At this stage in the life of Labour’s second legislature, one would expect a tired team and a certain complacency to have set in. Normally, the electorate would be reluctant to endorse the incumbent government with a third consecutive electoral mandate and would be considering a change.
Contrary to expectations, one survey after another, produced by different entities, point to a resounding approval for Labour. It appears that the PN has failed even to reduce the gap from the last election.
What are the reasons contributing to this rather unorthodox scenario?
The Nationalist Party should have utilised its time in opposition to do some meaningful soul-searching. Yet, the 2013 defeat report was merely assigned to the leader’s filing cabinet and the party failed to take the opportunity to regenerate itself. Several candidates have declared that they no longer form part of a party they no longer recognise. A long-standing local councillor, Alan Abela Wadge, went even so far as to warn the establishment to ‘regenerate before you disintegrate’.
The party remains rife with infighting. Following the removal of party leader Delia, the administration repeated the mistake of failing in its due diligence process and chose a leader who was a proficient tax evader. Bernard Grech hid the fact that he had been investigated by the Tax Compliance Unit which uncovered signs of “undeclared income” and “unexplained bank deposits”. He was warned prior to the audit that he had been in default for 12 years between 2005 and 2016, having failed to submit adequate tax returns and had underdeclared income by €43K. He settled a €30K income tax bill and €17K VAT arrears on the eve of assuming the PN leadership. The settlement of such a hefty sum by a lawyer earning €6k annually from his profession did not raise any eyebrows with the vetting committee. Nor, indeed, with the tax department.
It appears that the PN has failed even to reduce the gap from the last election.
Ever since the 2004 MEP elections, the PN has commanded a majority, a relative one at that, only in the 2008 General Election. Successive landslide defeats have failed to bring the PN strategists to their senses. Theestablishment that has taken over the party has angered level-headed Nationalist supporters by its conceit and negativity. Meanwhile, the party remains disconnected from the people.
The antics perpetrated in Brussels and the foreign press by Repubblika and Occupy Justice, which seem to hold the PN to ransom, have raised the ire of all Maltese, irrespective of their political allegiance. I admit that their acts used to make my blood boil but nowadays I find consolation knowing that they persist in digging their own grave. May I complement them on a job well done.
On the other hand, we have a government which, after eight years in power, remains full of energy, despite the challenges faced during the past months, which would have taken the wind out of the sail of anyone with a weaker disposition.
Not content with what has been achieved so far, Government has commissioned a National Post Pandemic Strategyaimed at building a new prosperity.
At party level, 100 ideas based on 10 themes were launched by the PL, described by Deputy Leader Daniel Micallef as a policy soul-searching exercise whereby the Party marked its 100th anniversary by revisiting its foundations and core principles within today’s context and challenges. Far from a tired, exhausted, and worn-out group, bereft of ideas, such as is the PN.
On the other hand, we have a government which, after eight years in power, remains full of energy.
The electorate’s strong approval ratings for both the PL and PM Abela acknowledge the work Government has been doing across different sectors. To name but a few, the attraction of foreign direct investment, with Malta Enterprise attracting 38 enterprises, expected to create a thousand jobs within 3 years; a €3M investment to provide free medicine to 14 patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, because for this government life does not have a price tag and everyone matters.
Each year new expensive medicines are included on the government formulary to be distributed free of charge. This does not include €80M on COVID-19 equipment and personal protective clothing as well as an extra €30M on vaccines alone. This investment helped Malta achieve the result it did in its fight against the pandemic, including being the first country to reach herd immunity, enabling the country to hit the ground running once the pandemic gradually makes a slow retreat.
No wonder that the choice for the electorate is ‘kristallina’ (apologies to Dr Delia). Labour will not win through the demerits of a non-existent and destructive opposition, but through its own merits by constantly regenerating party and government.
Labour continues to attract and encourage youngsters, eager to contribute their ideas towards revisiting the party’s foundations and core principles and, as a result, inspiring the government in building a new prosperity for Malta and the Maltese.