The Armchair Critic | Leading a rally? Sure. But a country?

In a week, we will know who will guide us on the path of excellence for the next 5 years. No surprises, or a plot twist which we did not expect? We do not know yet, but, till then, we can make our own judgement and predictions. The last week is ultimately the most powerful and volatile, one unintended slip up or one power move, can change the direction of what the electorate desires.

On a Sunday, some of us enjoy nothing more than going to whatever rally or concert the respective parties are holding. A swarm of people head to whatever party it is they align with and enjoy nothing more than having this accompanied with a few chants and beers. Others, given yesterday’s dark weather, enjoy nothing more than watching these events unfold from  the comfort of our humble abode, wrapped around the warmth of our sofa and/or armchair. This is one of those times. 

What are we criticising?

The Labour Party’s ‘Together in Concert’ event and the Nationalist Party’s Sunday Mass Rally. 

What do we know so far?

  • Early voting has commenced. 
  • An estimate of 26,500 voting documents are yet to be collected. 
  • In a week, we will wake up and know who will lead us over the course of the next 5 years. 
  • The Sunday Surveys seem to show a steady stand-still in the predictions.
  • The Labour Party did things differently than we are used to. A full on concert, celebrating national pride and progress. 
  • The Nationalist Party held a mass rally in the Nationalist stronghold town of Sliema, a branch of the 10th Electoral District. 

From the leaders’ respective speeches, it would appear that the focus last weekend was not really on policies- well there were mentions, but there was a slightly different incline on other issues, such as addressing party supporters. For this, the usual policy ranking will be changed to ‘Key Points’.

Abela, the Conductor

Instead of a regular rally, the Labour Party has shown us that it had a penchant for doing things differently. The political stuff is still there, but coupled with this, is a full fledged concert. And let me tell you, what a concert! A wide exhibit of local impeccable talent and mesmerising stage graphics. And now, the Prime Minister’s time to shine. 

Abela thanks the audience for being present from the very beginning up until the final Sunday. Ah, the one thing that has been consistent since day one of Abela’s leadership, according to Abela at least: unity. We can agree that unity is needed, now more than ever and always. Abela labels himself as being direct- well that we can agree on. 

Ah, remember the very first rally– we said that the reason Spring was chosen is because it means regeneration and a new time to be rebranded. Abela said that this was the very same reason he gave to his Cabinet upon announcing the election. Abela maintains that Malta is a family, despite its members’ differences and things that keep us going- that does sound very much like how you would expect a typical family to go about things. But, we gather in every cataclysm as one and get through it together. Abela promotes himself as being the ideal person to lead because during dire and unprecedented times, keeping things under control and doing things calmly demonstrated competence to lead. This is something we can agree on: listening to the Opposition on just about everything, without due consideration would not have been ideal, and instead of making knee-jerk decisions and falling privy to the panic, discussion, proper and planning is what lead to adequate decisions. He imposed a rhetorical question on the audience, telling them can you truly trust anyone who makes decisions hastily, and who does not have a proper plan?

Let me tell you, what a concert!

We told you, the pandemic will not fall on deaf ears. To be fair, when you think about it, the relative majority of Abela’s tenure was dealing with the siege that was the global COVID-19 Pandemic, save one or two months. Looking back, when you think about it, it is true. Abela could have walked out and ran to the hills. A fresh, newly elected Prime Minister, dealing with a cataclysm that not even the most seasoned politician has ever dealt with. Abela says that after 2 years of a global pandemic, Malta did not slow down, instead, more work and investment was created. Another rhetorical question, in light of all this, can we really trust an aspiring leader who cannot even control his own party or will do anything to get elected, even if that means having half baked measures?

According to Abela, when you compare the Nationalist Party’s plan and the Labour Party’s plan, the latter’s is much more structured and serious in practice. For example: the sham that is the trackless tram proposal. From a modernised bendy bus, to a reduction of vehicle lands, but there will be more lanes in ODZ areas and about five different versions of a political manifesto. On the other hand, we have a self-effacing and pragmatic electoral campaign which we entered into as a mission, which deviates from the usual ‘Labour Party’ narrative, but instead, for Malta and every family which forms part of it. 

