What we have been witnessing in this country over the last few years is undoubtedly striking, for all the wrong reasons. Even the Labour hobgoblins roaming the ‘cloud’ are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the endless list of bungles.
If we took just this calendar year, the list is long enough for any government to fly off the handle: the alleged hospital privatisation fraudulent contracts; the unrelenting lawlessness of developers and land owners; the (literal) meltdown of our electricity grid; the hijacking of open community spaces; the growing traffic chaos; problems with waste collection and rat infestation; the way the government has dealt with the Sofia family’s call for a magisterial inquiry; the alleged money laundering by people close to the party; the Air Malta travesty; the concerns about overpopulation; the odometer fraud; the unheeded scars of loneliness; the rising inflation which is eating up the family economy; mental health and suicide, which seem to be treated as non-issues; the infrastructure projects that have sucked the life out of our communities; the increase in homelessness and the need for soup kitchens; the lack of any known action following the publication of the inquiry report after the femicide of Bernice Cassar; and the alleged votes-for-disabled-social-benefits scam veiled by the government.
Add to this the U-turn on abortion and the U-turn on the requested magisterial inquiry for Jean Paul Sofia after Labour MPs were pressed to vote against any sense of decorousness, and the result is another chaotic situation for the party to manage.
This government is flubbing.
The public feels a sense of despondency.
The truth is that we are not in a good place as a result of the comatose state of the government in the face of all these challenges. This may be stemming from a leadership crisis; from the corruption that has grown on the party in government; from its incompetence; from the lack of enthusiasm among Labour’s high ranks; from party decisions that rupture collegiality; or from a general feeling that people have not warmed up to the prime minister and that his politics are turning vinegary.
This makes skeletal orphans of us citizens.
This is a proper déjà vu. I was getting the same feeling in 2011, 2012 and 2013, prior to the demise of the age-old PN government of the time. I talked about it a lot at the time and got my share of ostracisation from the PN. The difference is that the sleaze was nowhere near today’s magnitude.
I remember back then that there was this growing feeling of gloominess which eventually paved the way for Joseph Muscat. He represented the hope of many, myself included, but became a let-down within only a couple of years when his true colours were displayed.
Muscat was responsible for drilling into people’s minds that their value lies not in principles, ethics or moral code but only in status, money and property. How sad.
At the time, right after the PL’s triumph, the Nationalist Party was in bedlam. It needed to reinvent itself. This is the same vibe I am getting from the Labour Party right now.
The PL needs to rediscover its mission and identity and, possibly its soul, which has somehow gone missing.
The PL currently stands for almost nothing, losing even its core principles and failing to provide for the poor and needy. The social benefits scam, a well-crafted evil campaign, has taken the last breath of life out of its ideology.
Even people close to the PN seem to have been conditioned into believing this Labour cliché- Andrew Azzopardi
But if there is one narrative that has stuck so far (and tactical credit goes to the PL) it is that “the PN is not an alternative government”.
Wrong. I disagree.
Now, let’s be clear on this one.
The PN has finally found a modicum of serenity and has upcoming MPs who are starting to blossom. But it still needs to polish its act. It needs to be more reactive in its policies and make more use of the energy it has on the ground in the form of its grassroot members. At the same time, some MPs and party officials need to do away with their egos and come down from their high horse.
Leadership is showing improvement and, by this, I don’t just mean the leader of the opposition. People in the party are starting to take ownership.
While the PN is growing in stature, it still needs to be closer to the people. I also believe it needs to open itself up by becoming a space where people can exchange their thoughts on issues like abortion, euthanasia and all the other thorny subjects. Following an exhaustive debate, the party would then need to transpose this conversation into policy.
In other words, the PN needs to revitalise its coalition mindset and become, first and foremost, an issues group. Its role is to criticise unapologetically and not allow itself to be weakened by the government’s claim that its criticism is deleterious.
The tale that the PN is not prepared to govern needs to be thwarted, even by people close to the PN who seem to have been conditioned into believing this Labour cliché.
It cannot be further from the truth. The PN can be in a position to govern, especially if it provides comfort for the institutions so that they can do their work; if it stands by its principle that “the person” is at the centre of its politics; if it creates systems to counter corruption; and if it provides a fresh message of enthusiasm to counter what has become a general feeling of deflation and gloom.
The politicians are only one tooth in the cogwheel.
The governments of the last few years have placed politicians on a pedestal where they don’t deserve to be. It is failure of politics when politicians take centre stage.
If the PN can navigate around these dynamics, they will really be an alternative government to reckon with.
The Labour posse have drilled into people’s minds that the PN can never govern. In politics, there are no messiahs, no one-man/woman shows. There is hard work, shelving of egos and collegiality. The PN is on track.
I sincerely hope, for the good of this country, that the PL does the honourable thing, reflects and comes clean. This culture of pigging out has to be obliterated.
Prof. Andrew Azzopardi is dean of the Faculty for Social Well-being.