The Nationalist Party has seen fit to embark on a campaign entitled ‘Be the Change’. Their press conference where this campaign was introduced to the media and public in general referred to it in our native language as ‘Kun il-Bidla’.
A nice slogan indeed. It evokes a Barack Obama style of campaigning where the party is in synch with the grassroots and with the voting population at large. It evokes hundreds of volunteers listening to the will and needs of the community and coming up with a national grassroots movement which should have been a powerful counterbalance to Labour’s 2013 ‘Movement’ campaign. The latter campaign saw huge numbers of otherwise committed PN supporters switch to Labour and ironically remain within Labour’s campaign through thick and thin.
So, on paper, a ‘Be the Change’ campaign should have – and could have – been just the right dose of practical politics that the Nationalist Party needed in this pre-electoral campaign period. Because, irrespective of what every politician is trying hard not to say, we are indeed in a pre-electoral campaign period, which will inexorably blend itself into a fully-fledged campaign trail for both political parties.
There is a big ‘but’ in the above assumption. This big ‘but’ needs a number of questions, some of which might sound somewhat rhetorical, to be answered.
1. Has the PN changed?
If the PN is inviting the population to ‘Be the Change’ for the upcoming election, has the Nationalist Party itself undergone, in these last years of opposition, its own methodical and cathartic initiative for change? Are the key players and wheelers and dealers within the PN –all of which were mostly and grossly responsible for the miserable showing in the last ten elections held in Malta – still there? Is the arrogant, puritanical, high and mighty, I know it all pitch which was so obvious in yesterday’s PN still there or can anyone see any form of change in this regard? Was there any change in humility coming from the opposition?
2. What about Delia followers who voted for change?
If the PN is pushing the electorate with a ‘Be the Change’ campaign, how does this resonate with nearly half its own party activists who really voted for change within their own party, only to face an up-your-face coup d’état within its own party structures and the eventual overthrow of their own leader simply because the PN establishment did not want an outsider in tal-Pieta? Will the side-lined and disillusioned activists and volunteers who campaigned for the PN’s previous leader and who now found themselves ousted out of their own party structures and block voted to oblivion also be integrated into a ‘Be the Change’ campaign?
3. What is the state of PN committees?
How can the Nationalist Party project and promote a grassroots campaign when it is common knowledge within anyone into local politics that their local and district committees are in disarray, with PN clubs all over the island not even open for their constituents, with PN members of Parliament publicly and ferociously attacking each other within their own district and on a nationwide level?
4. Survey blues
How can the PN project a sustainable grassroots campaign when, during the whole four years of this legislature, all the surveys show that this same party is constantly and repetitively miles away from amassing a nationwide majority needed to be electable? With PN officers even being on record as stating that a gigantic 40,000 electoral loss was a positive achievement when compared to earlier polls showing that they were lagging behind Labour by 60-70,000 votes.
5. What’s the alternative?
How can a grassroots campaign be a credible alternative for the PN when, in these four years, they have not been offering any form of alternative mantra to a Labour government? The latter, despite some major flaws, has still been looked upon by the electorate, year after year, as the real catalyst of the nation and a real doer and achiever on a national scale.
6. Will partisan tactics outside Malta stop?
Tactically, the PN has also not succeeded from saving itself from discredited tactics and partisan strategy, especially outside Malta in European and international fora, which have long been condemned in various elections in these last eight years by the vast majority of the local voting population. It has indeed gotten from bad to worse. So, what change is that?
I cannot answer the above questions. I am sure that a PN guru might come up with some sort of apologia for most of the above and flout the rest of the questions. Irrespective of what our politicians state, the verdict will be, as it rightly should, written on the ballot papers of the coming elections. For any Labour activist, this is manna from heaven: having an opposition which is so self-destructive is indeed an added bonus. But for the country as a whole, this is indeed a sorry state of affairs with no credible opposition to offer a viable alternative to the present government.
Which brings me to Bernard Grech, the leader of the Nationalist Party and the Opposition. I know him personally and I know him to be a good man. Although we do not agree on everything, I know that he genuinely wishes to aid and assist and he means well. I sincerely believe that he is indeed a valid person who can do good for the country in general. I sincerely hope that he does not get burnt to crisps by the people surrounding him within his own party and whose establishment loyalties within their own party have already shown us how brutal and conniving they can be. If this happens, it would be a shame, even though all the signs are there that he is unfortunately holding the chair of PN leader for another who will be projected after yet another massive PN defeat in the next elections. Time will tell.