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NEWS | Wednesday, 09 April 2008

The inevitable pangs of a contest

Reno Borg

Certain sections of the press aspiring to be ‘independent’ quickly read a crisis when the Labour Party is involved. Years away from a general election, they sometimes lift a small finger in criticism of some governmental decisions, only to become the loyal poodles when election time comes. It has become evident in the last few days. They did not only do all in their power to discredit Labour during elections but they are trying to dig a grave for Labour to bury it for eternity. And the same ‘journalists’ would have us believe they are defending the democratic process.
The Malta Labour Party is at a crossroads which normally belongs to all political parties that lose an election and in the process of electing a new leader. The choice of the right leader is a sine qua non for Labour. It is true that the left has a habit of shooting itself in the foot basically due to lack of organisational skills and also due to people championing ‘principles’ more than strategy. Rightist and conservative parties view power as their inalienable right and do all in their power to regain or retain it. Power means money and money brings power.
Something which irked everyone was the directive that contestants in the leadership race should avoid the media. In my opinion the decision was senseless and it was a positive thing to retract it as early as possible. In the Labour Party there are some people who seem to have nothing else to do in life but to be eternal hangers-on of the party. It is high time for them to realise that the Labour Party needs a complete transformation and people in the streets, especially Labourites, are demanding new faces. Those who lost the election should quickly realise that in order for Labour to have a chance to win the next election it needs new people with new ideas. Labour should also plan for the next five years, meaning that it should have a team that by 2013 should still look fresher than the PN.
I have always been of the opinion that in the past election analysis, Labour lost sight of the fact that the loss was not only the result of a lack of ability to attract enough new voters, but also because they were competing with another strong party intent on winning at all costs. It was Mr Joe Saliba himself who admitted recently that they handled the JPO case with the foremost intention of reducing the damaging effects of the scandal in order to win the election. Ethics and morality did not come into it at all.
When the Nationalist Party was choosing its leader, they faced the same problems of personality clashes, and the Gonzi-Dalli debacle continued even after the contest was resolved in favour of Dr Gonzi. It is a known fact that John Dalli was offered a ministerial post this time round, because the Nationalist Party has only a one seat majority in parliament and John Dalli, a fiery and resolute personality, would have stirred the cauldron had he been left out of a Cabinet post.
The advantage of the Nationalist Party over Labour is that it can hide its internal fights with more efficiency; Labour is much more transparent. The Mediterranean mentality is such that it is easily manoeuvred by those who have the mastery of conviction even if it is at the expense of political correctness and truth. The same applies to certain sections of the media which feign to be independent when in reality they are the hidden voices of just one political party.
The new Labour leader would eventually meet the same hostility as previous Labour leaders have found, which makes it even more imperative for the Labour Party to keep a constant personal contact with the electorate for the entire five years preceding the election. Since Malta is a small place this is not something impossible. The Nationalist Party did the trick a few weeks before the election because they offered the impossible to everyone and convinced a few hundreds more than Labour that their vote was vital for a Nationalist victory. They were more bullish than Labour in establishing personal contacts with the electorate.
While opinion makers who normally back the Nationalist Party are describing these critical Labour days as doomsday, they are overlooking the fact that the Nationalist Party might be heading into certain difficulties in running the country. Some of the ills may not be of their own making but their ability to counteract their effects rests only on their shoulders. The recent dramatic hike in the price of diesel will bring havoc to certain economic sectors.
It is government priority to formulate and implement an energy strategy that will take into account the fragility of our economy and the peculiar characteristics of a small economy like ours. The man in the street may be interested in sporting some gossip on the dramatis personae of the political circus but they are more interested in their daily bread and butter issues. They may not take them into serious account every time they vote but nonetheless they trouble their minds every time they have a shortage of cash.
It would be part of the new Labour leader’s task to strike the magic of convincing the electorate that apart from the drama and fanaticism of electoral campaigns, the party elected to govern would be expected to make life easier for everybody through competence and far-sightedness.


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