Saturday 22 June 2024

And what if this is really just another smear campaign? 

This article first appeared in Malta Today

It seems Adrian Delia is not for turning.  His status on Facebook (where else?) on Friday in which he made some very pointed statements, made it clear that he was not about to go away that easily.  Despite being urged to step aside because his continued presence at the helm under a shroud of serious domestic violence allegations, is causing further damage to the Nationalist Party, he seems to have weighed the odds and has decided to hang in there.

I’m quoting his status in full because it speaks volumes:

To all those who have hurt me, I thank you for giving me a chance to learn how to heal my wounds;

To all those who have tried to pull me down thank you for showing me how good it is to stand up prouder;

To all those who never stop attacking from outside and in, thank you for building me into an ever vigilant and stronger fighter;

To all those who have tried to humiliate me you have taught me self respect; 

To all those who seek to distract me you have sharpened my focus;
To all those constantly provoking you have granted me the gift of restraint;
To those who have betrayed loyalty you have shown me where it really lies and discovered it’s true worth;
To all those who know only hate I have learnt to fend off with only love for others;
To all those who wished that I do not salute this year as leader, perseverance throughout 2019 they shall witness;
To all those who sought to quench my fire the glow of passion shall shine through;
To those who sought to find my weaknesses my true strength they will witness;
To all those who hurt and abused of my dearest I can only pray God to show me what forgiveness really means;
To all those who have shown me unconditional support when at my weakest I will pay it back tenfold.

Yes, I know, it’s cringeworthy and sounds like one of those corny inspirational quotes people are so fond of posting on their timeline as they wrap up what happened to them at the end of the year. But we are living in that kind of social media world where people tap out their most private feelings on their profile for all to read, so it’s not surprising that politicians have also resorted to using FB in the same way as everyone else does (rather than just issuing a formal, dignified announcement to the press).  In fact, these days, newsrooms regularly mine FB in search of such statuses to write their stories and, right on cue and within minutes, Delia’s post was published by many of Malta’s main news websites, verbatim. 

Even the comments under his post indicated that people have come to accept this form of direct one-to-one communication from political leaders as the norm.   Apart from the palpable feeling of relief from his supporters that he was not stepping down, complete with the hashtag #myleader, the messages of support have continued to pour in as I write.   The groundswell of support was not only due to Delia’s refusal to stand down (which in many people’s eyes is tantamount to an admission of guilt) but also due to the fact that he declared that he would be suing Lovin Malta for publishing quotes by unnamed sources from inside the party which Delia has described as “unfounded and malicious allegations”.

One of the messages was by Nationalist MP Robert Arrigo who came out with what sounded like a battle cry: Traits of a leader. We can overcome. We are PN.”

Fighting words indeed, considering that at this point it is becoming more and more difficult to ascertain who the ‘we’ in the PN stands for.  Since Delia was elected, there have been thousands who have claimed that the Nationalist party does not represent them any more, and yet I am not seeing any concrete moves to set up a new splinter party, while the Democratic Party has failed to make any real inroads to get more people on board.  And whom is Arrigo referring to when he says ‘we will overcome’. Is he saying that the pro-Delia faction will overcome that faction of the PN which is very obviously doing everything they can to oust him?  Purely as an observer, all I can say is – good luck with that. 

As I stated in my previous article, in the light of the gravity of the allegations, the best course of action would be a vote of no confidence, but since there are no signs that this is happening, you have to ask yourself why no one has put forward this motion yet.  Aren’t there enough people within the party willing to show their faces and vote him out? His inner circle has rallied round him out of loyalty as expected, but also because, let’s face it, if Delia goes down, they go down with him. It’s a wonder though, why so many MPs don’t have the courage of their convictions to gather signatures and call for a vote – much like Tory MPs did when they tried to vote out Theresa May. It seems to me that their own political survival is more important than their principles.  

Setting aside its cringe-worthiness, each line of Delia’s post is replete with meaning, and one or two lines are even well-aimed barbs at specific individuals or groups of people.  At this point, I am not sure whether he is simply trying to brazen things out by going on the offensive. If so, he would be taking a leaf right out of the Labour Party handbook where politicians mired in scandal deny, deny, deny and just hang on for dear life until it blows over and/or public attention is diverted to something else. 

Which brings me to what is staring us all in the face. There are many who have pointed out the suspicious timing of the domestic abuse allegations which coincided with the latest survey that saw Delia actually making some kind of progress in the polls.  The obvious explanation, of course, is the possibility that all of this is really just another smear campaign, concocted with Machiavellian slyness, hitting a man very much below the belt, and guaranteed to make him crash and burn out of the political arena for good.  The implications of having family arguments being recorded and shared online have not been lost on public opinion, which on the whole is aghast at the depths of this new low.  If this is eventually proven to be yet another smear campaign that also means that there is still very much a nucleus of nasty people within the PN who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. 

I have scoured hundreds of online comments since this story broke to get a feel of the public mood, and have also spoken to others, and the general sentiment is that no one likes this kind of thing.  It is like being made an unwilling Peeping Tom, voyeurism at its worst, especially when taken completely out of context. If anything good can come out of this sorry mess, it is that there are more people who want politics to be fought in a clean way on the issues, than there are those who relish this kind of dirty muckraking. 

 To sum up, it has not been an auspicious start to the New Year. The future of the PN is not only bleak but continues to further strengthen an already too powerful Government by default.  Sometimes I think it would have made more sense for the PN to splinter into two groups the minute Adrian Delia was elected on 16 September 2017. It would still have represented a major blow to a party which once ruled the roost for 25 years, but at least it would have been a clean break, and by now the wounds would have started to heal so that one of the two factions would have slowly built up enough support to be a real Opposition. Instead what we are faced with is something much more dangerous and sinister for democracy – that of a party which is at war with itself, one side mauling the other, and too consumed with tearing the other down to focus on the issues which are really important for the future of this nation.  

Meanwhile the Labour administration can just kick back and smile as it gets away with doing with whatever it wants to do – just because it can.