MaltaToday | 06 April 2008 | History repeating itself

OPINION | Sunday, 06 April 2008

History repeating itself

Anna Mallia

What a shame that three executive defeats are not enough to warrant a shake-up of Labour from top to bottom: lest you have not noticed, history is repeating itself. The same people who, until 8 March, were saying “We are Labour United”, are now showing that they were actually “Labour divided”. 
How can we trust the same people at the helm of the party if they are the same people who, before 8 March, gave us the impression that they have found the winning ticket? How can they be believed when they now tell us that things were not all that well at Hamrun, and that if they are elected, they will change the course of how things are done? 
It is obvious that every Tom, Dick and Harry is asking the same question: why do these people have to wait for 20 years of Nationalist rule, to come up with a plan for change within Labour?  Where were these same faces over the last 20 years? What guarantees are they giving that they will, this time, abide by what they say, and not change course whilst they are at the helm?
We all know what happened when the present administration was elected: both deputy leaders and the secretary general were elected by the delegates precisely to ensure that the appropriate changes are conducted within the party in order to try and avoid another electoral defeat.  But we all know what happened. Rather than conducting the changes, they all joined forces with the Leader in order to clinch and secure their position within the party, ignoring the cry of the labour supporters to think about the party and not about themselves.
Now the same people who, until 8 March, depicted Alfred Sant as the saviour of the Malta Labour Party, and as the only person who could lead the party to victory, are now pinpointing the flaws in Labour’s electoral campaign as if they have had no part in the matter. It is for this reason that the people outside of Hamrun are rightly saying that these people are not being genuine when they criticize the administration now: they are doing this not for the love of the party but for their selfish interests in order to clinch a seat in the administration of the party.
Once again history is repeating itself:  we have Grixti criticising Micallef and then we get to know that Grixti is interested in the post of Micallef.  We have Abela criticising Micallef and then we get to know that he is interested in a seat. And so on and so forth.  Once these people have their own agendas, they might as well first tell us what their agenda is before they start pointing fingers. 
No wonder that the Labour electorate is baffled and the floaters even more so, when they hear these people, including Spiteri Debono, telling us what changes need to be done within Labour when they are the same changes that we have been voicing out loud outside the glasshouse of Hamrun for the past 10 years. Of course it is relief to note that these people have finally come on board, but the question still remains a question of trust.
Are we to trust the party in the hands of the people who until March 8 supported the inquisition imposed by the leadership on fellow Labourites who put the party first? What guarantees do they give us that they will not carry on in the footsteps of Alfred Sant and conduct the same line of business?
I wish I had the time to quote to you the date when I wrote in this paper that it was all set within the compounds of Hamrun who was to succeed Alfred Sant, and I even mentioned the name of Joseph Muscat. I have nothing against Joseph Muscat but I do not want the delegates to be manipulated so that their job is just to rubber stamp what has already been decided beforehand. I want this to be an honest and frank exercise so that the leader is chosen on the merits of how he or she can bring labour to victory in the next general elections.
So far Labour has not given the wounded Labourites a chance to vent their grievances: they are doing the same mistake, thinking that Labour is only at Hamrun. The first thing that the interim administration and the acting leader Charles Mangion must do, as from today, is to instruct the Labour party clubs to submit to Hamrun a report on what the members are saying about the causes of the defeat in the general elections. At the same time the party is to embark on a reconciliation exercise as from now, because the change must start from now and from when the new leader takes office.
Nowadays it is no longer a case of choosing a leader that befits the party delegates or the Labourites only; the issue of party leaderships goes further than that. The leader must be a person who appeals also to the floaters out there, and must be a better product than “product Gonzi”. Lest we forget, if Smart City starts its operations within this legislature, Gonzi will have a field day, and rightly so. So in electing the new leader, Labour must keep all this in mind. Otherwise it will have to resign itself to being the Malta Opposition Party.
That is why all these old faces trying to bring in new ideas do not go down well with the dissident Labourites, let alone the floaters. Labour must make a clean sweep if it is to regain the trust of the dissidents and the floaters. This does not mean that it has to repeat the same mistake that Sant did, and bury the old… which incidentally, is the same policy that the same people who are now crying for change had endorsed. No, the new leader cannot ignore the past, cannot ignore the present and cannot ignore the future. How he or she is going to combine them all in one good product I honestly do not know. None of the contestants for the leadership has so far come up with a proposal either.
It is therefore imperative that the contestants show in black on white how they intend to save the Malta Labour Party from the mess that most of them put it in, both by their action and by their inaction. It will be a pity if the administration is once again not to rock any boats within Hamrun. 
The new leader will have a tough job to try and put the accounts of the party in order: to audit how and why the party is in debt for more than LM3million, and it will be a pity if the leader, for fear of any complicity on his or her part, fails to conduct the spring cleaning that is thoroughly needed in the way that things were conducted.
Obviously, change has to be conducted the Nationalist way!

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