The Nationalist Party has a new leader. After the disastrous three years with Adrian Delia at the helm, Bernard Grech takes over a party that barely recognises itself.
Once famous for its capable organisers and strategists, the PN is almost an empty shell. Once famous for capable and effective communications, the PN is in a small chamber that would have an echo if it was but a little bit larger. Once famous for its political victories, in opposition and in government, the PN is weak, divided, leaderless, unable to win an argument, not even within itself.
Although today’s outcome should challenge that crushing assessment. The Nationalist Party has shown itself capable of getting rid of Adrian Delia without splitting down the middle. There was no reason to assume that would happen. It didn’t happen on its own. There are many unsung heroes that have patiently arranged for Adrian Delia’s exit in spite of the grip the former leader had on what was left of the PN.
A special mention should go to Francis Zammit Dimech whose election to the position of Secretary General was greeted with unbounded scepticism by many, yours truly included. He and others may not have saved the PN quite yet, but today they can congratulate themselves for bringing it back from the very edge of its last winter.
I am not dragged along by the rare rush of enthusiasm that has gripped the many who have longed for the day when Adrian Delia would no longer be PN leader. I’m not going to miss anything about this chapter in history. I’m just not sure this chapter is quite over yet. Many have yet to show they are capable of adjusting to the new reality and they have said and done much that cannot be unsaid or undone. Adrian Delia himself of course. But also, his deputy leaders whose silence so far today has been ominous.
Allow me to take a dim view of Adrian Delia’s gracious concession speeches today. He has been trounced by the tesserati he continued to claim were the reason he refused to resign in spite of all the confidence votes he lost in party structures. If any of his grace was genuine he could have spared himself the humiliation of losing the ballot 31-69 and spared the PN the time and energy lost baby-sitting his tantrums.
Still, today’s result is a positive development. The obituary of Adrian Delia’s leadership was written before it started. This was an abortive political stint, doomed to crash by the fact that it was launched from a great height seeking to defy the inevitable gravity of political reality.
It will for long be incredible how someone so incompetent, so divisive, so obtuse, so lazy and so ill equipped for office was chosen to run the PN. It’s hardly surprising the Labour Party will miss him. Their statement today after it became clear their darling Adrian Delia would no longer guarantee the continued shrinking of their rival party was disgusting, even for their slimy standards.
“The faction of Simon Busuttil, who supports the arrival of immigrants in Malta, has won today’s election,” the Labour Party said today. “The faction of Jason Azzopardi and Karol Aquilina won. Politics that seeks to divide rather than unite.”
Labour manage to be hypocritical, racist, deceiving, uninformed, spiteful, petty, misdirecting and petulant all at once. That’s more adjectives to describe their words than the number of words they used to earn the adjectives.
In my personal experience, there was one more positive thing that came out of Adrian Delia’s time as leader of the PN. I’ve learnt to curb my enthusiasm. I’ve learnt not to make assumptions about people and to reserve judgement. I’ve learnt not to be carried away by the search for a messiah but to judge politicians by what they do rather than by what they say.
I feel relief to see Adrian Delia lose. But it’s not automatic for me to feel delight that Bernard Grech won. He has an incredibly difficult task ahead of him and I have no idea if he is up to the job. I have seen little so far to fill me with great hope. He’s not as mad, as soulless or as devious as Adrian Delia. That’s all true. But that’s not unlike evaluating a driving test candidate by saying they’re not blind, drunk and sporting a death wish.
I did like one thing Bernard Grech said today. “I’m not perfect,” he said, which seems obvious but perhaps it needed saying because he too must be hearing all the silly hosannas coming from people who have been dying to have someone, anyone, they can wave their palm leaves at.
Today was Adrian Delia’s last day of leadership and we are perfectly entitled to judge his term as a destructive waste of time and a service to the Labour Party’s criminal take-over of the country. Anything is better than that.
But the next days, weeks, months and years will tell us if better than that is good enough.
I hadn’t stepped into a PN building or participated in a PN activity as its member and activist for years. But yesterday I decided to use the residual privilege of my life-membership in the PN and cast my vote for Bernard Grech.
It was not an obvious decision for me. I don’t mean the decision of choosing Bernard Grech over Adrian Delia. That was clear enough. But I was in great doubt as to whether I should vote at all, whether I was moved enough to make a choice, whether the PN was something I belonged to enough to even have an opinion on the matter.
I decided to cast my vote because that was the choice available and that was the choice available to me as an eligible voter.
I thought back to the French presidential election in 2002. The two top candidates in the first round were the conservative candidate Jacques Chirac and the far-right candidate Jean Marie Le Pen. All left-wing candidates ranked lower and had been eliminated after the first round.
It wasn’t easy, but the left rallied around Jacques Chirac, a man they opposed throughout his career and opposed every day after his election. But ultimately it was a choice between the Gaullist pig and a far-right, fascist, racist, misogynist firebrand. Even communists rallied to vote for the Gaullist pig. Because they understood that if they left the choice to someone else, the firebrand would win and bad is, any day, better than worse.
I think in that sadness and frustration and disappointment, there is the maturity of a real democracy. I don’t feel I need to kiss the ground Bernard Grech walks on to admit I’d much rather him than Adrian Delia. I don’t feel that having voted for him yesterday and felt relief he had won the ballot today, in any way obliges me not to criticise him tomorrow.
I did not always think so. I was a party boy through and through. But I feel that after Adrian Delia I’m politically a bit more grown up like having been exposed to scandal and outlived my molester. Loyalty is so over-rated.
I’m not waving palms, shouting hosanna and asking Bernard Grech Superstar to save my soul. I’m dealing with this the way a democracy should deal with its leaders.
OK sir, here’s your chance. You said you wanted to do good, now let’s see you do it. Don’t fuck it up or we’ll have to look for someone else. Actually, we’re keeping an eye out.
In the meantime, though he may not be the archetypal political inspiration I would design if I were given divine power on my political system, Bernard Grech will soon be challenging Robert Abela for his seat.
Neither candidate is eligible for canonisation. Neither one is a prophet or a messiah. But from what I know of either, I’ll vote for Bernard Grech about as enthusiastically but just as determinedly as a socialist voting for Jacques Chirac in 2002.
That’s if it happens tomorrow. But a general election is some time away yet. Who knows? I might grow to like the new guy.