Nationalist MPs got everything off their chests in a heated meeting which dragged on till 2am
If Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia wasn’t feeling the heat after last month’s election drubbing, he was certainly feeling it last night during a heated parliamentary group meeting which saw PN MPs get everything off their chests.
There have been somewhat conflicting reports about what took place during last night’s meeting, which lasted from 6pm till 2am, and whether Delia’s position as leader has changed as a result.
Lovin Malta understands that while reports that Delia has been given an ultimatum to step down are way off the mark, the vast majority of PN MPs were extremely critical of him and his leadership team, and many even called for his resignation.
PN sources said that former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil urged Delia to ask himself whether he was electable and to “do the honourable thing” and resign as he had done when the PN suffered a thrashing at the 2017 general election. Beppe Fenech Adami also clearly called for Delia to resign, while Jason Azzopardi warned that people close to the leader have created fake Facebook profiles to intimidate their critics.
Mario de Marco is believed to have invoked the PN’s history when calling for “drastic” changes, while Claudio Grech, who has been tipped as a potential successor to Delia, took a managerial approach and focused on the numbers behind the results.
A lot of criticism was also aired at PN secretary general Clyde Puli and media chief Portelli, who were both accused of favouritism and of deliberately excluding certain MPs from the party media, press conferences strategy team.
The likes of Ryan Callus warned they had been completely sidelined, while Chris Said urged Portelli to shoulder responsibility in light of the Broadcasting Authority’s latest audience survey, which showed poor ratings for NET TV and NET FM.
Puli took a modest stance, acknowledging that he could have made mistakes in the election campaign and in efforts to unite the party and pledging that he isn’t gripping the seat of power.
Portelli wasn’t present at the meeting as he usually is due to an argument that erupted at the start of Monday’s parliamentary group meeting, during which a group of people insisted that only MPs should be allowed in the room.
One of the objectors to Portelli’s presence was MEP David Casa, who warned that the PN had actively worked to derail his re-election campaign last month and had blatantly favoured other MEP candidates.
Besides Puli, the only two MPs who actively defended Delia last night were Edwin Vassallo and Carm Mifsud Bonnici, the latter who warned that the PN risks losing a cohort of voters, particularly in the south of Malta, if the leader resigns.
Kristy Debono and Mario Galea, who have been vocal proponents of Delia’s leadership, took a backseat throughout the meeting, as did deputy leaders David Agius and Robert Arrigo.
Delia himself hardly spoke either, taking all the criticism in before ending the meeting at around 2am, pledging to weigh up everything that was said and convene a follow-up meeting in a few days’ time.
“The absolute majority were critical on everything from decision-taking to the lack of strategy, and some very strong positions were taken,” an MP said. “I’m sure that significant changes will now be made within the party, but my concern is what these changes will be.”
“Adrian Delia’s leadership campaign was very divisive, with all that talk of the establishment who had seized the party for itself,” another MP said. “He burned the party he wanted to lead and was surprised when he found it burned.”
“Im not after a pound of flesh; I want the party to move forward, find a win-win solution and eventually a person who can represent all of us.”
The Opposition leader has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of resigning, on the grounds that PN members had elected him to lead the party to the next general election.
And despite the heated nature of yesterday’s meeting, MPs are unlikely to revolt against Delia and formally try to force him out if he decides to stick to his guns. Nobody threatened any formal action yesterday and no names were floated around as alternative leaders either.
“They want Adrian Delia, Pierre Portelli and Clyde Puli to back down but they’ll never go the whole hog and draft a letter to force them out,” a senior PN officer said. “They’re being very careful in how they’re voicing their criticism and they’re doing their best to avoid backlash from party supporters.”