Electoral Campaign Week 3: Bernard’s Passchendaele

Week 3 saw more changes to the PN manifesto and Robert Abela, justifiably hammering away that every single vote counts.

The first battle of Passchendaele (sometimes called the Third Battle of Ypres) took place on the 12 October 1917 in the Ypres Salient area of the Western Front. Fought during the First World War, the Allied plan to capture Passchendaele village was Sir Douglas Haig’s attempt to break through Flanders. The Battle of Passchendaele really encapsulates World War One and the campaign as a whole is remembered for the extremely muddy conditions in which it was fought – it was swamp like in places. For the soldiers who fought at Passchendaele, it was known as the ‘Battle of Mud’. Tanks got stuck, fields became impassable and movement for soldiers was tricky to say the least. Whole armies were bogged down and no progress could be registered anywhere across the frontlines.

We are now counting the days of the third week of the electoral campaign. Very soon, it will all be over and this quite unique electoral campaign will have given the country its anointed party in government.

It has been remarked many a time by now that this campaign is not instilling the normal rush of adrenalin and excitement that party followers normally feel during a campaign. It is somewhat subdued and enthusiasm is there. Albeit dampened. Three weeks is a lot in the world of politics, let alone in an electoral campaign. And it is very evident that, perception-wise, nothing has changed really from the first week of the campaign.

It is very evident that, perception-wise, nothing has changed really from the first week of the campaign.

The Nationalist opposition entered the campaign with a minus thirteen point position when compared to Labour. Nothing whatsoever has changed from three weeks ago. Bernard Grech has dismally failed to make any inroads with any segment of the local population and his numbers are stuck and bogged down with no form of respite in the vicinity.

This campaign can thus be easily referred to as Bernard’s Passchendaele: the leader of the opposition party who has been stuck in a political war of attrition which had taken its toll on the PN’s possibilities and chances many moons before Prime Minister Robert Abela announced the startup of the electoral campaign.

Week three underlined all this: The PN’s manifesto was given centre space so as to steal the week’s thunder by the opposition. A manifesto which has been revamped so many times in this last fortnight that we have all lost count which edition are we talking about now…the third edition? The fifth edition? This tactic failed dismally, with half-baked electoral pledges being shot down by Labour spokesmen on a daily basis. Finance Minister Caruana has shown, with his typical no-nonsense manner that numbers-wise, PN pledges not only do not add up, but are inherently dangerous to the staggered growth rate planned for our country.

It was not just the numbers. It was also anout PN spokesmen being caught with a chilling regularity not knowing what they were talking about. Veteran PN MPs losing face with Ministers. Or veteran MP Jason Azzopardi bullshitting and stonewalling about the PN tax refund pledge and, whilst bottling all Labour criticism on it as fake news, he then urged the journalists to look at page 162 of the manifesto to understand his party’s pledge. Sadly, page 162 had bugger all to do with the subject in question.

Bernard Grech also continued his hara-kiri like impromptu comments which were said off the cuff and hurt or alienate a vast swathe of the electorate. We first listened incredulously to Grech stating that he would be ODZing our Party Headquarters. We then witnessed a surreal long monologue by the leader of the opposition which basically urged childless couples to join the opposition party so that they would work for a better future for other couples’ kids. How insensitive is that in a scale from one to ten? One thousand? We also had Bernard’s unhesitant quip that the Pope should come to Malta after a Labour victory (and thus a Labour government) specifically because the doctor is needed when one is ill. That came immediately after his insanely ‘vera tal-ostja’ quip.

There were more campaign anecdotes similar to the ones above. All these instances, coupled by a struggling PN campaign team who have been desperately trying to project Bernard Grech as a hip nice guy, seem to have not even scratched at the surface of a potential PR boost in favour of the leader of the opposition. Even his ‘xi hlew’ efforts, like his great soccer skills projected this week, were turned into laughable memes and his gamer appeal was immediately quashed by Labour, who promised him Game Over in the next fortnight.

On the other side of the coin, Labour had an excellent week. The FATF incoming delegation announcement showed the mettle which premier Robert Abela’s government is made of. And it took the wind from the sails of those doom and gloom PN creatures who have been prophesying the financial meltdown of Malta since 2013. Surveys continued to show massive support for Labour, with a projected electorate turnout estimated to be within 87-89% of the population. More foreign direct investment has been launched and announced and Labour’s leadership when it comes to equality and civil liberties has been furthermore strengthened with a number of trail-blazing pledges on the subject matter.

Labour’s electoral campaign is slowly but surely getting there, even though Robert Abela had to improvise and factor in a number of absent days from the campaign trail due to his need to be abroad specifically because of the Ukrainian situation.

Week three, however, has also marked Labour’s Achilles Heel. Complacency. It cannot accept a scenario where Labour supporters know that a huge Labour win is a certainty and thus opt to stay at home. Justifiably, Robert Abela has been hammering away that every single vote counts and votes which stay at home and are not put in the ballot box mean a vote for the opposition party. 

Slowly but surely, we are all being ushered into the last fortnight of this election campaign. Let us wait and see what these days will be bringing us. I, for one, will not be holding my breath. The Battle of Passchendaele and the ensuing stalemate lasted far longer than a fortnight.

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