The one who crossed over

The most in­trigu­ing news this past week, at least as I see it, is that Caro­line Mus­cat has been ap­pointed to lead the PN elec­tion cam­paign.

Malta Independent - - NEWS -


Iwant to make it clear from the out­set that, strange as it might seem, see­ing we work in the same spe­cial­ized sec­tor, I have never met Ms Mus­cat. I know that some years ago she won an award for some­thing she wrote in this news­pa­per but have no recol­lec­tion of her de­liv­er­ing the ar­ti­cle here. I know too that we fol­lowed her ex­ploits in some Green­peace events over the past years.

I sup­pose it is a habit of many to look over the wall and peek into their neigh­bour’s gar­den. We here at Stan­dard Pub­li­ca­tions try to keep tabs on what hap­pens over at Al­lied (and I sup­pose they keep tabs on us too) con­sid­er­ing that many of the jour­nal­ists at Al­lied used to work here. Nev­er­the­less, I still can­not plumb the in­ner re­ver­ber­a­tions in­side their news­room af­ter so many events, start­ing with the Adrian Hill­man case and then the res­ig­na­tions of more or less the top lev­els in­clud­ing that of Ms Mus­cat’s im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor and Ms Mus­cat’s ap­point­ment as head of news.

Ms Mus­cat’s pre­de­ces­sor and oth­ers left and in­deed crossed over to the other side, but that was into ad­ver­tis­ing and business. Ms Mus­cat has now crossed over but into the po­lit­i­cal field.

The near­est thing to this was some years back when a dis­tant pre­de­ces­sor was about to move to Austin Gatt’s min­istry but was blocked at the last minute. I re­mem­ber how this per­son then cor­nered Prime Min­is­ter Lawrence Gonzi at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Radis­son Blu at Golden Bay and gave him quite an ear­ful of bit­ter and abu­sive lan­guage.

What­ever. The most sur­pris­ing as­pect of this all is not that Ms Mus­cat crossed over when she was in­vited but rather that Dr Busut­til in­vited her at all. I say Dr Busut­til and not the Na­tion­al­ist Party for it is clear this was an­other de­lib­er­ate choice by the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion in line with other de­ci­sions he has been tak­ing.

I see here a huge di­vide be­tween the par­ties. Joseph Mus­cat, al­though he has widened the party into a Movi­ment, re­tained the struc­ture and the peo­ple from the old days. He may have re­moved the flag and the hymn and the name but he has re­tained the peo­ple at the core of the party.

Dr Busut­til has done ex­actly the con­trary: he has kept the flag and the hymn but changed the peo­ple at the top. To be sure, the party’s head­quar­ters are still staffed with peo­ple from the old regime and like­wise the me­dia, but now they have new bosses (both women) – Rosette Thake and Caro­line Mus­cat.

In sharp con­trast to the rest of the peo­ple they will have to work with, the two do not come from the party’s grass­roots, from the youth sec­tion, from SDM, or from the lo­cal coun­cils. The ca­reer pro­gres­sion in place for the past years has been shred­ded and dis­carded. There is, it would seem, a de­lib­er­ate aver­sion to any­thing that may reek of the past, specif­i­cally Gonzi’s time.

This is, in other words, a palace coup en­gi­neered by the man at the top him­self. I have no doubt it would have gone much fur­ther had it not been for the fact it would have caused a full re­bel­lion. As it is, peo­ple are kept at bay with all the talk of an im­pend­ing elec­tion and a pos­si­ble elec­tion victory.

Now what­ever the party’s ad­ver­saries may say when they feel they are on top, the PN is a grand and big party with a glo­ri­ous his­tory, and with im­por­tant achieve­ments to its name. It is a mass party with thou­sands of mem­bers and sup­port­ers who al­ways re­gret they are only called up when an elec­tion is com­ing and who are then dis­carded when the elec­tion is over, both when the party loses, which is un­der­stand­able but also, which is worse, when the party wins.

It is a never-end­ing mys­tery to me how in Malta the man at the top, on either side of the bar­rier, is prac­ti­cally a dic­ta­tor, whose word is law and is al­lowed to do any­thing – change the party’s name, flag, hymn, or re­move the top lev­els in one fell swoop. Peo­ple com­plain that we have changed to a pres­i­den­tial type of party politics and our elec­tions are pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns.

Joseph Mus­cat has shown how easy it is to cob­ble to­gether a coali­tion of sorts and get it to win the elec­tion, but sub­se­quent years are show­ing this coali­tion has no stay­ing power and in fact is get­ting rather frayed.

Si­mon Busut­til has gone down a dif­fer­ent route – his al­liance with Caro­line Mus­cat is ide­ally an al­liance with Green­peace, thus en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly­con­scious, not ready to come to com­pro­mises (which may be a good thing). Both prom­ise to give Mus­cat a run for his money. The lat­est polls show the two par­ties within touch­ing dis­tance.

The ques­tion thus is not which coali­tion will win but rather which coali­tion is good for Malta. Not which coali­tion has the best win­ning strat­egy but which will en­able good gov­er­nance. The way I see it, the PN should be pre­par­ing for the even­tu­al­ity if it finds it­self in power (by de­fault, I say) and to have a group of peo­ple with poli­cies and strate­gies ready to take over and to guar­an­tee a period of for­ward-look­ing gov­er­nance rather than the hotch­potch mix we have had over the past four years.

The way I see it, the way for­ward for the PN should have been to get the party’s struc­tures from the bot­tom up geared and col­lab­o­rat­ing to gov­ern, rather than sum­mar­ily car­ry­ing out a mass ex­e­cu­tion and burial of all in search for an un­holy Grail of a pu­ri­fied party which rep­re­sents no one.

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