Heated leadership debate sees Said challenge Delia to reveal ‘establishment names’

Viewers tuned in to NET TV’s final debate between Adrian Delia and Chris Said in the hope of learning more about the contenders’ vision for the PN. Instead, bickering took over

The final debate between Chris Said and Adrian Delia before Saturday's vote
The final debate between Chris Said and Adrian Delia before Saturday's vote

It may have started off with a shake of the hand but the tension between PN leadership contenders Adrian Delia and Chris Said, who both opted to go tieless, could not be disguised.

Said had barely finished making his opening comments when Delia, a lawyer by profession, sprung with his own question for Said: “What did you mean with your reference to Mintoff?”

Said had drawn comparisons with Eddie Fenech Adami, and how he had led the Nationalist Party to success. “Eddie Fenech Adami did not emulate Dom Mintoff. Instead he chose the right way that lead to decades of success,” Said stated, as he insisted that the PN should not start copying the Labour Party.

But Delia would not let the jibe pass, later accusing Said of resorting to scaremongering by suggesting that the PN – with Delia at the helm – would be “turned into Labour”.

“We want a party that listens, not because we’re populist, but because we’re part of the people,” Delia insisted.

Both candidates said they believed “in Christian democratic values”, “in principles and values”, “in democratic principles”, “in dignity” and “in fighting injustices”.

The spotlight was briefly turned onto the Labour Party, as the two insisted that the government was not interested in the common good. “The Labour Party is not a socialist party any more,” Said said.

“The Labour Party has a problem with values,” Delia said, as he spoke about how he wanted to share “the pain and aspirations” of citizens and his dream of building “politics of hope”.

Bickering between the two resumed as soon as Delia accused Said of saying that citizens, who are not politicians, do not contribute to the country.

“I never said that,” Said protested, while Delia told him not to interrupt him.

“Government paves the way but it is the businesses and the people who create wealth,” Delia said. He then turned to abortion, embryo freezing and euthanasia saying that he was against abortion and “a soul-less state”.

“We have to be united against abortion and challenge government to give a free vote,” Delia added.

The following question, about the PN and youths, also managed to get Delia and Said arguing. The latter started off by pointing out that, out of some 19,000 paid-up members, only 1,600 were aged 30 or less.

“This figure is worrying and we need to start attracting youths back to the party. Their involvement needs to be in every structure of the party, not just within the MZPN,” Said argued, adding that the party needed policies that interest youths.

Delia’s turn: “We don’t need policies for youth but a youthful party… with them, not for them.”

“Delia either hasn’t understood what I said… or doesn’t want. My proposal is to have them in every structure therefore they are active in doing politics,” Said interjected, as Delia commented that “you need to bring them back first”.

“Useless saying ‘we want youths back’ if they don’t want to return or to join. Youths don’t want negative politics… they want to dream, they want to hope,” Delia retorted.

Said quickly jumped in accusing Delia of “being heavily impressed by the Labour Party”. “You sound a lot like Labour, talking about negativity,” Said snapped back.

The banter even went on as Said “condemned personal attacks”, with Delia jumping in to thank Said and saying that even he condemned attacks. Said later said “I need no one to defend me because of my integrity and my life is an open book”.

The debate then went downhill, as Said challenged Delia to reveal the names of “the establishment” which – in the latter’s words – had hijacked the party.

Delia would not say the names, and claimed to have sent a letter to Joe Borg, head of the PN’s electoral commission.

Delia claimed that paid-up members had received phone-calls from the party, urging them not to vote for him. Said once again challenged Delia to reveal the names, as he insisted that “the one who has the party’s machinery in his hands is campaigning for you”. Said, former party secretary-general, was ostensibly referring to PN MP Jean-Pierre Debono, who is also assistant secretary-general.

“You created a monster [the establishment] that doesn’t exist and you’ve hurt the party,” Said told Delia.

Both contenders said they envision a united party under their leadership.