The 2022 general elections are now a thing of the past. The election results, although totally foreseen and anticipated, catapulted yet again the Labour Party into the annals of history. Never before in the history of these islands did the same political party muster three consecutive wins of such huge proportions. This election result on its own was not registered since 1955, the year that Mintoff had reunited the Party after the Boffa split.
It was inevitable. People like yours truly were stating this in black and white years before the March 2022. All the surveys, month in and month out, were projecting this same factor since the months following the 2017 general elections.
And the Nationalist Party? Well, they did everything in their power to self-destruct throughout these five years. Undoubtedly, in the coming days and weeks, loads will be written on this subject by various players and observers on this subject matter. I will also dwell a bit on this subject in next week’s article. But not today.
Prime Minister Robert Abela now has a clean slate. No more weighty albatrosses hanging around his neck from the ghosts of the not so distant past. The people gave him a resounding endorsement on how he sailed the ship of state in these last two years. Against all odds. With one national and international emergency after another. This is his parliamentary group. His cabinet. He is now the acclaimed leader of the Party. Not because he is a mere hob in the machinations of continuity but because he has indeed created his own aura and captivated the hearts and minds of his own audience.
PM Robert Abela now has a clean slate… This is his parliamentary group. His cabinet.
Which is not only Labour. It is national. But national as it is, Robert Abela’s task to win yet another five years for Labour in 2027 does not only depend on running a smooth ship of state. Of fulfilling the promises in the electoral manifesto. Of projecting the achievements of the government of the day. At one time or another, even the Nationalist Party did just these salient factors. And look where it is now.
Robert Abela’s long term vision can be properly audited and analysed when one keeps in mind that, at the height of his popularity as leader of the government, after a most successful campaign win, he set in motion, overtly and covertly, the first steps in ensuring that the Labour Party recharges and rejuvenates itself. The process of reformation within the Party is indeed one of the most important challenges facing a political party – any political party – in government for its third consecutive legislature.
Setting aside the obvious beneficial marketing factors surrounding the usage of the term ‘Movement’ when describing the resultant majority backing the Labour Party for these last eleven elections, let us not delude ourselves: the backbone and simultaneously the cornerstone of such wins remains the Labour Party. Which includes Labour party adherents, activists and supporters. It also includes disgruntled and disillusioned Nationalists who have lost heart in their own party; liberal Nationalists who have, in time, converted to Labour Party principles and philosophy; and mercenary Nationalists who jumped ship simply because they realised that their opportunistic needs would only be potentially catered for by a Labour government.
Without a strong Labour Party, there can be no electoral wins. Without an active Labour Party gauging the level of thought and public perception throughout every village, town and city across Malta and Gozo, there is no way possible that the aspirations of the citizens within the community can be absorbed, analysed and executed by the Party in government.
The Labour leader has given out immediate signals after the election win of last week that he fully understands the need to reinvigorate the Party and its various structures. The Party’s local committees, once the throbbing motor of the Party, should be specifically addressed, with the necessary investment in human resources being a necessity and a priority. Party local committee officials should be a properly thought out mix of experience and loyalty together with new blood and energy, instead of an aged dinosaur scenario. They should stop being treated like all they are good for is to collect funds for marathons. Most importantly, their feedback and community experience on how the Labour ministers are faring need to be given more weight and importance.
The Labour leader has given out immediate signals that he fully understands the need to reinvigorate the Party and its various structures.
In this world of marketing and TV intrusion in everything that one does, the fallacious concern that Party structures are mere rubber stamping devices should be immediately discarded. These last five years have taught us that the Party needs to act both as the soul of the government and simultaneously the government’s devil’s advocate in lieu of the abject absence of a real opposition within the political scene. This dual role, seemingly irreconcilable, can only be achieved as long as the Party creates the right atmosphere within it for internal debate, criticism and, most importantly, to think outside the box.
Labour’s success to date is due to its innate skill in innovation. And being the catalyst for and of change. It is a process which needs not only be nurtured but even furthermore enhanced.
The Party must remain stronger than the government. This can be achieved by humility, discipline, loyalty and most importantly, unity. Its personnel need to understand their historic role at this moment in time and rise up to the occasion. Only thus can maverick operators within government ministries or within the Party itself be singled out and weeded out for the common good. Only thus can the potential arrogance and complacency synonymous of a third legislation government be curtailed and snipped at the bud.
Robert Abela knows this. He has been warned about this. Remember, his father knows the Party only too well. He has one hell of a private tutor there. It is the most important ingredient in ensuring long-term governance and popularity within the electorate. As Henry Ford once said, ‘all political parties are like poets: born not made.’ Adapting with the times and being the catalyst for change ensures that Labour in Malta is the natural home for the majority of voters. Whilst the opposition Nationalist Party? Well, it can discuss and rethink and reword all their Party from start to finish for all that matters. As long as the Party is hijacked by the conservative few, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I sincerely hope my Party will never have to undergo such a political nightmare.