A trainwreck in slow motion

A trainwreck in slow motion

As I see it the allegations of impropriety or dubious ethical standards against Adrian Delia are secondary. Their provenance irrelevant. A short list of facts has been established by media outside the control of the PN from documents and records that if not discovered and revealed now before his election to the leadership would have anyway at some point while he was Leader of the Opposition or Prime Minister.

Three months into office Donald Trump realised life as POTUS is hard. There are many people whose job it is not to make it easy for you when you’re President. It is a testament to his obliviousness that he was surprised at this simple fact.

And with the case of Adrian Delia it is that naïveté that is really the primary indictment. Because you see, Adrian Delia is not undergoing a criminal trial. There may or may not be a day for that but I do not profess to know the law though I know there are rules of process that are not applicable here and citing them in defence is just hot air.

Adrian Delia is undergoing a political trial. This has not been prepared for him as a special and personalised form of torture by a hostile conspiracy or an establishment trying to keep out an upstart. He says it has very probably because genuinely he thinks it has. He does not realise this is what every day in politics is like.

And in this type of trial the bluster and the pomp, the theatre and the gestures of a courtroom are not enough. There are other unseen skills that need to come into play. And Adrian Delia has shown he does not have those skills.

When asked about foreign bank accounts in his name he was faced with classic and pretty mainstream journalistic trickery. I have no idea if when he first denied having had an account in his name he was bluffing and lying or he clean forgot he had had one. But after being confronted by the evidence he made a series of political blunders that derailed his train.

If he had forgotten his Jersey account from 20 years ago, when reminded of it he did not own up to the smaller, perhaps understandable, human error. He instead resorted to courtroom somersaults casting doubt on the authenticity of the documents and complaining the journalist “entrapped” him when she didn’t reveal all her cards when she first started asking questions like a prosecutor’s file on the defence counsel’s desk before the trial starts.

He took days to sit down to explain what his account in Jersey was really for and did so when his intuitive strategy did not get him anywhere. And his explanations were uncertain, unclear and unconvincing.

And when he felt all this was not working he adopted the courtroom maxim that in acquitting a defendant it is fair to use any means to create enough doubt in the jury’s mind to acquire a reluctant acquittal.

In this case any means meant reading from the hymn book written by Keith Schembri to defend the indefensible crimes and misdemeanours of the Panama Gang. He attacked the journalist who challenged him and he dumped on her the unfounded slander that she’s linked to an hegemony within the party he himself was seeking to lead.

For this is what is so surprising when Delia speaks of the “establishment” in the PN which he says seeks to suppress him. Does Adrian Delia actually support the PN? Did he even vote for it this last June? Did he think Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sorcery possessed the ‘establishment’ when the PN criticised the main actors on the government’s stage for the Panama findings?

Judging from the vehemence of his accusations his views on the “establishment”, a collective in which anyone who is not completely besotted by him is jettisoned, must be strongly and long-held.

If he really thinks the PN “establishment” is capable of conjuring imaginary accusations, fraudulently manufacture evidence, even lay a 20 year-long trap for him in 1993 in order to scupper his election campaign in 2017, why is he seeking to even be a member of this party, let alone lead it?

If his views are so strong, who will be left in this party after his election that is untarnished by the depths of this supposed malice of the establishment?

Here is Adrian Delia failing his first political trial of his short career. His instincts have proved all wrong and this is how that simple fact has manifested itself.

Firstly, prior to deciding to run he appears not to have examined his eligibility to campaign for the role. In the US they call them exploratory committees. If you’re a senator or a governor and are thinking of a shot at the nomination to the presidency you first get a bunch of people you trust to be objective and throw at you the worst case scenarios before deciding on your next step. Their job will be to dig deep and throw at you the worst criticism you can expect and as a prospective candidate you will need to decide if you will survive it: not legally, as in whether you’ll be able to stay out of jail, but politically, as in whether you’ll survive another tough political day.

Adrian Delia was completely unprepared for the simple reality that not everyone will be utterly beguiled by his offer to serve the party. Anyone who has spent a day in politics knows that nothing is unanimously approved. And rivals and critics and detractors and cynics and opponents with a full range of motivations will align against you because that is just the way it works.

He may tell himself that it would have been reasonable for him to expect Daphne Caruana Galizia not to report and comment on him the way she did. He may or may not be right. But what he expects is beside the point. Does anyone really think that in the unlikely event of Daphne Caruana Galizia sitting on this story now, Labour would have done him the same favour on the eve of the next general election? And does anyone really think that when Labour would have taken up that story the PN would be returning to any ‘winning ways’?

And then finally the political smoking gun in this political trial of Adrian Delia. He relied on and exploited a crowd’s willingness to suspend the facts and their rational thinking in order to support him. By resorting to myths crafted for him by the Labour Party, he persuaded his supporters to ignore facts that would have been more than enough for them at any other time to protest in the streets clamouring for someone’s resignation.

In doing so he committed the highest political crime in the books of a political party. He mobilised a faction in public action against the rest of the party. He himself incarnated and transformed the fantasy of factions within the party by building his own. At no point was this more clearly seen than when he mobilised a crowd of his supporters to protest on his behalf outside and inside the party headquarters intimidating the leadership of the party, not with violence or retribution, but with division and dissent.

He prized his own political survival over party cohesion.

That is where in the most glaring way ever his inexperience of politics really showed itself. You just do not do that. He became a story that was bigger than the party and he refused to take the hint. On the contrary he made himself the eye of this spinning vortex uprooting the unwritten bonds of party synergy while this served his needs in the here and now and ignoring tomorrow.

There will be a democratic choice on this and 3 Saturdays from now. This will no longer just be a choice of leader. It will be much more than that. It will be a confrontation with a destiny of a party in crisis.

Voters must examine why it is they are members and activists of this party. They have been councillors or card-carrying members since way before most of them even ever heard of Adrian Delia. They voted PN last June. They must ask themselves why. True, their party did not win. But until last June they believed in it even if Adrian Delia’s new way was not yet known.

Why did they believe in it? Would they have thrown it all away last June at first sight of a well turned out tall man with an exceptional gift of the gab?

If their own daughter or son failed a school exam would they disown them and adopt another child who promised them passing the next exams instead? Then why would they do that to their party which they have supported through thick and thin for so many years of their life? Why not rather start working on the next exam and let’s try to get things working again?

Adrian Delia is not taking the hint. May voters in these elections do it for him.