Lawrence Gonzi is asking for a show of faith from the Nationalist party by asking that a ‘leadership contest’ be held for the role of leader of the party .
It is hardly surprising that those who were being whispered to have an interest in taking over the leadership, Beppe Fenech Adami, Simon Busuttil and Mario de Marco, have all come out pledging complete allegiance to the Prime Minister. It is not surprising for the simple reason that, were Gonzi to be replaced now, it would be a blatant admission that Franco Debono was right after all, and that the problem with the present administration is the Prime Minister himself. And after all that has happened in the last few weeks, admitting that Debono was right would be the ultimate slap in the face.
There have been all sorts of analyses of why Franco did what he did and I’m not going to bore you by going into the different hypotheses again. After all, only he really knows what his real motives were and anything else is our conjecture.
What is clear is that the Franco phenomenon has forced both parties into perhaps premature election mode, and the first step each of them has taken is to rally their respective troops.
Those who criticized Muscat’s speech at the Labour general conference were scathing because “it was all about him”, but I think they missed the point. While I personally start feeling embarrassed at all the touchy feely display of emotions, it is pretty obvious that the Labour leader was deliberately addressing his home crowd, watching him on One TV, for a reason. Let us not forget how many Labour voters have drifted over the the PN over the last three elections, and how many of these need to be wooed back. Muscat knows that he needs to reach out to erstwhile Labour supporters who have always felt on the fringe because they belong neither here nor there, so he fell back on the same technique of telling folksy stories, which he used the very first time he spoke after he was elected leader.
It is the kind of rhetoric which is employed by politicians the world over when they need to give their supporters something with which they can identify – in this case Muscat and his family are the prototype of the upwardly mobile middle class which has emerged from a working class background. It was to them he was speaking, in order to tap into that segment of the population which is very much aware of its humble roots, but still feels somehow shamefaced at admitting where it came from. In fact, it is here that Muscat is being the most savvy, because he is making it possible for middle-class Labour supporters who come from a lower socio-economic background to stop feeling so ashamed.
This is one of the things I have never understood about Malta – this need to hide “where you came from”. In other countries, when someone successful comes from what is referred to as a blue-collared background, he/she is looked upon with even more respect. Here, for some reason, it is like the person has some kind of horrible disease and needs to be shunned. Explain it to me someone, because for the life of me, I find it impossible to comprehend.
Unfortunately, there are those who are only too willing to sneer at the new middle class for trying to be LIKE ONE OF US, whatever that is supposed to mean in this day and age. Not only does this absurd phrase verge on the fascist but it is incredibly stupid in terms of political nous. And here I have to bring in the Nationalist party and its own rallying of the troops.
Listening to Gonzi and his colleagues addressing their own general council, I noticed that many of the speeches spoke of unity, inclusion and being open to divergent opinions. It is very difficult to take these statements at face value, however, when all over the Internet I read comments which are saying diametrically the opposite. Criticism, however mild, towards Gonzi and his administration is met with bitterness, hostility and a snarky attitude. Oh, and of course, let us not forget that, if you are really intelligent, you have to vote PN (because, it seems, no other option is allowed).
Those who point out that maybe, just maybe, it is not such a good idea to have the same political in party in power for so long are called all sorts of names, the most “insulting” apparently is that you are a (jaqq) Laburist/a.
So much for inclusion. So much for wanting to win people’s hearts and minds so that they might just vote for the PN again because they feel they can identify with its ethos.
If the Nationalist Party truly feels it deserves to be re-elected, then it needs to take a long, hard look at the damage which is being done by some of its most die-hard supporters. For compared to the destruction to the party being caused by some of the hate language being spread, Franco Debono comes across as a harmless pussycat.