It is truly awful how badly the leadership of the PN is handling itself. There’s clearly a stubborn bunker atmosphere, barking orders to mobilise formations that exist only on a map, taking comfort from self-serving flattery, and seeking solace in imaginary magnanimity from the enemy as traditional support is deemed unworthy of its leadership.
I read without comment the agonised debate on the comments boards of my website. I have no illusion that it is representative of a broad spectrum of traditional support for the PN, let alone of any Labour voters that are potentially considering switching sides.
But I do know these are real people talking and in the case of most of them their feelings are true and their pain is real.
I have written a few pieces on where I disagree with policy or with strategy. I will not repeat those here. I want to comment instead on how the party is reacting to disagreement and how it’s managing its state of affairs.
It has not been Clyde Puli’s best week. He got caught out not having ready properly his own job description prescribed in the statute that requires him to refer potential candidates to the ‘Candidates Selection Committee’ before nominating them to the Executive Committee.
Being so ill informed about his own role was embarrassing enough. But it got much worse when he started producing all sorts of excuses for it. The worst one was that these selection processes were drawn up in Simon Busuttil’s time. The implication they are now dead letters because there’s a different leader betrays a cavalier attitude to rules-based systems.
It also gives away the idea that the ‘ħadd mhu akbar mill-partit’ mantra has now been turned on its head. The will of the person in office over-rules the written rules and is justified by the tyranny of a majority.
It is inelegant enough to unleash trolls singing from a grating hymn book which, perversely is scribbled from scraps discarded by Labour over time. It has some subtle tones to liven it up. Critics ‘do not have principles’ because to these people’s shared hive mind, supporting the bearer of the flag — rather than the values the flag stands for — right or wrong is a principle. The other side of that coin is critics should be reminded of their own inadequacies in order to persuade them into silence or to discredit the arguments which they make.
I do not blame the trolls that write this stuff as much as I do not blame the tannoy for announcing bad news. They are acting on instructions and doing what they think is best. They are the closest thing the leaders in the bunker have to regiments which they cannot mobilise to strike at the real enemy so they mobilise them instead to shoot the messengers.
It got really ugly when Clyde Puli lost it completely with David Thake. There is no universe in which his outbursts on Twitter, so atrociously public, are anything less than an indictment on the party’s most senior executive. He lost his cool, if ever he had any, and instead of providing cogent replies or have the timid decency of ignoring his interlocutor, he retorted with school yard taunts.
This is the behaviour of people who have long lost any hope of delivering any form of victory and are on the hunt for scapegoats in order to ensure their own survival.
The campaign promise that won the leadership election in 2017 was for the party to be put on winning paths. Even allowing for inveterate sceptics not lending a hand and not displaying loyalty, the failure of the leadership to force, anticipate and turn around this natural disadvantage in itself shows the gulf between the ambitions of the new leadership team and its abilities.
If it relies on entirely unjustified support in order to project an image of success, all it can achieve is a momentarily effective lie that would be seen through at the first voting challenge. It does not enjoy that support and the image it projects is of a frustrated bunch that has no policy beyond survival and no hope beyond a form of life in a political vegetative state.
It is sometimes necessary to say the obvious, calling a spade a spade as Clyde Puli put it rather prosaically. The job of leading belongs to the leaders. If they keep tying themselves up in error smoothed only by insistence there is none, few who do not worship them now they must be at their lowest point, will ever be inspired to support them.
Did Adrian Delia really expect no one would check the contract selling his property — already in the news — to pay off his outstanding tax bills? Did he really think he could get away with under-declaring the value to dodge some tax on furniture that does not exist? If he did so, did he really not think he’d better have an answer ready?
If he didn’t anticipate any of this it is because the leadership of the PN is looking at a map with flags in its war room and listening to the people downstairs who will cheer them on even with the enemy at the gates.
Nothing gives those agonising commentators on the comments boards beneath these posts a greater feeling of dread as if they were witnessing the crumbling of the Roman Empire, like the lackadaisical, inward looking, unproductive stubbornness of an opposition that never read its own job description.