‘Let’s talk about the future’
Dingli mayor Ian Borg is thrilled to be in such a united party and tells Christian Peregin he can’t understand why some younger voters are not convinced by Labour.
Profession: Dingli Mayor
How did you end up in politics?
I became active in the Labour Youth Forum in 2003, when Labour chose to accept the people’s verdict on EU membership.
Two years later, I contested the local council elections and was elected mayor, a post I have held for almost eight years.
You mentioned the EU. Were you in favour of membership when Labour was against it?
Being only 17 and not even eligible to vote, I was not very active in politics.
Today I recognise that membership has been beneficial and we must work hard to make the best of it, rather than expect it to solve all our problems.
Personally, I managed to acquire hundreds of thousands of euros for projects in Dingli, among others.
Do you think you are too young to contest a general election?
That’s what they said when I became mayor at 19, but the results of the subsequent elections speak for themselves.
I think it is now time to represent the people of the district, not just Dingli.
What do you like most about your party?
After 10 years of being active in the party, I have never seen it as united as it is today.
Today people who never thought they would be in the party have joined.
The divorce referendum was a good example of where we joined forces with other movements in the country to introduce this civil right.
What do you hate about the party?
Honestly, there is nothing I can say I am uncomfortable with.
So you are not very critical of your own political party?
I am part of the administration, so if there is something annoying me I can use the internal structures of the party to air my concerns.
With whom would you have felt most comfortable: Dom Mintoff or Alfred Sant?*
I don’t think anyone is bigger than the party. Both leaders did their best when they were leaders. Mr Mintoff had the chance to govern for several years so he was able to build a social welfare state.
So would you describe yourself as a Mintoffian?
I was going to tell you about Alfred Sant. I started getting involved in the party under the leadership of Dr Sant.
I believe he was a very honest leader who has been proved right on a number of issues.
So both leaders served the role admirably. I would prefer to talk about Joseph Muscat...
Let me ask you about the past one more time. What attracted you to Labour? Didn’t the party’s past scare you away?
I read the histories of both parties. Both had glorious times and times that they should be ashamed of.
I am more interested in talking about the future.
Let’s talk about young people. Surveys show they are still leaning towards the PN and are the least convinced by Joseph Muscat. Why do you think that is?
I cannot explain it because my feedback is very different. I think our generation can see through the electoral gimmicks of the PN so I cannot understand.
Obviously we must take note of the numbers. It’s important to remember that young people like me only experienced Nationalist governments.
What are your ideas to improve education in Malta?
My dad is a worker and my mum is a housewife. In November, I graduate as a lawyer. As the product of today’s education system, I cannot say everything is bad.
But no one can deny that 35 per cent of school leavers are not continuing their studies and this is very worrying. Labour is giving a guarantee on education for all and is proposing pluralism in tertiary education.
A second University?
Yes. But something else that concerns me is what sort of men and women are emerging from the current system. Are we capable of being active in a democratic society?
Do you mean the more holistic side of education?
Yes. Do we have men and women who are capable of building a family and being ambassadors of our country?
I think the informal side of education has been sidelined in this country.
Do you think stipends are unsustainable?
I am a product of this system. As a child of a worker I don’t think I would have been capable of completing my studies without the help of stipends and other assistance given by the State.
And I think the State must find a way of keeping these sustainable until today.
We never see young people protest in Malta. The last time we saw them hit the streets was when they called for the legalisation of marijuana. Do you think this is a serious issue?
I think it is positive that these young people are having their say, even if I do not necessarily share their same views.
I feel young people are too passive and tend to accept what the State says.
Let’s talk about the euro crisis. Do you think it was right for Malta to join the eurozone and how do you think the crisis will evolve?
The euro brought several advantages and I believe the Labour Party and Joseph Muscat have been clear on this.
But during this euro crisis we saw the Prime Minister and his Cabinet taking a pay rise of €500 a week while increasing the burdens on families, workers and pensioners.
I won’t even mention the middle-class because it barely exists in this country...
On issues like divorce, cohabitation, IVF, same-sex rights, do you consider yourself a conservative or liberal?
A liberal. When it comes to conservatism I think we can only talk about the Nationalist Party, which has been hijacked by a clique that is holding back such issues.
The PN has been in government for 25 years – surely it was not right to present laws on IVF and cohabitation in the middle of summer when their parliamentary majority was in doubt?
Loyalty was a key issue in this legislature. How important is loyalty to you?
It is so important that I included it in my personal slogan: Loyalty to the party and to the people. No person is bigger than the party or organisation.
And as I have always done, I will use the party’s internal structures to make my voice heard.
As a law student you understand many of the issues raised by someone like Franco Debono. Were his actions disproportionate or were these issues fundamental?
They are fundamental and because they are fundamental, as Franco Debono said many times, he tried to raise these issues peacefully in the party.
Then, he acted as he did.
And you would do the same?
It’s not a question of whether I would do the same. I am convinced that Dr Muscat will not act like Dr Gonzi.
*This interview was carried out before the death of Dom Mintoff.