The last three surveys published in recent weeks by independent newspapers show that the gap between Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition Leader Bernard Grech is still getting wider.
Of the three surveys, the one conducted by statistician Dr Vince Marmara shows the narrowest gap between the two, which is a whopping 18.5%.
If we ever needed a reason why people are still reluctant to trust Bernard Grech, we got the answer this week. Bernard Grech’s “green” press conference was the classic definition of a train wreck performance. A disaster.
What was supposed to be a showcase of the credentials of his leadership on the environment and the alternative he will be offering, ended up being a series of gaffes. So much so that at the end of the press conference, the headlines spoke about what the PN has not committed to, rather than any vision for the future.
Bernard Grech’s “green” press conference was the classic definition of a train wreck performance. A disaster.
Gaffe # 1: The 2006 local plans
At the start of the press conference, as he has been doing in the past months, Bernard Grech went on to criticise the “uncontrolled development” and “environmental devastation” that took place in the last eight years. Anyone who follows Maltese politics and has an interest in environmental matters knows that the absolute majority of permits issued today are based on the local plans introduced in 2006, whereby Government decided to introduce a large portion of former rural land, the size of Siġġiewi, as areas for development.
Those who were following Grech’s press conference got the feeling that by the end of his speech he would pledge a review of these local plans that were previously announced by George Pullicino in 2006, which are causing the “uncontrolled development” he spoke about. So much so, that at one point he even criticised the current government for not changing the 2006 local plans during the past eight years.
But when the first question was asked, we witnessed a different politician. One who backtracks. In fact, he even made strong statements contradicting what he was alluding to earlier. Among them, that the 2006 local plans were “what was needed at the time”, and that the “uncontrolled development” was not a result of these plans.
By the end of the press conference, journalists, who seemed to grow less patient, asked which development policies would Prime Minister Bernard Grech change. No answer was forthcoming.
Gaffe # 2: Marsascala regeneration
There was no doubt that the Marsascala marina would be next on the list of questions. So, one understands that strategists had a chance to prepare the Opposition Leader well. An easy subject, one would have thought, as after all, Bernard Grech had already made his position clear that he would repeal the marina plan. One expected a strong position.
But even here we got an unclear and backtracking reply. In one sentence he said that he didn’t want a marina, and in another, he said that he wanted the “reorganisation of yachts.” One wonders what Bernard Grech meant by this phrase, and how it differs, in practice, from a marina.
One wonders what Bernard Grech meant by the phrase “reorganisation of yachts” and how it differs, in practice, from a marina.
In another comment he did not rule out that if he is Prime Minister, he will create marinas in other localities. A very different statement from his earlier narrative against yacht marinas. One expects the Leader of the Opposition now to state where the yacht marinas he is planning will be.
Gaffe # 3: Jason Azzopardi
Another question PN strategists should have expected was the other cavallo di battalia, namely good governance. A clear question following recent revelations that Jason Azzopardi lied when he said that he never benefitted from his friendship with business tycoon and alleged mastermind of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, Yorgen Fenech. It was recently revealed that he allegedly used a fictitious name in Fenech’s hotels and that he also asked Fenech to organise a coffee morning for him.
Bernard Grech’s response was perhaps the flattest he’s given so far. The only reply he could think of was that these were stories that took place in 2008 and not today. Moreover, he tried to justify Azzopardi by saying he is not a Minister anymore.
How can anyone take Bernard Grech seriously when he fails such tests on issues he’s so vocal about?
It’s the economy, stupid!
It seems that each time the PN raises momentum on an issue and everyone expects Bernard Grech to perform, he disappoints. Throwback to last year’s Budget speech when he called the Labour Government’s economic plan of being “virtual reality”, slamming government spending in the midst of a pandemic.
It seems that each time the PN raises momentum on an issue and everyone expects Bernard Grech to perform, he disappoints.
As it turned out, virtual reality has never been as real since the government’s economic plan, including increased spending, has led to successful results not seen in other European countries. In fact, despite the pandemic and the restrictions it has brought, government revenue increased by half a billion, compared to last year.
Robert Abela as a decision-taker
On the other hand, people see in Robert Abela, a leader who takes up a challenge rather than shying away from it. More importantly, he takes the decisions that are needed. We saw this when he took the reins in an unprecedented political climate. We saw this during the pandemic. We saw this in the area of justice and the rule of law. We saw this in the rent reform.
These are facts, not rhetoric. And public opinion reflects this.