'I did not leave the PN, the PN left me' - Marlene Farrugia

Outspoken Labour backbencher Marlene Farrugia discusses her politics with Saviour Balzan on Reporter

Labour backbencher Marlene Farrugia was the sole guest on last night's current affairs programme "Reporter", talking to host Saviour Balzan about her political career and the principles which guide it.

Farrugia explains her personal socialist beliefs

“I personally believe in social capitalism - take care of the employer and he will take care of the workers,” said the MP, using China as an example of communism and capitalism “working hand in hand”.

“I agree one hundred percent with the ideology as propounded by Joseph Muscat," Farrugia said, who succeeded in creating what she always dreamed of having as a political force in this country, putting Eddie Fenech Adami’s ideals of depolarisation into the public consciousness.  

That said, she highlighted that her loyalty was to the people of Malta and she would not hesitate to call a spade a spade, criticising her own party if necessary.

She described Muscat’s “movement” as a living thing, a coalition of ideas from different backgrounds. “There are still many people who are still Nationalists or Labourites but there are others who have placed their hope in the movment’s ideals.”

Shown a clip of Ian Castaldi Paris first singing the praises of the Nationalist Party and a later one of him lauding Joseph Muscat’s “movement,” in equally glowing terms, she pointed out that what Castaldi Paris had done in public, thousands of voters had done in private in the polling booth.

“We need to leave this closed mindset where we are either red or blue or green or you are a traitor”.

On political credibility

We must practise what we preach on transparency. If the government is not accountable, I fear it will suffer the same fate as the nationalist party Labour MP Marlene Farrugia

The PL had preached transparency, meritocracy and accountability and should deliver this in a manner that doesn’t negatively affect its public perception and credibility. 

“We must practise what we preach on transparency. If the government is not accountable, I fear it will suffer the same fate as the Nationalist party”, said the backbencher, when asked about the oil procurement scandal.

The origins of her interest in current affairs and politics

Farrugia said that she was raised in an environment of political debate. “What I would hear from my family was very one-sided. I would always try to see the other side of the coin - what made other people think differently?”

On one hand Farrugia said she would be hearing the “extreme Labour” politics from her family and on the other hand she said she would see Eddie Fenech Adami pushing a pro-worker agenda. “We were raised to see the PN as anti-worker and pro-business, favouring the rich. But when I attended mass meetings I noticed that this wasn’t the case...in fact the first time I voted, in 1987 I voted for the PN.”

Asked, whether she did so because of a rebellious streak or was it because at the time she was dating a Nationalist. “I am from Zurrieq,” replied Farrugia, “at the time, the Nationalist party club in Zurrieq was ransacked. Not only did they throw everything that was inside, out, but they burned it down.”

Farrugia felt those events were unacceptable in a civilized, democratic country and this led her to ask questions. “So, no. It wasn’t because there was Jeffrey [Pullicino Orlando] influencing me.”

Politics and private life

From the origins of her interest in politics, the discussion moved on to her involvement in the local political scene, first as a contributor to PN daily In-Nazzjon Taghna, then as a local councillor and later as a PN  candidate in the general elections. 

After the breakdown of her marriage to Pullicino Orlando however, Farrugia began a relationship with Labour MP and former minister Godfrey Farrugia.

Farrugia said that her private life had no bearing on her switching political allegiances.  “ I always had a great hope that the party for whom I had voted... [but] don’t forget that at the time we had a movement which wanted to join the EU -a socialist ideology-  which was represented by the PN and a Labour movement which was anti-EU but which was trying to renew itself.” 

She strongly denied that her personal life had any bearing on her decision to switch parties, explaining that her and her partner Godfrey Farrugia’s dream was to form part of a movement where everybody, irrespective of political colour, could reach their full potential and see an end to differences holding people back.

“Politics is like a profession,” insisted Farrugia, “you put your personal issues aside.”

On crossing the floor

“I did not leave the PN, I stayed where I was. The PN left me, as it did many, many, many others and drifted to the right,” said Farrugia.

Following the EU accession referendum, she said she felt there was an opportunity to help guide the then Euroskeptic Labour party, still reeling from the referendum result, to find a new direction. She said she was attracted by the efforts of the Labour leader of the time, Alfred Sant, to renew the party, compounded by what she describe as the Nationalist party’s shift from a centre-left position to the right.

The divorce stance

Farrugia said her personal views will remain against divorce. “Just because I am cohabiting, doesn’t mean I am no longer a Catholic,” she protested. She described the process of resolving the conflict between her public persona and her private life as a “personal martyrdom,” but said that she ultimately felt that she could not deprive the right to divorce to those who wanted it.

Reporter, hosted by Saviour Balzan, airs every Monday at 20:40 on TVM2, with a repeat at 21:55 on TVM.