that the PN will remain in Opposition after the next general election. And fingers are being pointed at Grech’s “ineffective” leadership.

The internal criticism by some of the veteran MPs has even led to them being side-lined by the party leadership.

“Unlike most of the newer MPs who have a fickle constituency and are biding their time, veterans like Mario de Marco, Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Chris Said voice their criticism internally and as a consequence are being side-lined and ignored,” a senior party source said.

Consecutive polls carried out by MaltaToday have shown the PN unable to benefit significantly from voters’ growing dissatisfaction with the Labour government. Additionally, Grech’s trust rating among voters, including those who supported the PN in the last election, remains a far cry from that of the Prime Minister. The MaltaToday findings are similar to those registered in surveys carried out by Times of Malta.

A party functionary who was granted anonymity to be able to speak freely about internal matters blamed the situation on Grech.

“How is it possible that after the courts annulled the hospitals deal; after the electricity blackouts of July and the growing waste problem in several localities, that we are still struggling? The leader lacks political depth, charisma and vision. He is unable to bring all the different voices within the party together and work for a better Malta,” he said.

Any criticism of the party’s direction and of Grech is frowned upon, another functionary who opted for anonymity said.

Frustrated, he pointed at what happened last July at the height of the heatwaves when Malta was gripped by several power cuts and government’s response to people’s anger was inadequate.

“At the height of this crisis, which in ordinary circumstances would politically benefit an Opposition party, the leader endorsed a controversial proposal to liberalise energy distribution and in the process, take the heat off government,” he said, reflecting a sentiment shared by other sources within the party who spoke to this newspaper.

He added that internal criticism of the proposal by several members was “shuttered out”.

“The PN is increasingly adopting dictatorial overtones, pretty much like is happening within the Labour Party, where those critical of the party leader are ostracised rather than listened to,” he added.

There is an increasing belief that unless Grech steps aside, the PN will be unable to make any progress and senior sources close to Dar Ċentrali fear next year’s European Parliament election will result in a pyrrhic victory that cements Grech’s position.

“It was a mistake for Bernard Grech to contest the leadership again after last year’s dismal election result. He has proved to be ineffectual and if things remain the same, the party’s very own existence as a political force to be reckoned with is at risk,” the sources said.

They report a growing fear among MPs and the grassroots that if the PN does win back a third seat in the MEP election next year, Grech will claim victory and stay the course irrespective of the popular vote.

“The likeliness is that we will win the third seat back and Bernard Grech will claim he achieved his target and stay on. But it will only give us false hope because unless something radical changes, the Labour Party, which benefits from incumbency, will still go on to win the general election,” the sources said.