The latest published survey found that the Labour Party is leading the Nationalist Party by just over 39,000 votes when considering how people intend to vote at the next general election. This result may have seemed surprising to many people, not because of any demerit on the part of the Labour Party but because political parties who are approaching the end of their second term in power usually are not so overwhelmingly popular with the electorate.
However, a close analysis of Labour’s performance in the last few years quickly provides the answer as to why the PL is today still so popular with a considerable majority of the electorate.
Let us start with what many people seek in a political party which aspires to be in power: efficiency. Just to give an example, by the end of April, 2021, 83% of the pledges in the Labour Party’s 2017 electoral manifesto had either been implemented or were in the process of implementation. So committed is the Labour Government in this regard, that Prime Minister Robert Abela, speaking at a political activity in Mellieħa on 10th January, 2021, stated that the next general election would not be held before Labour’s 2017 electoral manifesto will have been fully implemented.
One can, of course, mention various examples of Labour’s efficiency in government. In the realm of the infrastructure of the Maltese Islands, we have seen the completion of the magnificent Marsa Junction Project, as well as the construction or upgrading of several roads in various parts of the country. Many people remember the bad old days when projects were never completed on time and costs resulted in amounts greater than those originally projected. This has not been the case with Labour’s projects which have been completed on time and within budgetary projections.
In the health sector, the Labour Government has been quite successful in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and by 5th May, 2021, Malta had the highest vaccination rate in Europe, having administered 79.82 doses per 100 people in the country. This has not meant that other areas of the health sector have been neglected. For instance, works are proceeding on the new Paola regional health centre, while new MRI equipment has been added to that of the Mater Dei Hospital.
One could go on giving examples of Labour’s efficiency in government. However, this is not the only factor that has contributed to Labour’s popularity with the electorate.
No new taxes; Welfare State
Another very important factor is the Labour Government’s commitment not to raise taxes. In fact, on 20th April, 2021, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana confirmed that although the COVID-19 pandemic was costing the Labour Government 5 million Euro a day in increased outlay and lost revenue, no new or additional taxes were being planned in the foreseeable future.
This commitment on behalf of the Labour Government is of paramount importance to the ordinary citizen. Fresh in the minds of many people are the price hikes in power and water tariffs under the Gonzi administration, which were not lowered in July 2009 when the price of oil went down to 65 dollars per barrel. The people have been spared such heavy sacrifices even though the COVID-19 pandemic has been costing the Labour Government dearly. Labour’s solution is different from that of the Gonzi Administration. Labour will rein in the deficit through economic growth and ensuring that there is no tax evasion.
Perhaps the most important of all factors behind people’s trust in Labour is the practical implementation of the concept of the Welfare State. This concept owes its origins to the pioneer work of Labour Leader Paul Boffa in the 1930s and 1940s. Labour Governments under Dom Mintoff built the welfare state and consolidated it in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. Later Maltese governments have all continued this work so that today the citizen is protected from the cradle to the grave.
Since 2013, an enormous amount of progressive social measures have been introduced in Malta, with particular emphasis on targeting the most vulnerable members of the Maltese society. There has been a sustained drive aimed at eliminating poverty and social exclusion. One can mention as a prime example the increase in pensions which has ameliorated the quality of life of so many senior citizens.
One of the most laudable policies implemented by Labour since coming to power has been that of ensuring that no person is discriminated against because of skin colour, sex, beliefs, etc. Various reforms have benefited thousands of Maltese citizens. Take women as an example. It is no exaggeration to say that the two Labour governments since 2013 have a track record of being the most feminist in Maltese history. A host of measures have boosted women’s chances of success in life. Free childcare has ensured that thousands of women can now go out to work without worrying about who will take care of their children.
Furthermore, everything is being done to ascertain that women are represented as much as men in public life. A major milestone was reached on 14th April, 2021 when the Maltese House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the third reading of a Bill on gender parity in Parliament.
Finally, I cannot, of course, forgo mentioning the able and distinguished leadership of Prime Minister Robert Abela. If the Labour Party is so popular today, it is also due to his expert steering of the ship of state during the very difficult and trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when some were predicting that the Government would collapse under the strain, the opposite has happened and we are today witnessing a fully functional economy, the safeguarding of jobs, the introduction of more social measures, and the strengthening of the rule of law and good governance, as well as a sustained drive against all types of corruption.
There are many other positive attributes of Labour that I could have mentioned but I think that I have still adequately shown why the Labour Party remains the number one choice of a preponderant majority of Maltese citizens.