There must have been loud sighs of relief at PN HQ when they read Adrian Delia’s and Joe Giglio’s responses to Times of Malta to the question as to whether they planned to contest their party’s leadership.

By saying they wouldn’t, they allowed the party leader to feel secure in his job. If – and that’s a big if, because only they are in their heads – they ever considered making a pitch at this juncture, they must have worked out that Bernard Grech is assured enough support from party councillors to fend off their challenge. It wouldn’t be because he’s been as successful as the councillors might have hoped. But Bernard Grech has won points for effort.

Perhaps the notion of an Adrian Delia comeback or a Joe Giglio challenge was just the product of the over-excited imagination of some of their supporters, perhaps vaguely resentful of the old ways. To be fair, Adrian Delia mostly said and did the right things during the election campaign. His over-enthusiastic family photos with Labour luminaries on the campaign trail may not have been the warning sign some interpreted them to be, but just a case of classic naivete. Adrian Delia might actually take up a shadow cabinet post this week, the first since he was ousted as leader, showing he can be part of the team even if he’s not on top of it.

Also, to be fair, Bernard Grech risked much when he gave Adrian Delia a platform and a stage on the campaign trail, and the risk may be rewarded. That openness, based probably more on strategy than merit, may be paying off now.

The leadership of the PN, its new parliamentary group, its most influential leaders in or out of Parliament, need to go through the tumbles of the next few weeks together if the party is to be relevant in the politics of the next five years. I am not talking about the sort of forced unanimity that Labour is so famous for. Consider the time in November 2019 when Labour’s executive passed a unanimous motion saying they trusted Joseph Muscat with deciding his fate. That’s Stalinist rubbish.

The PN will emerge with a fighting chance on the other side of the present anguish if it were to surprise (or disappoint) expectations and stick together. Robert Arrigo’s childish letter to Father Christmas / Robert Metsola looked like it would confirm expectations that the party would reopen internal hostilities. Adrian Delia’s and Joe Giglio’s decision has the reverse effect.

There’s been some glee about MPs who campaigned for justice for Daphne in the last term struggling to get elected. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. People were gleeful when Daphne was killed. It should be easier to be gleeful when politicians who regretted that fact find they need to look for jobs.

The reality is there’s been no pattern. In between his resignation in protest from one party organ and his reconciliatory election to another one, Mark Anthony Sammut spent much of his hiatus from politics campaigning for justice and speaking from Repubblika’s stage. And he did well in this election. Very well.

The fact is that our electoral system celebrates new entrants to Parliament and dismisses veterans unceremoniously, no matter their qualities. The other fact is that the PN’s parliamentary group is small, 9 seats smaller than the other group. There are districts where only one PN candidate was elected when 3 good choices were available and there are districts where 3 PN candidates were elected when none of them were great shakes.

Finally, what’s also a fact is that once the casual elections are completed, and the adjustment to include women is done, the parliamentary group will be made up of the people of this Parliament, not the people from the last one. In their hands alone lies the responsibility of delivering a proper Opposition.

If Newton’s laws are anything to go by, for every government, no matter its scale, there needs to be an equal and opposite opposition. Most of the last term has been wasted and some have consumed the first days of this new term discussing who caused that. PN MPs should leave that debate to historians. They should get on with the job.

They should live up to the line often repeated by Robert Abela and his people (more in jest than in any meaningful intent) that the country needs a strong opposition. They say it sarcastically, or as grounds to isolate the people they perceive as stronger within the opposition. It is high time that the PN makes them regret what they openly wished for.

The fact is it’s true we desperately need a Parliamentary Opposition that throws itself in front of the government’s wheels as often and as determinedly as it can. That doesn’t mean it won’t make mistakes. And it especially does not mean that whenever it deserves it, it need not and will not be criticised.

But do its job anyway it must.