Labour is BOTH the Government and the Opposition

The country is slowly but surely disentangling itself from the coronavirus pandemic restrictions and protocols and cautiously moving forward in paces which outrun other, bigger EU countries. It will not always be a smooth ride in the coming years but the foundation for a sound financial backdrop and an everpresent eye to the social needs of the community has not wavered. Despite the fact that we went into a long, dark period due to the international pandemic without a recipe book.

True, Labour paid the price on the economic front of a number of gross character miscalculations which severely impacted the country’s perception related to good governance in the early years of power. Notwithstanding such fuckups, Labour rode the storm and still managed to break its own targets and keep the country safe and sound, in more than one literal aspect.

Which brings me to today’s theme. The Labour Party in Malta is going through a very interesting period. Whilst in government, it is preparing for what the surveys have been constantly indicating as a third electoral victory in the national elections.

Whilst in government, Labour is proving itself capable of re-invigorating itself and addressing the main issues which negatively affected its governance in the previous years. It was wise enough to engage in a cathartic overhaul of its operations which is still an ongoing process.

Whilst in government, Labour is proving itself capable of re-invigorating itself and addressing the main issues which negatively affected its governance in the previous years.

Most Importantly, Labour has kept check of the country’s pulse and retained its overall popularity nationwide. Throughout these last eight years, it has decidedly put rest to the annually expected austerity measures that the previous conservative party was famous for.

But whilst shedding old faces and bringing in new and energetic blood into the fold, this Labour government had to do a bit more than that. With the state of the opposition in total internal meltdown, our country faced, and still faces, a Labour government with no real, credible opposition for the electorate to choose from. Year upon year of in-house fighting and sabotaging has dramatically weakened an opposition which has made itself totally unelectable. Not only have they failed miserably to effect much needed change and re-organisation, but the nationalist party in opposition has made too many gaffes, has too many leaders and schismatic groupings that the electorate cannot even start to feel safe and comfortable with such a party, let alone trusting them with running the country.

Like Saturn, one of the Titans who once ruled earth in Roman mythology, the Nationalist Party in opposition has devoured its own children should the latter be not liked by the ruling minority elite. According to the prophecy, Saturn would be overthrown by one of his sons. In response, he ate his sons as soon as they were born. Hopefully, Saturn’s child Zeus was hidden well by his mother Rhea. Hopefully there will be at least one budding nationalist leader who will be hidden well from the political fallout that the opposition is presently undergoing. Because, irrespective of one’s political leanings, the country desperately needs a solid and reliable opposition.

Until that time comes, Labour has had to face another unique challenge. Labour has to be the party in government and also the voice of the opposition. At the same time. Government policies need to be challenged. Its vision needs to be tweaked and corrected every so often. Its drive for innovation and change has to be bolstered every so often. One has to think outside the box and propose ideas, policies and initiatives that the government has not thought of. That is the role of a real opposition. Not some half-baked ideas sprinkled around with no cost benefit analysis. Kneejerk reactions do not bode well in governance. And that is precisely what the official opposition is offering to the electorate.

Knee-jerk reactions do not bode well in governance. And that is precisely what the official opposition is offering to the electorate.

In the meantime, party activists and left-leaning commentators are doing the job of being the opposition for their own government. Names like Jeremy Camilleri, Desmond Zammit Marmara, Emanuel Cuschieri, Jason Micallef and so on are certainly not Nationalist Party supporters. But their constant constructive criticism and their zeal in bringing a problematic scenario to the attention of their own government and the public in general is very much documented. Even the Labour Party itself has been actively projecting activities which promote discussion and debate on changes needed to be always in the forefront of societal change and development.

The Robert Abela style of leadership has been essential for fomenting such a situation. The Labour leader has, time and again, shown that he is open to suggestions, as long as they make sense and are in the national interest. This way of doing politics is indeed the only alternative in a country where the strength of the opposition has been slowly but surely been eroded due to its own Machiavellian power plays and bickering amongst themselves.

Some might say that this is a unique scenario, with Labour in government but with no real threat from the conservative opposition in the polling booth. Historically, Labour was in much the same position immediately after the Second World War, when the Nationalist Party was in total disarray due to its Fascist past. History also shows us that, due to Labour internal strife and due to the Nationalist Party skilfully orchestrating a number of strategic alliances under the umbrella of the clerical politicians, the latter managed to rise from the ashes in much the same was as a phoenix.

So, for those complacent enough within Labour who think that winning the hearts and minds of the population is a foregone conclusion, this fallacious assumption could not be further from the truth. If Labour keeps its feet on the ground, if Labour stalwarts remain humble and close to the people, if Labour ensures that its many talents are properly utilised, then the fate that history teaches us can be averted. But the two-letter word ‘if’ is, in itself, not a laughing matter. Just saying.

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