It’s difficult not to take sides when a war unfolds, but taking sides often delays the ceasefire.
When it comes to the PN crisis, you might side with Adrian Delia and view the embattled leader as somebody who was not given a chance by the party’s ‘establishment’ despite being democratically elected by its members.
Or maybe you side with the anti-Delia faction who believe he is, at best, desperately unelectable and, at worst, one of the country’s big crooks.
But those doing their utmost to push Delia out of the party run the risk of turning him into Labour’s next star candidate. And those who support his leadership must know he cannot function unless he kicks out the rebel MPs who reject him, which would split the party and create another drain of tens of thousands of votes.
It’s a rock and a hard place if ever there was one.
What both sides must remember is that the PN is polling its worst numbers in history. Worse still, even when the party was united behind its former leaders Simon Busuttil and Lawrence Gonzi, it was already losing by gigantic margins.
If Delia or his rival Therese Comodini Cachia actually want to change something about the country, they need to be working to be elected to government, not fighting to take over an increasingly irrelevant party.
And why has the party become so irrelevant? It’s precisely because of wars like these.
Over the years, the PN has developed an unattractive reputation as the “barra” brigade. Since the Gonzi days it has focused on kicking people out of the party, instead of bringing people in.
This image is what repels many people from the Nationalist Party. They view it as a hostile place, not a welcoming one.
On the other hand, the Labour Party is welcoming to a fault. Nationalists used to mock Joseph Muscat for filling his ‘skip’ with disgruntled Nationalists. But that skip has today turned into a well-oiled machine that is capable of self-renewal, internal organisation and government, which is much more than can be said of the PN today.
Very few people are seeing this right now, but the PN’s current crisis could actually be turned into its biggest opportunity.
The PN can prove to the electorate that it has changed, as long as both sides stop trying to kick each other out and find a way to work together instead.
Delia and Comodini Cachia need to understand that to reach government they need to start winning over Labour voters, not repelling even the most active Nationalists, which is what they are doing today despite their best intentions.
They need to decide what is most important to them: whether it’s their names at the forefront of the ballot of a severely weakened party (or parties), or the functioning of the democracy our forefathers fought so hard to achieve.
So what should they be doing to solve this impasse?
It’s simple really: Delia and Comodini Cachia (or their representatives) need to lock themselves in a room until they agree on a leader which both sides can support.
If they believe, as they both say they do, that they have the interests of the country and the Nationalist Party at heart, they should be willing to do this as soon as possible.
There are plenty of names they can go through: Roberta Metsola, Claudio Grech, Mark Anthony Sammut, Joe Giglio, Franco Debono, Claudette Buttigieg… Or maybe they can find someone lesser known from the youth wing of the party who can send an even stronger message of renewal.
Surely they can agree on at least one name.
Once they do so, they can submit that name to the councillors or party members (tesserati), who, if absolutely necessary, can choose to reject this candidate and ask them to choose another name.
This is the best solution for the PN. Yes, it means Delia must give up leadership and find the humility to work alongside another leader. This is much more dignified route than going down as the leader who completely destroyed the party.
Given some direction, Delia is capable of offering a valuable contribution to the party. He is affable to Labourites and Nationalists who are mistrusting of ‘the establishment’. Plus, he is quite effective in court, fighting the Labour government as he has done on matters like Vitals and Egrant.
Comodini Cachia is also a problematic but valuable asset to the party. By leading the mutiny against Delia, she is unlikely to ever win the support of his allies. But she can certainly build important bridges with civil society and thousands of disgruntled Nationalists, including those perceived to be ‘the elite’, who are also necessary to bring back to the fold for PN to start gaining traction again.
With people like Delia and Comodini Cachia working together, the PN can cover a lot of ground.
All they need to do now is find a leader with a vision they are both willing to follow. And then perhaps they can be appointed as the leader’s deputies as a symbol of how the party can work together despite its internal differences.
If hundreds of cardinals can lock themselves up in a room until they choose a Pope, why shouldn’t Delia and Comodini Cachia be able to choose a leader to take the PN to the next election?
Perhaps they can signal their decision with blue smoke coming out of Dar Centrali.
And then the country can get back to rebuilding our economy, improving our reputation in the world and bringing to justice those who eroded it.
Those who will be most reluctant towards this proposal are the ones who believe Delia is a crook and should have no place in politics. This is an important point and a difficult one to reconcile.
In creating a very open party, Labour made way too many compromises which led to severe rot and tragic consequences. Understandably, many in the PN do not want to make that mistake, especially given their passionate fight against corruption.
But there is a middle ground between all-out pragmatism and all-out purity, and a party that wishes to be effective must be able to find it, just like it did when it campaigned for EU membership.
The anti-corruption platform lends itself to the hostile ‘barra‘ narrative, so to champion the platform effectively, there must be some tempering. And here is a good opportunity to do just that.
Delia is facing a magisterial inquiry into potential bribery and other allegations. That makes him hugely problematic as a leader but it does not necessarily make him somebody who cannot contribute to the PN. Not yet, at least.
Delia represents many voters out there who may feel they can never be part of the PN because they too committed transgressions or are not deemed pure enough.
Showing openness, even to these people, is crucial for PN to gain the support it needs. And you don’t have to sell your soul to do that. You just need a vision and a purpose that is important enough to merit some level of compromise.
Isn’t that what politics is all about after all?
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