Defector considers contesting election on Labour Party ticket
Sliema deputy mayor Cyrus Engerer, who resigned from the Nationalist Party on Friday, is considering contesting the next general election on the Labour ticket.
“Yes, there has been talk (with Labour officials) about me contesting the next election. However, in the meantime what is important for me is that I am going to be an active member of the Labour Party and will be working to see a change in certain policies of the party, which, in my view, can be improved,” he said.
In recent days he has spoken with PL party officials and to Labour leader Joseph Muscat, with whom he has a meeting this week. He was also offered a position on the party’s think tank, the Ideat Foundation.
Mr Engerer’s resigned from the PN after calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation in the wake of Lawrence Gonzi’s No vote against divorce legislation on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, Mr Engerer said the decision has been long coming and pointed out he had told PN administration officials immediately after the referendum he was not feeling “comfortable” with the direction the party was taking, and warned them he would resign if the Prime Minister’s vote “went against the will of the majority”.
However, the idea goes further back to his involvement with the cross party pro-divorce movement Stand Up.
“I worked closely with a number of Labour members and MPs within the Stand Up movement. I spoke with the young people within the Labour Party and it became clear that we have the same aims and the same principles. I was left thinking I don’t get the same feeling within the Nationalist Party,” he said.
“My position is not unique and there are others in the Nationalist Party who share my position. I was contacted by a lot of people as the Prime Minister’s vote approached and can assure you I’m not alone,” he stressed, highlighting it was a difficult decision but one he is “relieved” to have taken.
“A lot of Nationalists have complained that the time when we try to change PN is over because the party does not want to change. It has become a party that is closed and which is becoming more conservative and confessional,” he said.
But although he reported a positive response to his move from family, friends and constituents, many, including online commentators, criticised the sudden switch of allegiance.
Only a few weeks ago at the PN general council, Mr Engerer was criticising Joseph Muscat’s general lack of vision on economic policy among other things.
Mr Engerer said he still disagreed with Labour’s stand not to disclose its economic policies for the time being, but said he had come round after being given briefings about what the party was planning.
“In this past week I have met and learnt what Labour is planning and I really feel comfortable with it. My opinion is still that the Labour Party should discuss these plans with the public and disclose what its policies are,” he said.
Mr Engerer had also criticised Dr Muscat’s comments on Xarabank regarding gay marriage (as opposed to civil partnerships) and the adoption of children by same sex couples.
“I can tell you there is a big team in the Labour Party who believe in full equality and I will be forming part of this team. Joseph Muscat, like many others, has his opinion and it doesn’t mean that opinions don’t change,” he said.
He insisted the PL was already well ahead of the Nationalist Party in its proposals.
“The reality is that you have a Nationalist Party which is dormant on these issues. If you look at what the Labour Party is proposing, not only is there a first step but a very large step forward towards equality,” he said.
Mr Engerer has vowed to remain on the Sliema council as an independent councillor despite calls by PN general secretary Paul Borg Olivier, whom, he said, called on Friday to ask him to step down.
“I will remain loyal to the people who elected me. If you speak to the people and councillors in my village they will tell you I have served Sliema with energy and enthusiasm.”
He said that although he was elected on the PN ticket, people knew where they stood when they voted for him, insisting that the party had changed –not him.
“The Nationalist Party was always conservative. However, in the past at least there was a mix, a collage of conservatives and liberals.
“Today that collage is being painted all in the same colour, it’s becoming much more conservative and much more confessional and the liberal people within the party are feeling very uncomfortable,” he said.