Football, saints and the PN’s future: 'Why do we even need to be here?'

The pain in the eyes of PN activists waiting outside the party headquarters as MPs met was more than visible last week. Kurt Sansone mingled with the activists to understand what was passing through their mind

'As I waited with other journalists the small talk between the people caught my ears. Discussions oscillated between friendly rivalry over football and saints to the more serious concerns they had about what was happening to the party they have always supported.'
'As I waited with other journalists the small talk between the people caught my ears. Discussions oscillated between friendly rivalry over football and saints to the more serious concerns they had about what was happening to the party they have always supported.'

There was a very intense debate outside the Nationalist Party headquarters last Tuesday as the parliamentary group met, and it was not about Adrian Delia’s future.

A group of party supporters gathered on the pavement were having a go at each other over which was the best football team between Valletta and Floriana, and who was the most important saint between Publius and Paul.

It was a friendly exchange between people from Valletta and Floriana, teasing each other as they waited for the fate of the parliamentary group meeting of the political party that unites them.

This was the scene outside the building in Pieta as the meeting dragged on for almost six hours until past midnight.

There were around 100 PN supporters that night who turned up in what was a show of support for Delia and MPs loyal to him. They applauded the leader and those MPs close to him but stood in silence when others, deemed to be Delia rivals, walked through the door.

As I waited with other journalists the small talk between the people caught my ears. Discussions oscillated between friendly rivalry over football and saints to the more serious concerns they had about what was happening to the party they have always supported.

There was an underlying feeling of hurt at the fact that Delia was not being given a chance by some fellow PN MPs to lead the party.

“He was chosen by the tesserati and it is unfair that some MPs are just trying to undermine him,” one of the men told me.

Another one expressed another common feeling that night: “Some MPs believe that this building was given to them in perpetuity… this is why they don’t want Delia.”

'Don’t we all know this is coming from [Richard] Cachia Caruana… he dictates proceedings and then finds four fools who take the cue and do his bidding.'
'Don’t we all know this is coming from [Richard] Cachia Caruana… he dictates proceedings and then finds four fools who take the cue and do his bidding.'

But others spoke of Richard Cachia Caruana’s “hidden hand” behind the current spate of turmoil. Cachia Caruana was former prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami’s right-hand man – a behind-the-scenes character, who called the shots and went on to become Malta’s first EU representative when the country joined the bloc in 2004.

“Don’t we all know this is coming from [Richard] Cachia Caruana… he dictates proceedings and then finds four fools who take the cue and do his bidding,” one of the PN supporters said.

He had no proof linking Cachia Caruana with the rebel MPs but this feeling was reflected by others that night. Most were unable to understand why Delia was so despised by some MPs.

The feeling I got was of a class divide between those MPs still enamoured with the previous PN leadership’s elitist attitude, and common supporters who see in Delia a man who can connect with their ordinary lives.

Adrian Delia has a fractious parliamentary group
Adrian Delia has a fractious parliamentary group

Disconcerting for all those whom I spoke to was the lack of an end-game in the strategy adopted by the rebel MPs.

“I cannot understand what they want to achieve and where they want to take this party. No one has stepped forward to challenge Adrian Delia… it appears that their sole interest is to get him out of the way,” an activist said, adding he would not be able to trust any of those MPs putting a spanner in the works.

Delia was asked to leave by some MPs, while others asked him to call a vote of confidence in the general council. These demands were rejected by an intransigent Delia, who has consistently argued that party members gave him a mandate to lead the PN into the next general election.

The PN leader will soldier on in the hope that MPs will rally around him. Whether Delia will succeed to keep the party together still has to be seen but one thing is certain – PN supporters and activists are confused and someone has to speak to them.

READ ALSO: James Debono's analysis | How Delia has survived by calling the rebels’ bluff

“Why do we need to even be here tonight? This is all a waste of time when we should be concentrating on other more important things for the country,” a veteran PN activist told me.

He does not harbour hope that the PN could win the next election but insisted with me that there would be “absolutely no chance” if the party was not behind Delia.

A saving grace for many Delia supporters is the hope that the Labour Party would implode when Joseph Muscat departs. They believe the PL will lose its best asset and any electoral race would then be a completely new ball game between Delia and whoever replaces Muscat.

This may very well be wishful thinking because any new PL leader, irrespective of the divisions a possible leadership race could create, will start on a high. But Delia supporters believe there will be friction within Labour.

“We have our own problems now but Labour will soon have its own,” some of the more vociferous pro-Delia activists told me.
In the meantime, people within the PN’s rank and file continue to worry about the next Facebook outburst by an MP that would trigger a spate of visceral retorts in a public forum.

The tough guys, who played nice with the One TV reporter, the elderly supporters who remember the glorious Fenech Adami days, the middle-aged workers who call the PN their home, waited as MPs on the fourth floor met.

The meeting may have been inconclusive but the pain in the eyes of PN activists was more than visible. Away from the friendly banter and the jokes, they were genuinely concerned over their party’s future.

This story first appeared in the print edition of MaltaToday and was written before the latest developments.

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