Chris Fearne and Robert Abela can both be described with the term that would count as a death sentence in a leadership campaign elsewhere. They are ‘continuity candidates’.
The British press is busy hanging that ignominious label on the potential successor of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader they dislike most. Clearly the British Labour Party needs another Jeremy Corbyn as much as it needs a hole in the head. The outgoing Labour Leader was “democratically elected” by the party members. Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does.
Even as Labour remained certain of electoral defeat, even as it looked unelectable to anyone who could count, the legitimacy Corbyn enjoyed by having won an election directly from party members meant no one could remove him without appearing to betray the party membership. That’s how Adrian Delia survives. And will continue to survive.
In Malta, as in the UK, the election of party leaders by party members has inflicted American primaries intended for a presidential system onto our parliamentary model. It’s a disaster really.
When party supporters choose a nominee for the presidential election, they have to keep in mind that their candidate will still need to win a presidential election where everyone gets to vote. If Democrats veer too far to the left in their choice of nominee, their darling will not be able to win the election for them.
But our own Labour voters will choose the man who will be prime minister next week.
It’s become a race to the bottom so quickly. In an earlier post I wrote how Robert Abela was promising Labourites favouritism and nepotism and cronyism and clientelism as central policy themes of his premiership.
Chris Fearne on the other hand is doing more than talking. He is using the power of his incumbency as a government minister and tries to use it in advantage over his rival who is not a government minister today. Of course, he’s being a galantom bi flus ħaddieħor as you might expect.
Billboards have sprung on our roads signed by the “Uffiċju tad-Deputat Prim Ministru” extolling Chris Fearne’s health ministry’s ‘achievements’. Why do we need to know about this now? Will we need surgery soon? Are we being diagnosed for some ailment through the CCTV cameras that have sprung up all over the road network?
No. Chris Fearne uses your money to convince card carrying members of the Labour Party (and since you’re reading this, I have a stinging suspicion you’re not one) to make him your prime minister.
That’s not enough. As he hears the hoofs of Robert Abela’s horse gallop closer to his own horse’s tail than he ever expected them to be, Chris Fearne is beefing up his campaign team. His own ministry resources (which by the way you also pay for and that’s not to help him run his personal campaign within the Labour Party with which you should have nothing to do) are already deployed at full stretch on asking Labour Party members “għandek bżonn xi ħaġa. Tinsiex taħseb f’Doktor Fern ta!”.
But now Chris Fearne is recruiting minions from all over the place. His fans in various government departments are downing tools, abandoning their place of work (while obviously retaining their salary) so they can work from Chris Fearne’s office. That’s still the Ministry of Health in case you thought he went through the bother of setting up a campaign office to avoid using a public office for personal campaigning.
It’s easiest for Chris Fearne to tap resources from within his own ministry. That’s also because it was easy for him to use his power as minister over the last years to recruit his fans and his constituents whenever a vacancy in the health department comes up.
Now these people are leaving their stations unmanned so they can go asking Labour Party members what more they can get for them to vote for their candidate.
So, think about it. You pay for your health professional who downs tools to use an office you pay for to sell favours to Labour Party members you will have to pay for so that they get to choose who will be your prime minister.
Could this be more undemocratic? And could this be any less identical to what you’ve been living under for the last 6 years?
As far as they’re concerned nothing needs to change. As far as they’re concerned nothing can ever change.
‘Continuity’ and ‘unity’. An eternity of this before your eyes.