[WATCH] David Agius: Journalists don’t highlight positive side of politics enough

The Opposition Whip and PN deputy leadership contender said the media was quick to jump on negative stories but often ignored the good ones since, he argued, they 'didn’t sell'

Saviour Balzan (left) with Nationalist Party deputy leadership contenders Edwin Vassallo (centre) and David Agius (right)
Saviour Balzan (left) with Nationalist Party deputy leadership contenders Edwin Vassallo (centre) and David Agius (right)

The local media needs to make greater efforts to highlight stories of bipartisan agreement, rather than focus simply on the negative side of politics, according to Nationalist Party deputy leadership contender David Agius.

Agius was a guest on current affairs programme Xtra along with Edwin Vassallo, the only other contender for the post, where the two discussed the present state of the Nationalist Party and what strategy it needed to adopt during this legislature.

Referring to remarks by PN leader Adrian Delia, that the PN had not acknowledged that the economy - and by extension a considerable number of people - were doing well, host Saviour Balzan asked whether the two candidates felt it was enough to criticise the bad, while letting the good “speak for itself”.

“I think the problem is what journalists ask,” said Agius. He said that during yesterday’s parliamentary session environment Jose Herrera had described how the two had worked well together during the last legislature.

“This doesn’t make a sound in the media because it is positive, but if I criticise Jose Herrera and accuse him of abuse or anything of the sort, you’d have a programme about it. The positive work we do together is hidden by the media. It is ignored because it doesn’t sell.”

Balzan however pointed out that the media could hardly be blamed for the tone of speeches by both party leaders during the last legislature, as well as that of the electoral campaign, which he said could hardly have been described as positive.

Agius clarified that the point was that unless “the positive [elements in politics] are highlighted, negativity will continue to win”.

“If Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil don’t meet, if Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia don’t meet, if between us, we politicians don’t meet and sit down around a table and talk, we can never hope to raise the level of politics,” he said.

Agius added that under Delia, the PN would be ready to call a spade a spade and to acknowledge what was good and highlight what was negative. He said the Opposition would support legislation it agreed with, like the domestic violence bill tabled in parliament this week, and would oppose others it didn’t agree with.

Vassallo stressed that when discussing the economy, one did not need to worry too much about those who were doing well.

“In my arguments I always emphasised those who have been left behind,” he said, adding that he agreed with party leader Adrian Delia when last Sunday he described the country’s economic results as acting like an opioid that was lulling the nation into indifference.

Moreover, he said that one could not ignore all the bad things that had happened during the last legislature.

He said however that the PN’s method of communication during the last legislature had failed and that the party needed to reach out to people in different and new ways.

“We should take advantage of the fact that paid-up members have chosen Adrian Delia and given us the opportunity to start something truly new,” he said.  

Almost two months into Delia’s leadership of the PN, the situation is reportedly still tense, with a large part of the parliamentary group reported to be mulling a coup. With this in mind, Balzan asked how long it would be before the new leader could expect to be able to speak his mind without being concerned about how it would be taken by the different factions within the party.

“He is speaking the way he wants every day, but he must keep in mind all the circumstances facing him,” said Agius, while Vassallo insisted that unity was something that “needed to continuously be worked for”.

Both deputy-leader contenders agreed that when moral issues MPs should be given a free vote in order to vote according to their conscience.

Asked whether they were surprised by results from a recent survey that found that 10% of PN paid-up members had voted Labour in the last general election, Vassallo said the statistic disappointed him and stressed the need to understand why these people felt the PN was offering an “inferior product”.

Agius said that the knowledge that those people were “nationalists” meant they could be won back, especially now that Adrian Delia was at the party’s helm.

“I am sure, I have no doubt in mind, that those people, when they see the changes made in the Nationalist Party, will say yes, we must follow Adrian Delia and the new leadership, and because they are nationalist they will come back,” said Agius.

He added that one also needed to consider the fact that Joseph Muscat would not be leading the Labour Party in the next election, and that this would further improve the PN’s chances of winning back votes.

Watch the full episode at the top of the page