Nationalist Party Leader Bernard Grech is supposed to be a Prime Minister in waiting. The alternative to Robert Abela as leader of the Maltese nation. Unfortunately though, his track record has been characterised by a lack of authority within the political party which he leads, as well as blunders and contradictions.
Grech’s lack of authority
The PN Leader’s freedom of action is constrained by the fact that he owes his position to the support of the so-called “Blue Heroes”, the rebels within the Nationalist Party who together conspired to undermine the position of former Nationalist Party Leader, Adrian Delia, and eventually succeeded in having him replaced by Bernard Grech.
This has meant that Grech has had to bow to the will of this rebel group. This was openly manifested in the process to appoint the first shadow cabinet under Grech’s leadership. Although the PN Leader had intended to implement several much-needed changes, resistance from the “old guard” within the Nationalist Party forced him to backtrack on his propositions, with the result that the intended radical changes did not materialise and Bernard Grech’s actual changes were reduced to a minimum.
The PN Leader’s freedom of action is constrained by the fact that he owes his position to the support of the so-called “Blue Heroes”.
Grech’s lack of authority as PN Leader was again exposed when former PN Leader, Adrian Delia traded insults on social media with PN Member of Parliament, Jason Azzopardi. On 7th October, 2020, The Malta Independent had reported that: “Opposition Leader Bernard Grech will see that disciplinary action will be used against those within the party who misuse social media”. In line with this public declaration, Grech called a meeting of the Nationalist Party Executive Committee to discuss the Delia-Azzopardi issue. No wonder that people were amazed when it was announced that: “The Nationalist Party has cancelled an emergency Executive meeting called to discuss a Facebook spat between the party’s former leader Adrian Delia and one of its MPs Jason Azzopardi after the two parties made up and expressed their desire to work together for the party” (The Malta Independent, 6th May, 2021). In other words, PN Leader, Bernard Grech had to once again abort an intended course of action and accept another snub to his authority.
Grech’s public slip-ups…
A major aspect of leadership in which Bernard Grech is also highly deficient is that of being careful not to blunder when making public utterances. A leader has to be extra careful not to offend anybody when speaking in public. That is the only way to rally people behind him, something that is an absolute prerequisite in an aspiring future leader of the nation.
In December, 2019, on the PN television channel during the programme Net Live, Bernard Grech offended the whole Maltese nation by stating that when on visits abroad, he was ashamed to say that he was Maltese and instead stated that he was Greek. To add insult to injury, he compounded this error during another Net Live programme on 18th October, 2020, by repeating the insulting comment that when he was abroad he said that he was Greek.
A future Prime Minister of Malta cannot commit such blunders when speaking in public, otherwise he would become an embarrassment for the whole Maltese nation. This is especially relevant in a country such as Malta which has a fiercely patriotic population. We Maltese always support our nation even though we are small. This can be seen, for instance, in the realm of sports, during football matches of the national team, or in the cultural sphere, during the Eurovision Song Contest.
Another major defect in a leader is when he makes contradictory statements. Bernard Grech always speaks about the Nationalist Party as an inclusive political party which welcomes all Maltese of goodwill and tolerates different viewpoints within the same party. This excuse has sometimes been used to interpret in a positive light the bickering which is a characteristic of the relationships between several different prominent personalities within the Nationalist Party. So it came as a great shock to people who had left the PN over the years and were aspiring to return to the party’s fold when they heard what the Nationalist Party Leader had to say about people who had left the PN ranks and wanted to return within it.
Interviewed on 11th April, 2021, by Newsbook News Manager, Charmaine Attard regarding the return to the Nationalist Party fold of Franco Debono, the former PN dissident Member of Parliament, Bernard Grech said: “I shall be speaking to Dr Franco Debono. His rehabilitation within the Nationalist Party, if he so wishes, can also start slowly. However, this is not an issue concerning only Franco Debono, this is a message that I am sending to everybody”.
After this clanger dropped by Bernard Grech, people who had left the Nationalist Party in the past and were considering returning to it, started asking themselves whether being put through a humiliating process of rehabilitation was worthy of a democratic political party of a country forming part of the European Union. This public statement by the PN Leader reminded one of Maoist China and the Stalinist Soviet Union!
Another clanger dropped by PN Leader, Bernard Grech concerned youths. The Nationalist Party is doing its utmost to attract youths. However, during an interview by The Malta Independent editor, Neil Camilleri on 18th April, 2021, Grech was asked about the Labour Government’s white paper for the legalisation of cannabis. Replying, the PN Leader stated: “Indeed, Robert Abela tried to use this cannabis issue to, as he thought, distract the attention of youths and, to a certain extent, he succeeded because last Sunday’s survey showed that youths moved closer to the Labour Party …”.
This was another major blunder by Bernard Grech and a gross error of judgment because by giving the impression that youths were gullible individuals who swallowed Robert Abela’s vote-catching bait, he offended a great number of youths who might have been considering moving closer to the Nationalist Party.
By giving the impression that youths were gullible individuals who swallowed Robert Abela’s vote-catching bait, he offended a great number of youths who might have been considering moving closer to the Nationalist Party.
Grech then compounded the above-mentioned error by keeping the Nationalist Party out of the public consultation about the cannabis reform and not presenting the PN’s proposals, as well as once again insulting youths by stating, during a May, 2021, Net Live programme, on his party’s television channel, that youths do a lot of stupid things. All this served to reinforce the impression among many youths that the PN did not really respect them at all and that it only churned out meaningless and absolutely empty words when it made public statements praising them.
Sitting on the fence
Bernard Grech is also regarded as something of a political coward. He rarely takes up a strong position on a particular issue but prefers a “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds” approach, trying always to sit on the fence to avoid offending anybody. This is surely not the way a political leader of calibre acts.
At times, he also seems afraid to face the questions of particular journalists. For example, an Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) Press Release dated 27th October, 2020 stated that during the Press Conference after the reply to the financial estimates by Bernard Grech, as Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Representatives, One News journalists were not invited to be physically present and ask questions. However, three journalists from other media houses were physically present during the Press Conference and could, therefore, ask questions.
When, in the very near future, a potential voter reflects on all these defects of Bernard Grech, one will surely conclude that the present PN Leader is not fit to become Malta’s next Prime Minister. When one then compares the record of Prime Minister, Robert Abela while in office, one’s decision will surely be: “I’ll vote Labour”.