[WATCH] Farewell to Simon: PN toasts leader as he rails against ‘populist Labour’

At the party’s general convention, Simon Busuttil said the legacy he wished to leave behind was that of a party coming together to fight for the common good, insisting that despite not winning the election, the party had won the moral battle

Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Farewell to Simon: PN toasts leader as he rails against ‘populist Labour’

Simon Busuttil had no regrets. At the PN General Convention that doubled as a farewell party, he railed against the populism he said had won Labour the 2017 election. The party's media editor congratulated him for garnering the largest number of personal votes ever for a leader of the PN. No soul-searching on this day, the eve of a new leader's election.

“We did not manage to win against populism,” he said, insisting that Malta not alone in having been overcome by the “corruption of the truth, of the country’s systems and institutions and people being bought”.

Busuttil said that the main legacy he wished to leave was that symbolised by the Nationalist Party’s final mass meeting before the last election.

“It was a mass meeting that showed us the huge leaps forward we had made,” said Busuttil.

“People were not there for the Nationalist Party but they were there for a cause, because they wanted the country to do what was right, to defend the common good,” he continued, insisting that today’s society was “only interested in personal gain”.

He insisted that populism meant “saying one thing and doing the opposite” and he hit out at the fact that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had stated on Sunday that he had ordered the Labour Party’s MEPs to vote in favour of Busuttil’s appointment to an EU panel.

“One of them was there but didn’t vote. How can you say something on Sunday and not follow through with it on Tuesday,” he said.  

Tomorrow the PN will be taken over by men he shares little with. Chris Said, a former secretary-general with whom he clashed; and Adrian Delia, the outsider - Busuttil's antithesis.

The outgoing leader admitted that the leadership campaign had been a very divisive one, with many “hurtful” statements having been made in relation to both candidates.

“Chris, Adrian, whichever one of you wins will have the huge responsibility of doing whatever is necessary to fix the divisions created by this campaign,” he said, as he appealed for unity within the party.

Busuttil thanked all those who had worked with him during his term as leader. He said that after deciding he would not remain leader he had met many people who had tried to convince him to stay, describing one person who had told him that “not only had he entered their homes, but he had also entered their hearts”.

He said that choosing to step aside was a hard decision, stressing that it was important for one to know when to go.

“It is better to recognise the time and choose it yourself than have someone else choose it for you,” he said, adding that he would not be leaving because he had given up.

“Nor I am leaving because I have reached retirement age. I am leaving because I believe in political responsibility and because I want to practice what I preach,” he continued.

Busuttil said he wanted to send a message to other politicians in the Nationalist Party, but especially in the Labour Party that everyone should lead by example on issues of political responsibility.

“I always chose to lead by example and not just through rhetoric. I want to be credible on issues because I live them,” he said, adding that on Monday he would be at court at 9am for another court session related to the Panama Papers because he would “continue fighting for what was right”.

Like all of his predecessors, Busuttil said that he had “his own style”, a European style. This, he said, meant “searching for the highest standards”.

“You must set the rules but also obey them,” he insisted.

Prior to his address, a number of election candidates and party activists, including Ivan Bartolo, Simone Vella Lenicker, Janice Chetcuti, Kevin Cassar, Michael Briguglio, Nick Refalo and Jeremy Gingell, all spoke about how they had met Busuttil.

They all described Busuttil as a decent and honest man, who had worked tirelessly for the party, had opened it up to new people and new ideas, and who never shied away from taking difficult decisions.

They all expressed their hope that the party’s new leader would continue down Busuttil’s path, and would continue the fight against corruption within Malta’s political system, while not succumbing to populism and the politics of convenience.  

“Simon was the voice of normality,” said Briguglio. “Let us do all we can to continue what we started and follow in Simon’s footsteps, in order for us to have a strong democracy.”

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