If you don’t lis­ten, some­one else will

While pre­par­ing to pen this piece, I came across the fol­low­ing quote which is at­trib­uted to An­dré Paul Guil­laume Gide. “Ev­ery­thing that needs to be said has al­ready been said. But since no one was lis­ten­ing, ev­ery­thing must be said again.”

Malta Independent - - GEJTU ON TUESDAY -

info@peo­pleat­work.com.mt ndré Gide was a French au­thor and win­ner of the No­bel Prize in lit­er­a­ture in 1947. I be­lieve the quote has been used by oth­ers on dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions. Ir­re­spec­tive of who is to be cred­ited, I am tak­ing the lib­erty of bor­row­ing it for this piece.

Al­low me to put you in the pic­ture. Af­ter the PN was de­feated at the polls in 2013, it pledged to get closer to the elec­torate. In the find­ings of the re­port com­mis­sioned and re­leased af­ter the 2013 elec­toral de­feat, it emerged that the PN in of­fice had drifted away from the elec­torate.

Dur­ing the Gonzi ad­min­is­tra­tion the PN ap­peared in­sen­si­tive to the con­cerns of the elec­torate, de­spite be­ing en­tirely fo­cused on tak­ing mea­sures to mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive ef­fects of a global re­ces­sion. But hu­man na­ture be­ing what it is, the elec­torate was dis­ap­pointed with the PN’s per­for­mance and opted for change. Of course, there were other se­ri­ous short­com­ings which con­trib­uted to the PN’s mas­sive elec­toral de­feat in the 2013 gen­eral elec­tion.

This brings me to the Si­mon Busut­til lead­er­ship term. Un­der Busut­til’s ste­ward­ship, the PN em­barked on a wide range of ini­tia­tives which in­cluded the re­vi­sion of the party statute. The pur­pose was pre­cisely to beef up the party struc­tures. At­tract­ing dif­fer­ent peo­ple from var­i­ous walks of life to the party was clearly the way for­ward. It has been said, and even penned, on many oc­ca­sions, but for the ben­e­fit of those who were too busy to lis­ten or read, I will re­peat it again: All the good in­ten­tions and prom­ises in the world are not enough if ac­tions are in­com­plete and/or in­ad­e­quate. The PN must re­con­nect with the elec­torate and this can only be done if party mem­bers are en­gaged in a struc­tured, mean­ing­ful process.

It is cus­tom­ary – not only in Malta, but in all demo­cratic so­ci­eties where the po­lit­i­cal party en­trusted with of­fice fails to be re-elected – for the first prom­ise to be one of re­con­nect­ing with the peo­ple. The new PN leader, Adrian Delia, is no dif­fer­ent and has pledged to come closer to the peo­ple.

Whether the prom­ise is lip ser­vice or oth­er­wise is some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent and de­pends on many char­ac­ter­is­tics. In nor­mal cir­cum­stances, the elec­torate sup­ports a po­lit­i­cal party which is ca­pa­ble of recog­nis­ing the vibes in the com­mu­nity. Once those vibes are iden­ti­fied, a po­lit­i­cal party skil­fully ar­tic­u­lates pro­pos­als in plain, sim­ple lan­guage, and dis­sem­i­nates them among the elec­torate for grabs and own­er­ship.

Gov­ern­ments are ex­pected to ex­e­cute and im­ple­ment their elec­toral prom­ises, max­imise their po­ten­tial, re­form what­ever needs to be re­formed, take cal­cu­lated risks af­ter ex­er­cis­ing the nec­es­sary due dili­gence, and skirt all threats which may sur­face from time to time, be they of our own mak­ing or im­ported and be­yond our con­trol. The party in op­po­si­tion has to pro­pose stud­ied al­ter­na­tives.

Here I am tak­ing the lib­erty of mak­ing some rec­om­men­da­tions. Let me be­gin with the PN gen­eral coun­cil. The gen­eral coun­cil is the party’s supreme body, but few coun­cil­lors, if ever, take the mi­cro­phone to air their views. I con­sider the party coun­cil­lors the in­ter­me­di­aries be­tween the party’s grass­roots and its of­fi­cials. The last gen­eral coun­cil was sui generis in more ways than one, wherein new party leader Adrian Delia de­liv­ered his first speech to the coun­cil­lors, while the coun­cil’s out­go­ing pres­i­dent, the two deputy lead­ers and the sec­re­tary-gen­eral de­liv­ered their last speeches fol­low­ing their res­ig­na­tion af­ter the last gen­eral elec­tion.

In my opin­ion, the only two of­fi­cials who should in­vari­ably ad­dress the coun­cil are the party leader and the sec­re­tary-gen­eral. MPs and MEPs should not be al­lowed to ad­dress the gen­eral coun­cil un­less there are ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances in which case their speeches should not ex­ceed five min­utes. Party coun­cil­lors should be en­cour­aged to make their views heard.

Dur­ing the last PN gen­eral coun­cil George Vi­dal Zam­mit, lec­turer in Pub­lic Pol­icy at the Univer­sity of Malta, de­liv­ered an ex­cel­lent speech which should be dis­cussed thor­oughly at all lev­els in the party struc­tures. Such guests should be in­vited more of­ten.

A blan­ket state­ment would not be ap­pro­pri­ate, but from what I gather, com­mit­tee mem­bers in var­i­ous lo­cal­i­ties are more in­clined to­wards giv­ing a help­ing hand in organising wine and pizza par­ties and fund rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Although that’s im­por­tant, com­mit­tee mem­bers should be en­cour­aged to en­gage in po­lit­i­cal de­bate more fre­quently. Party poli­cies should first be dis­cussed at a grass­roots level, and any com­ments, find­ings and re­ports should be sent to the of­fice of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral within a de­fined pe­riod of time.

The party re­lies on in­formed pub­lic de­bate with a plu­ral­ity of voices re­flect­ing the elec­torate’s range of needs and in­ter­ests. This en­sures that our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives can take into ac­count the in­ter­ests of the en­tire com­mu­nity, not just pow­er­ful busi­ness or po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests.

The PN must, at the very ear­li­est, send a strong, pos­i­tive mes­sage to all loyal party sup­port­ers and, more im­por­tantly, the elec­torate: the PN is ready to lis­ten.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent Tues­day 14 Novem­ber 2017

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