'Delia Fever' Grips Nationalist Party’s Disenchanted Supporters
There's a new sheriff in town, and Adrian Delia's supporters already love their new man
It was an August evening, barely two months after the Nationalist Party’s second consecutive election drubbing, but there was no sense of dejection amongst the crowds who gathered in support of leadership candidate Adrian Delia outside the PN’s headquarters last night.
What there certainly was both anger at the people leading the PN and legitimate hope Delia, a lawyer and former Birkirkara FC president with no political experience, could turn the fortunes of their beloved party around.
“It’s like a vegetable vendor who keeps selling the same product in the streets even though nobody is buying it,” one of his supporters told Lovin Malta. “Some day, he’ll have to realise he has to change his product if he is to have any chance of success.”
Delia is currently in the eye of the storm in the wake of reports by journalist-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, who is claiming he had used an offshore bank account in Jersey to launder money gained through prostitution in Soho, London.
Yesterday, he visited the PN’s headquarters for an interview on Net TV, while the party’s administrative council - including outgoing leader Simon Busuttil - convened to discuss what steps to take in light of the reports. In the end, they decided to refer the case to the party’s consultative ethics committee.
Yet, while the party officials were discussing all this, Delia was soaking up the support of his supporters who had gathered outside Dar Centrali and who smothered him in adoration and chanted his name as he left the building.
Cries of “We want new blood” and “Everyday people are supporting you” rippled through the crowd as he spoke to the press, ripping into Daphne Caruana Galizia as a liar who has been dictating the PN’s agenda and questioning whether the PN’s administrative council meeting was even in line with the party’s statute.
“The days where the PN’s agenda is being dictated by outsiders is soon coming to an end,” he said. “The PN will dictate its own agenda and journalists and bloggers will be able to comment on the party's decision, and not in reverse.”
After he left the scene, I chose to stick around and speak to some of his supporters so as to try to understand the root cause of this ‘Delia fever’, this almost hero-worship for a man who has only been in the political scene for nine weeks.
The mood was obvious after speaking to only a few people - after two massive electoral defeats, the people behind Delia are extremely disillusioned at the people leading the PN and will not settle for a cosmetic change at the top. The phrase “we need a clean sweep” came up a lot.
“I was annoyed when I realised that, after the second electoral defeat, the same people were still leading the PN and using the same arrogant style,” one woman said. “Adrian Delia is not like that. He is comfortable around people and speaks to you face to face.”
Another man said he was instantly gripped by Delia’s combative communicative style as soon as he gave his first interview on Dissett and later realised the potential leader was as much at ease speaking on air as he was speaking to regular people.
“God forbid Delia doesn't win the election next month,” another said. “I don't want to say I’ll leave the party, but I honestly don't know what will happen.”
Delia's lack of political experience isn't daunting his fans; indeed, it seems as though many even consider it an advantage, as it means he has no ties to the PN “establishment” they are accusing of leading the party to two election defeats while ignoring and taking for granted the party’s loyal base.
Neither are they deterred by the damning reports and accusations coming out on a daily basis from the online blog of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was until recently very much favoured by the PN for her reports on the Panama Papers and corruption by the Labour government.
Despite her exposes against Labour, the feeling of animosity against Caruana Galizia amongst the crowd was almost tangible, with many deriding her as a key part of the “establishment” which had led the PN to two large defeats.
As I was speaking to a group of Delia supporters, a man came up to us and showed us his smartphone.
“Look at what Daphne’s posting now,” he said, with a tone of disgust. “She’s saying we people who are in Delia’s WhatsApp group had voted for Labour. How ridiculous…”
Many said they disagreed with Caruana Galizia’s “personal attacks” on people and claimed the PN must detach itself from her if it is to stand any chance of winning the next election.
“We used to tell Labour supporters the party will win if they only got rid of [former leader] Alfred Sant. Now we’re being told the same thing about Daphne,” one said.
No one I spoke to seemed genuinely concerned that Caruana Galizia might actually be telling the truth about the man who could soon be leading the party, with some taking Delia’s denials at face value and others going a step further by arguing he shouldn’t, as a lawyer, be held responsible for his clients’ misdeeds .
For good or for ill, one thing is for sure - Delia’s supporters can feel the wind of change blowing and will not take kindly at all to the PN should its ethics committee rule against their man in the coming days.