You win or you die

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2019-01-09T16:52:01+01:00Wed, 9th Jan '19, 16:51|0 Comments

The President of the PN Executive told The Sunday Times a few days ago his committee will be discussing the current state of play in the party, which would of course be a discussion on whether Adrian Delia should remain the leader.

In the meantime other newspaper reports suggest that Mark Anthony Sammut has had that conversation with Adrian Delia and he was joined there by David Stellini who presides the Administrative Council. It’s impossible to be sure what was said but we do know that unlike the legendary conversation in Ġorġ Borġ Olivier’s Sliema home described in the autobiographies of the gone generation of PN leaders, whatever Sammut and Stellini told Delia did not persuade Delia to call it quits.

On the contrary. A mobilisation charge is ongoing within the PN that shows that Adrian Delia is taking the present challenge extremely seriously and fancies his chances of surviving it. From his narrow point of view his assessment is probably right.

Consider how meetings of the section committees (the grass roots committees in every town and village) are producing unanimous declarations of unequivocal support for the leader. I was part of these committees for several years. I know how they function when they get a nudge from HQ. This committee – Valletta – has received a visit from Frank Psaila. Other committees didn’t have to.

The Executive Committee is accountable to these sectional committees and members of the Parliamentary Group depend on them for their constituency canvassing. Whatever their personal views about Adrian Delia and the viability of his continued leadership, they can see that members of sectional committees will take a very dim view of a rebellion.

Clearly if Adrian Delia’s first motivation is to survive in his post as party leader, he’s going about it the right way. No matter what Times of Malta reports about his tax situation and what he said about it and what the truth actually is. No matter how much he embarrasses himself in fits of rage. No matter how toxic it is for any politician to have an accusation that he beat his children hanging over his head. No matter the judgement that more leading politicians in the party who supported him in the past now feel that is no longer advisable. Ultimately the votes will count and Adrian Delia’s team is organising those.

Mark Anthony Sammut and David Stellini may – I repeat may – have decided to withdraw their unilateral support for Adrian Delia that they had given in that motion in the wake of the Egrant debacle. But they merely preside their committees. They have no control on the voting outcome whatsoever.

If anyone does dare to produce a confidence motion in any of these organs, the outcome could very well be a majority endorsement of Adrian Delia. He’d have survived within his party and the voters would have chosen to keep him in place avoiding the inconvenience of explaining to others why they voted him out. They might do this knowing that this is practically condemning the PN to certain political oblivion. But why be the one to turn the current around and drown in the process?

Is it all for nothing? Perhaps. But then perhaps the debate itself, if it is had, might bring to the mainstream the considerations thinking people within the party are fully aware of.

The current environment is not amenable to debate. Councillors are saying they are getting phonecalls from party HQ ostensibly for a survey to determine what level of support the leader enjoys. They are all answering as they’ve long been trained to do: with unswerving loyalty. As soon as some of them hang up they then speak to their friends about a climate where whatever misgivings they may have, no one will listen without a metaphorical bludgeoning in response.

As people see this, they manage their own expectations. The fence sitters, the followers and the waverers will only demand the departure of the party leader when they are certain of victory. They will remember the old Klingon proverb, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.

Fear breeds inertia. Right or wrong the odds are hugely stacked in favour of Adrian Delia. Incumbency in the context of a political party is a massive deadweight. Even Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and Alfred Sant alone decided when it was their time to leave however massively overdue their decision was.

Access to party resources and media is useful but in the present context only a footnote. The aura of flag and office, the heritage of leaders past, the gravitas of the Stamperija, the chain of command from street leader all the way up to party leader: that is an edifice no committee, let alone a mere committee chairman, can topple with any ease. Right or wrong.

In all likelihood Adrian Delia will survive the present crisis as well and the gorgon will eat more of its children as the rebels are made to walk the plank. He’ll be stronger in his own little fortress. And the army with which he is supposed to fight the war for which his party is meant to exist will shrink that little bit more.