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.
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.