Eyes on the prize, Chris Fearne charms delegates and courts business

Deputy PM will be guest of honour at Vassallo Group chairman and PN donor Nazzareno Vassallo's lunch for clients and partners 

Chris Fearne: his leadership ambitions come with an aggressive campaign to charm delegates and potential business donors
Chris Fearne: his leadership ambitions come with an aggressive campaign to charm delegates and potential business donors

Deputy prime minister Chris Fearne’s aggressive campaign to position himself for a potential leadership race has forced the Labour Party to admonish canvassers using Labour headquarters to carry out their campaigning.

Both party aides and a government source said Labour chief executive officer Randolph De Battista had instructed PL employees that there can be no canvassing for potential leadership contenders from the party HQ.

A party source pointed towards one employee, Isabelle Busuttil, as having been refused permission to canvass for Fearne.

Fearne’s bridge-building campaign is being led by former PL candidate Carmen Ciantar, a politically-appointed chief executive officer of the Foundation for Medical Services, which falls under Fearne’s purview.

MaltaToday has learnt that Fearne has held dinners with established businessmen in the construction industry, in which they are “offered” to support his ambitions under a promise of “doing things differently”.

One dinner guest who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Fearne was “open about his intentions, and blatant about his requests for support.”

Fearne has even made inroads with important service providers of Malta’s healthcare: on 18 December he will grace Vassallo Group’s annual chairman’s lunch at the Phoenicia Hotel as a “guest of honour”. Vassallo Group, which is run by construction magnate and PN donor Nazzareno Vassallo, was recently awarded a €3 million direct order to receive elderly patients inside its Caremalta homes after being transferred out of Mount Carmel hospital. The lunch is an annual event for Vassallo, a former Nationalist mayor, and his company’s top clients and partners from the construction and hospitality sector.

On the ground, Fearne has galvanised support with sumptuous receptions for delegates. On Saturday he organised a Christmas party for Gozitan delegates, and on Monday he will host delegates and MPs at Villa Arrigo in Naxxar.

“The ‘unpublished’ ministers’ ratings survey from It-Torca that was leaked to [Sunday newspaper] Illum ruffled feathers,” the government source told MaltaToday, referring to the ratings polls that put transport minister Ian Borg ahead of other so called ‘leadership contenders’. “Ministers were typically annoyed because they knew the survey was not published by It-Torca in the first place. Fearne’s campaign seems to have gone into overdrive since then.”

Ian Borg is also being seen as a potential contender for the leadership race, together with MEP Miriam Dalli and Labour backbencher Robert Abela, son of former President George Abela.

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