[WATCH] Chris Fearne confirms Konrad Mizzi meeting, remains silent on what was discussed

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne confirmed he and Konrad Mizzi met for a meal last week, but refused to divulge whether the Tourism Minister’s reported leadership aspirations were part of the discussion

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne confirmed meeting Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi for dinner but would not say whether any leadership ambitions were discussed
Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne confirmed meeting Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi for dinner but would not say whether any leadership ambitions were discussed

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, widely believed to be positioning himself to succeed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat once he leaves office, has avoided confirming whether he had discussed a potential future leadership race with Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Illum yesterday reported that Mizzi had individually met with both Fearne and Labour MEP Miriam Dalli, who is also believed to be interested in a leadership bid.

The paper reported that the meeting had taken place in order to discuss Mizzi’s intention to run for leader once Muscat steps down.

Asked about this on Monday, Fearne, who was giving comments to journalists after a press conference on a cancer screening project, confirmed that he had met with Mizzi, but said this was something he did often.

“Minister Mizzi and I meet… maybe not every day, but certainly once or twice a week, in parliamentary group and cabinet meetings and in Parliament. Last week, as it happens, we met for a meal - this isn’t something out of the ordinary,” Fearne said.

READ MORE: 'Let's ensure Muscat stays on' - Konrad Mizzi sidesteps leadership bid questions

The Deputy Prime Minister did not however, specify if the conversation included a discussion on matters concerning the Labour Party’s leadership come Muscat’s departure.

“We spoke about many things, but I don’t disclose to the media what I discuss with my colleagues.”

Questioned on his own leadership intentions, Fearne stuck to the mantra repeated by all those considered to be potential leadership hopefuls and insisted that there was no leadership vacancy at the moment.

“I’ve been posed this question [by the media before] - my answer remains the same. There is currently no vacancy for the PL leadership post. Joseph Muscat is our leader, and he enjoys the undivided support of all members of the party. “

“The only party which has problems with its leader today, it seems, is the Nationalist Party,” Fearne added.

Muscat has stated his intention to leave before the next general election on a number of occasions since he first said he would leave during the last general election campaign.

Speaking to Politico back in January, Muscat had said that the prospect of him landing a senior EU post were “a long shot” but didn’t go as far as to rule it out. Last week he reiterated that he believed that no Prime Minister should stay in office more than 10 years.

In comments to this newspaper yesterday, Mizzi, who held a press conference at the same time as Muscat’s political speech on Sunday, said he would be working to ensure that Muscat stays on as leader.

"At this stage, I am being very clear: Dr Muscat is the most popular leader our country has ever had, and we want to ensure that he stays on - it is good for the country. The journey is still not over, and I am convinced there is more left to do and that our country can truly have major aspirations."

Pressed whether he would be interested in contesting for the post when the time does come for Muscat to leave, Mizzi, however, fell short of confirming or denying his leadership aspirations.

READ MORE: Konrad Mizzi sounds out leadership bid with Labour delegates