Busuttil: 'PN's new leader must be standard-bearer for honest politics'

In wake of gay marriage debate, Simon Busuttil says PN needs both its conservative and liberal wings to stand a fighting chance in elections  

Simon Busuttil urged his successor to continue fighting government corruption
Simon Busuttil urged his successor to continue fighting government corruption

Outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil sounded a clear message to his eventual successor - to not let the party's landslide election defeat distract him or her from pursuing an honest style of politics and from fighting government corruption.

Addressing a meeting of the PN general council, Busuttil said that the 135,000 people who voted for it in the last election did so because they believed in the values and principles that the PN had endorsed. 

"We gave these people a sense of pride in voting for a party that endorses their principles," he said. "More than ever before, we are obliged to be the voice of these people. People in the PN may disagree on many things, but we all agree on the principles of honest politics. 

"I am sure that the PN's members will place this principle as the most important crtierion when choosing a new leader. God forbid we lose this principle, or thesere will be nothing that will differentiate us from Labour."

Busuttil said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should not be allowed to use the election result as a carte-blanche to commit more scandals, and that his successor as leader should continue pressuring for investigations to take place on corruption scandals. 

"Muscat thinks his sins are forgiven, but sins don't sleep and he shouldn't be allowed to get away with murder just because he won an election," he said. "The PN will be wrong if it decides to close a blind eye to scandals just because it lost the election, because if we don't defend justice at this point in time, then who will? We must be the standard-bearers of political honesty." 

Busuttil used his own resignation as PN leader as an example of the style of politics he would like to see the party follow - that of politicians imposing the highest of standards on themselves. 

"My resignation sent a message that the PN stands for the highest political standards. In normal, European countries party leaders resign when they lose an election, just as they resign when they are under criminal investigation," he said, in a reference to the magisterial inquiry into allegations that Joseph Muscat's wife owns an offshore Panama company.

"We must inspire people by being differrent from Labour, because if we become like Labour then people will see no reason to change the government."

He dismissed calls from PN supporters to postpone the leadership election to a later date than September, arguing that his successor needs time to brace the party for the MEP and local council elections of 2019.

He also rejected suggestions that he should have awaited the outcomes of magisterial inquiries into the Egrant allegations and allegations of corruption by OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, arguing that such a move would be tantamount to pressuing the inquiring magistrates.

'PN needs both its liberal and conservative wings'

In his speech, Busuttil also urged his MPs to not let their ideological differences on issues such as gay marriage divide the party, arguing that the PN's strength comes from its diversity of opinions. 

He admitted that the recent parliamentary debate on the Marriage Equality Bill exposed the party's "conservative" and "liberal" wings, although he said he personally rejects such labels. 

"We are not like Labour where everyone just follows the leader, but we allow and encourage people to speak out and we respect everyone's issues," he said. "The PN is composed of people with differing views, but these two wings represent two sides of the same coin. Anyone who thinks that one of these wings can fend for itself without the other will be condemning the party to a lifetime in Opposition.

"The political cycle isn't in our favour at the moment, but circles turn, and when it does we must be sure that we are a united party that respects both its wings."

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