After a few years of drift and division, there are signs that the Nationalist Party is rallying. Following a soul-searching exercise led by party stalwart Louis Galea and a parliamentary group under Claudio Grech, the PN is about to embark on a wide-ranging policy review “to improve the party’s outreach to civil society and to develop effective policies”.

This policy review has historic antecedents going back to Eddie Fenech Adami’s preparation for government in the early 1980s when he engaged some of the best young Nationalist minds in Malta while he was in opposition – the likes of Father Peter Serracino Inglott, Louis Galea, Michael Frendo, Michael Falzon and others – to re-energise the party’s thinking, to make it credible again to the widest cross-section of the electorate, and to plot a visionary way forward.

After 16 years out of office, Fenech Adami’s Nationalist Party returned to power in 1987 with a clear vision of where they intended to take Malta but also with a transformative 20-year plan of how to do it.

While Adrian Delia’s vision is more limited – he sees this policy review as “an attempt to depart from tribal politics and to work for the common good” – what he has set out to achieve is commendable. While an end to tribal politics may be a bridge too far, the initiative has real prospects of re-establishing the PN’s credibility.

That according to deputy leader Robert Arrigo the party is now “financially stable” is also most encouraging. The weakened PN of recent times has not augured well for Malta’s democracy. The sooner the party emerges as a true force to be reckoned with in the next election, with its house in order financially and more clarity about what it stands for, the better for the country.

Fourteen “clusters”, or working groups, have been established under four “pillars” led by MPs Claudio Grech, Claudette Buttigieg, Karol Aquilina and MEP Roberta Metsola.

The clusters will focus on examining a range of policy issues: social well-being; quality of life; designing tomorrow’s post-Covid economy; the environment; long-term resources and planning; security; modernising the justice system; an ‘eco-system’ for Gozo; taxation and fiscal revenue; public sector reform; technology and innovation; a ‘knowledge society’; national identity in a global society; and migration, integration and the population.

This is a challenging agenda. Much will depend on the calibre, imagination and vision of those leading the working groups. There is considerable room for overlap between topics and the four pillar leaders will need to be clear what the detailed terms of reference for each cluster comprise.  

There are some curiosities. Why is there no reference to the ongoing work on the Constitution or the vital climate change challenges? Is the security cluster meant to focus on solving police force deficiencies? Will the public sector working group be prepared to reverse the political clientelism of the last few years? And what practical steps will the so-called national identity cluster introduce to repair Malta’s reputational damage?

Unless the PN under Delia is able to show that a Nationalist government would be markedly different from Robert Abela’s Labour Party, the party will not be able to inspire the country at large.

The vision that emerges from these policy studies must therefore invigorate people with hope of more efficient governance and a better future.

These structured, wide-ranging policy reviews, as well as the PN’s improved financial health, present an opportunity for it to turn its back on the last few demoralised years.

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