Adrian Delia’s toast. He may not even be that by the time this makes it to print. If he does somehow survive, the best he can expect is to hobble along for some more borrowed time, awash in homicidal looks and curses, until the inevitable happens. So, light at the end of the tunnel for the Nationalist Party then?

Not necessarily. In this case, the manner of his exit says quite a lot about the ones who are left. Much of it is unprintable, but I’ll try.

Before I get to that, it’s worth trying to understand why Delia refuses to go. There are, I think, two reasons. The first is that he gave up a lot for the job. I do not have in mind his family situation. That is something I do not know, nor am I interested to know, much about. To discuss it would be nasty and in bad taste anyway.

Judging at least by what we read, Delia traded in most of what he had worked for, for political power. It’s not hard to see why he is now so desperate to retain the tatters of that power. He may well feel – probably wrongly, and I wish him well – that it’s the only capital he has left.

The second reason is less personal, and it also takes us to the heart of the matter. Delia is the leader of a party that has been on the canvas twice in one round. In normal circumstances, the decent and reasonable thing would be for him to reach for the towel. But Delia knows, and we all know, that these are not normal circumstances.

It sounds vaguely mawkish to say he was never given a fair chance. Except it’s true. That a good chunk of the influential people in the party were, and are, working against him must be Malta’s worst-kept secret. Part of me actually thinks that Delia must be a tremendous prospect if the worst he could do was a lost seat in the European Parliament and half a dozen local councils. Not bad, when you’re fighting a battle against two parties.

I don’t find a party of cannibals terribly inspiring. Even less inspiring is a party of sneaky cannibals

Now it’s well known to party insiders that Delia does tend to bumble on many things. Most of it is down to his complete inexperience in politics. He is, after all, the result of a rubbish innovation. There are a million reasons why it makes no sense whatsoever for a party leader to be elected by members. What was peddled as a paragon of democracy is, in fact, a recipe for disaster.

Still, Delia played by the rules and he was fairly elected, and the Nationalist Party has a debutant as leader. That’s exactly why he needs as many good people around him as he can get. In fact, the opposite is the case. He’s been left alone, his only arsenal the bluntest knives in the drawer. To put it politely, you know you’re in trouble when Edwin Vassallo is your main man.

In sum, the future is bleak for the Nationa­­list Party with Adrian Delia as leader. Which does not necessarily mean that it is bright if he goes. The problem – and I’ll be unflinchingly old-fashioned here – is that the party would need to regain its honour. We happen to be living in a part of the world where that tends to be complicated.

A failed leader is one thing, a leader who is eaten alive by his own kind quite another. Speaking for myself, I don’t find a party of cannibals terribly inspiring.

Even less inspiring is a party of sneaky cannibals. It’s said that Caesar pulled his toga over his face when he saw Brutus among the ringleaders. Betrayal was more painful than the blade. In the Nationalist Party, it’s the other way round: it’s the conspirators who are hiding behind their togas. See-through fabric all round, shall we say, but it’s the thought that matters.

There are a few exceptions. I may be homonymously biased here, but Mark Anthony Sammut is one of them. Hasty decision or not, he at least had the decency to speak his mind. There’s risk in that, and it is to his credit that he was happy to take it.

Sammut is a relatively junior figure in the party. The big hitters have chosen a different route. They’ve chosen to undermine and backstab Delia at every turn, even as they officially remain loyal to ‘the leader’ (smirk at the ready at all times). They tell the journalists who wait outside the door at Pietà that “what is said in the party, stays in the party” – but then rush home to scribble something oblique on Facebook or Twitter. The comfort zone vultures.

These, then, are the honourable men that the Nationalist Party will be left with when Delia goes. Delia is unelectable, we’re told. Exactly how the honourable men plan to make themselves electable is anybody’s guess.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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