Labour MEP Miriam Dalli with participants of the LEAD training programme
Labour MEP Miriam Dalli has accused the Nationalist Party of sexism after a front-page story on its newspaper claimed Labour’s new political training programme for women places a lot of focus on their looks.
The LEAD training programme, which Dalli is spearheading, was launched last summer as a key plank of the PL’s ambitious plan for 50% of its election candidates to be women by 2027.
However, PN paper Il-Mument today carried an interview with an anonymous LEAD participant who claimed the programme is nothing but a front to blood canvassers for Dalli ahead of the upcoming PL leadership campaign.
“As the weeks went by, many of us started to realise that the true intention of LEAD was to form a group of politically-versed women to attack PN exponents as well as supporters of [deputy Prime Minister] Chris Fearne,” the anonymous woman was quoted as saying.
She reportedly went on to claim that the programme places undue emphasis on the physical appearance of the future politicians, who are “told to dress smartly, ideally in designer clothes”. They were also reportedly given professional make-up tutorials by people close to Phyllis Muscat, a cosmetics importer and a close friend of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
“I heard that some applicants were turned down simply because of their physical appearance. I soon realised that this programme cared more about our appearance and cosmetics than about developing our skills. Once we were told point blank that physical appearance is the most important thing in politics.”
In a Facebook post, Miriam Dalli vehemently rejected the allegations and said the Il-Mument story betrays the Nationalist Party’s “sexist mentality”.
“The PN and Il-Mument believe that giving political opportunities to women means speaking to them about their appearance and cosmetics,” she said. “The PN hasn’t even started to understand how to attract women to politics without tearing them away from their families. It’s no wonder they haven’t done anything to attract more women to the party.”
“I’m more aware than ever of the PN’s sexist mentality. They simply cannot understand that someone could give opportunities to women without having an ulterior motive. LEAD is there to give opportunities to women who are interested in politics and not to train people to lead a political campaign, let alone my own. The PN cannot stomach the fact that Labour is attracting more and more women simply because we believe in their potential and in their capabilities.”
Dalli’s statement was backed up by a number of other women who have enrolled into the LEAD programme.