Glorious summer, anyone?
For the opposition and quite a few others fed up with ongoing charades within the Nationalist Party and the government, a glorious summer would be one that brings news of an early election.
For the Nationalist Party a glorious summer would be one that sees peace breaking out within it after the morale-sapping internal political fisticuffs of the past six months in particular, as if the imploding over the divorce legislation issue had not been enough.
The Labour opposition is eager to have an early election. Not without good reason. Opinion polls still show it in the lead, suggesting that an anticipated election would yield that much hoped for victory, after so many years choking in the grating dust of the political wilderness.
Though it is still aspiring to add a few more candidates to the pool it will be presenting for the approval of the general conference, its leader has made it clear he is more than happy with what he has mustered so far. Within that there some individuals which, to me anyhow, raise a query.
For instance, what sense does it make to pluck Edward Scicluna out of the European Parliament so that he can contest the general election? It is not as if a Labour victory would leave the new Prime Minister with any difficulty to fill positions in finance, economics and investment. There is absolutely no need to add Prof. Scicluna to that list of candidates.
From the MEP’s own standpoint, and that of the Labour Party too, he has made a strong impact in the European Parliament. He is, I’m told, well respected by Labour and Conservative MEPs alike. He can continue to perform well there, in the process building more useful contacts for the presumed Labour government.
He would also be available to advise the new Labour Prime Minister and the minister(s) in charge of finance, economics and investment.
Personalities aside, Labour are running the risk of peaking too soon. They have the Labour vote in the bag and their main target, without taking that vote for granted or forgetting the deep roots of social justice and fairness, has to be new voters, floaters and any remaining disgruntled voters who used to vote Nationalist.
Thumping the drum of discord within the Nationalist body is unlikely to increase Labour’s ability to penetrate that group.
Labour’s task between now and election day is to persuade why it could make a better government than the current one, while letting the Nationalists stew in their internal discord.
From the Nationalist perspective such discord is unseemly but not necessarily life-threatening, to use a term I grew familiar with recently. The discord is, so to say, compartmentalised.
Three Nationalist MPs drew daggers and played Brutus twice, leaving Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Richard Cachia Caruana bleed to death as a minister and EU ambassador respectively.
But Mifsud Bonnici will return and might even gain a few Labour sympathy votes in his Cottonera constituency.
And Cachia Caruana retains his role as the principal Nationalist guru, now with more sharpened claws.
In the House of Representatives it is most unlikely that any of the three MPs will vote to bring down the government.
Franco Debono and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando have said so bluntly. Jesmond Mugliett is more subtle, but I am certain he would not bring down the government.
That is a glorious summer interpretation that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has no doubt made for himself. He displays weakness in not appointing a new minister to take over Mifsud Bonnici’s home affairs portfolio, and a new ambassador to the EU.
Nevertheless he can, if he so chooses, hang on to the last permitted day before going for a general election.
It is a different story within the Nationalist Party. There the divisions are deep and, to an extent, both open and camouflaged. The PN executive has condemned the three recalcitrant MPs in no uncertain terms. Debono fools only himself in thinking he will easily be allowed to contest again or that he will not face fierce blackballing in his constituency if he passes that hurdle.
The other two disciplined MPs will not be contesting the general election, so they are free to continue to speak out within the party, or at least not be taken for granted there.
Further party egg on Gonzi’s face will not make him look pretty. But for the time being it’s the vote in Parliament that counts, not rowdiness within the Nationalist Party.
Should he and his electoral team manage to use the weeks and months between now and the election date to turn the tide round in favour of the PN once again, Gonzi will achieve immortality and egg will be wiped off his face forever.
It will be a long, hot summer. Not necessarily glorious. But more interesting than any political summer has been, even than that of the Labour breakdown in 1998.