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.”
email@example.com 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