Ah, a focus on family. One of the driving forces, according to Abela of the Labour Party’s Manifesto, is so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. Children are a guarantee of our future, Abela says. And this is why costings are important, with tax reductions, according to Abela, families will see a total of 90 million euro in their pockets every year. The Labour Party’s proposals envisage better initiatives so that from the start of a child’s life, they are riddled with opportunities which teach them to strive to be better. This line is a first, and something which we can get behind. ‘We should and will be there for you, not you for us’ . We think we can all agree on that one. 

Ah, voter abstention, something which we have insisted on and hoped for a long time that someone will wake up and smell the coffee on. We are a week away from the election (and this goes for both parties), addressing people in a mass rally is counterproductive, because you are only appealing to your masses- if you want to deliver, address everyone on a national level. Yes, everyone. Answer their questions, tell them why they should vote for you, be honest and show that you have solutions for their concerns. But what is Abela telling us on this delicate subject matter? Should we rely on surveys? They are important, but not the ultimate truth teller. 

Rather, critically thinking of our decision should be left to us. If the Opposition cannot be trusted to simply lead, then our vote can make that happen. Abela hits the nail on the head on this one, determining our future and who will take the country further, ultimately boils down to us, not anyone else for us. ‘Bringing people before partisan politics, and family before neighbourly rivalry’ – yes. That is the dream. Abela hits a corral of targets for voter abstention, which make you think ‘I will vote on Saturday’. Your vote is the best exercise you can use to determine your future and elect people who are more likely to work on issues which directly affect you. A list of things which voting Labour would mean, and that the future is in our hands. What an ending. Let’s rank. 

Today’s Ranking

We are not really sure WHAT we should rank to be completely honest- the concert or Abela’s speech. The obvious answer is the latter, but let’s give some credit for the meticulously planned show of talent organised, and the performances, teeming with talent and punchy performances. The Labour Party clearly understood the assignment and went out of its way to go one step further than the usual political gatherings which we are used to.

If there was one consistent theme in Abela’s speech, it was the theme of unity. Abela’s speech, from start to finish, encapsulated this sentiment widely, whether it was when speaking about the COVID-19 Pandemic, or demonstrating that anyone who has something to contribute, forms part of the team that will drive everyone forward into an optimistic future. A series of imperative issues were conveyed, and addressed in such a manner that gave equal importance to every issue mentioned. When the Opposition is mentioned in his speech, Abela does not smear their name, as it can often be perceived, rather their ability in leading. 

We liked Abela’s tackling of voter abstention- it was about time that both leaders realised the seriousness of people choosing to abstain from voting. But, as we mentioned before, it should not be solely for those who are, evidently, voting for Labour, that this message should be delivered mostly to. Whatever it takes, swallow one’s pride if need be, encourage one to vote, be open to how you can do better, be open to whatever people have to tell you and start recruiting more people into the ‘team’. For full disclosure, we too (secretly) cannot wait for the election adverts to go away once and for all, for disturbing our enjoyment as we watch a Youtube video, but all it takes is a walk to the voting place, and back home for a cup of tea and spending time with the family. 

 

Key Points

Most interesting: Abela’s insistence of ‘unity’ which encapsulates the very essence of the Labour Party’s electoral campaign. 

On everyone’s minds: How the last week before the election will treat the Labour Party

Needs further explanation: Voter abstention and targeting Vot 16+ 

 

Final Verdict

Ambition: 9

Optimism: 8

Energy: 9

Style and Delivery: 7.5

Pragmatic: 8

Presentation: 10

 

Grech, the Evangelist

The Nationalist Party decided to keep things simple this time, a normal mass rally in the Nationalist Party stronghold of Sliema. Well, keeping things simple is good, good for not complicating matters for your following base. Wait, is this it? Last time a PN event took place in Dingli Street, we are positive that the whole of Dingli Street was full of cheering supporters, not just a small fraction. COVID-19, logistics mistake? Who knows, but this is what we’ve got, no point in sulking. 

We have speeches from two speakers- good points so far. And now, Grech takes it to the podium to deliver his words of encouragement and wisdom to the hopeful audience. Well, logistics clearly isn’t the main bone of contention for this meeting. Grech thanked the audience for braving the biting gale-force wind and cold, and still joining the Nationalist Party’s road to the election. Ever notice how, in the respective speeches, Grech refers to his wife, Anne Marie Grech as ‘il-mara’ and Abela calls his wife by her name- wouldn’t it be a better look to refer to one’s lifelong partner by name and not limit them by their role, almost as if reduced to chattel?

