Following successive defeats at the polls during the Thatcher era, the UK Labour Party had little option but to remodel itself amidst strong opposition from its core party members. Tony Blair had the moral courage to acknowledge that “what counts is what works”.
Aware of the changing times, the UK Labour Party went back to its own party statute, divesting itself of any previous commitment to the old socialist programmes of nationalisation and public ownership. In the process, a number of those who were tagged as extreme socialists decided to call it a day. In no time, the Labour Party reconstituted itself under the pretext of opportunity and equality.
Nearly a decade before, the Nationalist Party in Malta had pledged from the opposition benches that it would reposition Malta on a democratic platform, steering away from the old Socialist antics. The Nationalist Party was elected in 1987 under the pretext of Xogħol, Ġustizzja and Libertà.
Compromise, consistent with the doctrine of solidarity, individual freedom and social capitalism, signalled a new era in democracy. We believed that resources should be allocated in accordance with the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and personalism translating into a corporartist welfare model as a result of a free market. We instilled the idea that income replacement should prevail over job protection. Emphasis was directed to inclusion and compromise, steering away from the notion of “class struggle” associated with the Mintoff era. We insisted that the state should never take the role of “intermediary” institutions who should remain the primary actors in society.
In other words, we believed that the State was not allowed to perform the tasks which essentially belong to the individual. Promoting the “common good” meant that every citizen was given proportionate equal opportunities regardless of his individual wealth, status or position.
I was always taught that politicians should seek concrete measures in the name of reconciliation. I hoped to work in a party which steers away from revenge. Taking a moderate role, not least in relation to those on the other end of the political divide, was a natural consequence. I came to understand that dissent was vital because it helps to preserve the “truth” – otherwise the “truth” can easily become hidden in sources of prejudice and old rooted traditions. I, like thousands of Nationalists, voted Yes in the referendum for the introduction of divorce, in spite of the party’s official position, the result of which reaffirmed the reflection that this country wants to steer forward beyond prescriptive boundaries in the same way it did when we embraced Europe in 2004.
Perhaps we are the same people who can never pertain to the traditional core of the Nationalist Party. In our view, individual liberty is even more relevant in this day and age when today’s society is more important than the state. While acknowledging that we cannot do away without certain moral norms in our laws, we believe that legislators should only concern themselves with those “evils” that may compromise general stability and prosperity in society. If not, individual choices may never be impaired by external forces.
The Yes vote has undoubtedly showed that legislators need to distinguish between public and private morality, implying that private moral decisions should be allowed to be taken freely and without any coercion of the law. This time round, it is not market mechanisms and deregulation – it is the cultural pursuit beyond obsoletism and unworkable conservative traditions. Professor Joe Friggieri’s outstanding contribution during last Sunday’s general council should serve as a guiding pretext if we want to remain relevant in this day and age.
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