Adrian must go, a new leader is needed

Claudio Grech may be a conservative, but he has the serenity of a modern leader, the composure of a statesman and the respectability of someone who can transform a party to stand for something

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia
Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia

The mess inside the Nationalist party is not good news for anyone. They have no one to blame but themselves, but the fact remains that a country without an Opposition will be a crisis on our hands. Surely you cannot blame Joseph Muscat for this. If anything, we must look at what has been happening inside the PN well before Adrian Delia took the helm in 2017.

The soul searching that took place in the aftermath of 2008 and 2013 was discarded and ignored – that is pretty much it.

Listening to the PN’s Net FM and its chief propagandist John Zammit, who has been with the station longer than the debt that has accumulated at the PN HQ, one starts to think that the PN is living in cuckoo-land. I heard Zammit trying his best to articulate the PN’s policy on migration and foreigners. The man from Mqabba said that we should call it ‘smart migration’, a term coined by Delia but on which clearly Zammit has no grasp or understanding of what his own party was saying. Zammit perhaps reflects the reality of the PN, a confused mind with no real direction, and what is indeed so problematic about the PN. While Labour has done away with the Talibanesque preachers, the PN hangs on to them.

Of course, the real salient problem is the leader. I have no problem accepting the fact that Delia is a far more affable figure than Simon Busuttil, a far more accessible individual and a better communicator. But that does not necessarily mean that the Nationalist party is better served.

The scathing attacks from within the PN against Adrian Delia’s bid in 2017 and his irascible reaction to the reports on the past corporate services he lent to a Maltese brother-owner in London’s Soho, served to cause an irreparable rupture with the PN core loyal to Simon Busuttil – a quite militant, middle-class Nationalist nucleus often chastised as the party elite – and the traditional PN grassroots support that saw in Delia a vociferous leader more suited to Maltese politics than Busuttil.

Claudio Grech may be a conservative, but he has the serenity of a modern leader, the composure of a statesman and the respectability of someone who can transform a party to stand for something

Since then, Delia’s risible references to ‘Catholic and Latin’ Malta – as the anachronistic PN anthem so loftily goes – have seen his rhetoric veer further to the right, particularly on immigration, simply because he thinks there is an electoral niche that can be tapped.

But beneath all that, is the fact that Delia’s decision to run for PN leader appears to have been taken despite his own family’s opposition, now having put so much a strain on the relationship that the family no longer resembles the perfection one finds in an Evelyn Waugh novel. Delia entered the world of politics against the wishes of his wife and children. And the strain of the last months exacerbated itself with reports of inebriated moments, late nights, and flirtatious moments with female aides and friends. It was also clear that his wife’s family had intervened to support the family and children.

This was a time-bomb waiting to go off, and the campaigners who worked relentlessly to elect Adrian Delia knew that this was not a remote possibility but a reality. It was only a question of time.

I am privy to details which, were I not committed to the ethics of journalism, would have long been used as tittle-tattle for the denizens of social media. But no marriage is a straight line, and revelations of marital discord to simply serve the curiosity of certain people will lead us nowhere. But it is clear that in these circumstances, and with Adrian Delia’s own uncomfortable fiscal status, he was foolish to enter the unkind world of politics knowing that his family was against it. It smells of cavalier narcissism.

Those around him, namely Pierre Portelli, knew this, but they carved a niche for themselves to ensure that their sojourn inside the PN would be as advantageous for them as much as possible. They conveniently ignored the writing on the wall. Perhaps nothing beats Portelli’s incredible stupidity when he duelled with his boss’s wife on Facebook.

The truth is that the beyond the fact that the insalubrious details of the matrimonial discord between Delia and his wife are not beneficial to the image of a party leader: a lack of focus on Delia’s part is no way of halting the PN’s spiral into oblivion.

Today’s front-page story is not based on assumptions, but facts on a desperate situation that is not going to go away. Adrian Delia may not care much for the future of the Nationalist Party, but this country does. We need an Opposition that can and will eventually be re-elected to govern this country.

Delia is not fit for purpose. His days are numbered and he cannot take a horse to a stable let alone a whole cavalry. The time has come for him to leave and for the PN to seek a new leader, one who would stand for something and offer a true alternative.

 

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Which brings me to the next stage.

This is the time when all those Nationalists who have complained about Adrian Delia and his unsuitability, come forward and do something about it. I do not think that there is much of a choice. So, if it were up to me, I think that the only choice is Claudio Grech.

He may have had a slip of the tongue this week, and surely carries some heavy baggage from his days from Austin Gatt, but he exemplifies the kind of person the PN needs, and also what this country needs.

We do not need two Joseph Muscat clones. We need people who have differing views on how society should develop, and who can do this with reason. Grech may be conservative, but he has the serenity of a modern leader, the composure of a statesman and the respectability of someone who can transform a party to stand for something.

If things do not change, Delia will take this party into the European elections and barely manage to elect two, perhaps one MEP. With Grech at the helm one can hope for a natural revival, as well as a healthy transformation.

Grech may ask himself if the personal sacrifice is needed or is indeed worth it. If he is in politics then there can be no half-measures. He should approach this gargantuan challenge as Joseph Muscat did in 2008, with humility and respect for the opposing party. And he should master the time management needed so that he can find time for his family as well as leading and changing his party.

Grech, in my view, has the same discipline as Muscat. Both are family men, are not men of excesses but health-conscious, well-briefed and knowledgeable, and capable of bridging with people – even those who disagree with him – and more importantly, logical and eloquent in delivery.

The writing is on the wall, it is only a question of seizing the moment. Not doing so, will mean the end of the PN.

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