Acknowledgement seems to be one of Grech’s top qualities. He acknowledges all those who he had spoken to since beyond the beginning of the campaign, up until now. Whether it was via social media or at a rally. He maintains that the PN will continue to be proactive and work on their vision of Malta. More emphasis on consultation- another thing which Grech emphasises and preaches on. And apparently the Labour Party has given up on devising solutions. Are we still going on about how long it took the Labour Party’s manifesto to be launched? At least he’s addressing the proposals instead- finally, a different narrative. Ah, seems like Grech jumped on the ‘with us, you know where you stand’ bandwagon. Grech insists that the Labour Party’s solutions address the next day only, longevity is not part of the equation and as a result, this wastes a lot of money. 

Last time a PN event took place in Dingli Street, we are positive that the whole of Dingli Street was full of cheering supporters.

Ah, voter abstention. Let’s see what Grech has to say about this pressing issue. Grech describes it as a ‘passport’ to the future- pun entirely intended? He encouraged those who have not yet collected their vote, to do so urgently, because although voting is a right, it is also a responsibility. This, we can agree on. Ah, a rant on Abela. We do not know why we withdrew the objection that Grech would not rant about Abela today- perhaps we were optimistic. He labels Abela as a Prime Minister who is uncertain and unfocused. The Deputy Prime Minister is a liar now too? And we wonder why tribalism will always be a part of Maltese culture. Sigh. Questioning Abela’s actions- that is to be expected from the Leader of the Opposition- but insisting you are not obsessed with the Prime Minister? We all know that is not entirely true. Sometimes the Nationalist Party focuses its full attention and resources on the Labour Party, so much that it forgets its one main crucial role- providing a better alternative for whoever is governing. Legal jargon- the PN’s candidates may on the majority be lawyers, but not all your followers are. 

We also have an obligation to convince those around us to vote- ah, at least Grech understands that those at the rally are already convinced, but those not attending need convincing. And vote for the Nationalist Party and the vision which the party has for the next 5 years. Grech told the audience, in a vigilante-ish tone, that it is our mission to ensure that the electoral process is followed from start to finish. Grech insists that the PN has a plan and a vision for the next 5 years- and reminds us once again of the ‘new’ economic sectors. We don’t think the Labour Party questioned what these sectors are, rather, that the relevant majority already exist. But, you MUST vote, says Grech, not to give him power, but so you take charge of your own narrative. Let’s rank.

Today’s Ranking

Hear us out on this. A week before the election, the Nationalist Party still has not shown or proven to be the alternative which everyone desperately needs or wants. It does not echo the sentiment of ‘we can still demand something marginally better’ but politics of the past which everyone is bored of. You would think after a successful fundraising event, the PN would invest in better logistics, especially, given the fact that the event was held in one of its stronghold districts. We keep on hoping that Grech will not focus almost exclusively on Abela, but he keeps proving us right every single time. 

To be clear, it is important to scrutinise those leading the country, that is what the democratic process is all about after all- but for those who think both are not fit to lead, the PN is not exactly doing a miraculous job at convincing people that ‘settling for second-worst’ may be better, at least for the minority of those abstaining from voting may think. We, personally, would love to see what Grech has to offer, how the PN has learnt to be better over the course of the last 10 years, and their attempts at ditching tribalism. The thing is, while some indulge in the ‘us vs. them’ narrative, this is purely futile and does more harm than good. History has shown us that we are, after all, better together- don’t believe us? Just look at how the nation handled the COVID-19 pandemic, a single effort to combat returning to a level of new normality, void of colours and political preferences. 

Key Points

Most interesting: Grech’s acknowledgement of everyone who had something to contribute and the rising cost of living. 

On everyone’s minds: How the PN will convince more people to vote. 

Needs improvement: Grech focusing solely on Abela. 

 

Final Verdict

Ambition: 7

Optimism: 7

Energy: 8

Style and Delivery: 7.5

Pragmatic: 6

Presentation: 5

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