It is clear that the Nationalist Party was anticipating that Labour would kick off the first week of the election campaign by focusing on the issue of good governance and zero tolerance to corruption.

In preparation for this the PN’s strategists took a twin pronged approach. On the positive side they launched a US-presidential style campaign based solely on projecting the image of their leader and Prime Minister, Dr Lawrence Gonzi. This strategy fell flat on its face for two reasons. First, the beavering elves at Labour HQ were quick to point out that the whole concept and execution of this strategy was an unashamed cut and paste from the campaign of French President Nicolas Sarkozy – Ensemble tout devient possibleYes, together everything is possible.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it became clear that the PN was reacting to Labour’s criticism on the short comings, both in terms of political correctness and management, of the PN’s cabinet. Hence the strategic decision to have Dr Gonzi front the campaign from day one. This strategy backfired because Labour began to attack the PN for keeping its ministers out of public view and saying very clearly that once more Dr Gonzi was covering up for their short comings. This brings me to the second strategy used by the PN during this first week of the election campaign. This was the negative attack strategy designed to throw Labour off track. Here the PN had a 50% success in that Labour had to devote time to fending off and using rapid response resources to react to what have turned out to be nothing but untruths spun by the PN.

Of these, two really took the cookie, the distortions about the reception class and overtime rates. On the reception class the PN, led here by Minister Louis Galea, attacked Labour that this was nothing but an added year forcing all children in Malta to repeat a year of schooling unnecessarily. This distortion of Labour’s policy boomeranged first when the PN found no academics ready to support its stand and then when Labour’s shadow minister, Carmelo Abela, showed Minister Galea, the book, the page and the sentence where the Nationalist Government had already acknowledged the need to introduce the reception class.

This was on Xarabank last Friday when Mr Abela quoted from the official Ministry of Education The National Minimum Curriculum on its Way, p. 460 where it states unequivocally that there is a need for a reception class at age 5. This was published in 2000 along with an introduction by Dr Galea himself. The second distortion which boomeranged on the PN was that which it spun in reaction to Labour’s proposal to make all overtime tax exempt. The PN here claimed that Labour would cap all overtime payments at normal rates of pay. This was not only blatantly untrue. It also happens to be what the Nationalist Government was putting on the table for discussion during the negotiations on the social pact four years back.

Labour Leader Alfred Sant, put this untruth to rest when he published the first draft, which was never published by the Gonzi Government, of the document entitled “Proposed Text for Social Pact.

In this document, under the heading entitled Stimulating Work and Economic Activity, the GonziPN government had proposed that;“The first four hours of overtime per week are to be remunerated at normal rates of pay. This is subject to a maximum of 100 overtime hours per year which can be remunerated at normal rates of pay, and subject to the condition that the overtime hours remunerated at normal rates of pay shall in any one week not exceed one-half of the total overtime hours worked.” So if you ask me how I would score the first week of the campaign, the answer is simple - Boomerang to the PN!

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