Politics should be classless
Ed Milliband, the leader of the UK Labour Party, last October told his party delegates that Labour was now the “one-nation party”.
He used this term, borrowed from a speech delivered by Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, in a clear attempt to position the Labour Party in the centre ground of politics, thereby widening the appeal of his party beyond its traditional core vote.
Political analysts considered this as a calculated move that could prove successful in delivering 10 Downing Street to Labour.
It is not unusual in politics for a party to borrow a leaf from the opposing camp’s phrase book. At one stage it became practically impossible to spot the difference between Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair’s politics.
And there is nothing intrinsically wrong in this. Political parties, like everything else, have to evolve and adapt.
But they must do so in a progressive, not regressive, manner.
Joseph Muscat is trying to reposition the Labour Party in the middle ground, considered to be more of a Nationalist stronghold, but is going about it in a throwback manner by appealing to what he terms the “middle class”.
I detest this talk of class. Middle class assumes that there is a lower class and a higher class. Our society has none of these; should have none of these. We are one nation, one people.
True, we have people who are high earners, middle-income earners and low-income earners. But this does not classify them as being in a class of their own.
The aim of any party worth its salt in today’s world should be to remove any notion of class boundary.
Class-related politics have no place in today’s world and society. Boundaries only serve to confine. Muscat’s experience as an MEP, if nothing else, should have taught him that we need fewer, not more, borders and boundaries.
His language in describing this strategic repositioning of Labour contradicts the “progressive movement” approach he vaunted earlier in this legislature. Trying to be everything to everyone, but being nothing, carries a price.
It seems that Labour’s legacy of being a party for a segment of the population is hard to shake off. It started off as a party for the ‘workers’ class’, to the exclusion of all others.
The number crunchers in the Labour Party realised though that there are an ever-increasing number of voters who have access to better education, who graduated from University, who hold a profession or a technical qualification, who do not sit comfortably in their worker class definition.
To counteract this situation, Muscat started talking about the “New Middle Class”. While Milliband is talking about one-nation politics, Muscat wants to take us back to class politics.
The Nationalist Party’s policies were never rooted in class. We believe in every person’s right to achieve his and her full potential. We put this belief into practice and in so doing unharnessed a nation.
What this country achieved over the past quarter of a century was to a great extent due to the skills and talents of the Maltese, unleashed to realise their aspirations, through the right measure of forward-looking policies and incentives.
The best way to fight poverty and improve people’s lives is by providing them with the right tools, namely education and access to jobs.
We all know Labour’s track record on these two fronts. They failed miserably in both.
Today there are more University courses than there were University students when the Nationalists were elected in 1987.
Today we have the highest number of people employed ever: 151, 000 people earning a living.
Moreover we have the highest number ever of registered self-employed, companies and businesses.
As a Nationalist Party we do not look at University students as members of a particular class. We see them as people seeking personal advancement. We see them as a building block for this country’s future.
We do not distinguish between a worker, self-employed person or employer. We believe that everyone has a right to a fair return.
We promoted an economic policy based on our country’s specific strengths, including our workforce. Our policies paid off as we continued to forge ahead while others struggle.
The average income of the Maltese worker is now €2,000 higher than it was four years ago.
Our number of graduates is increasing at a higher rate than most of Europe. Our university graduates find a job quicker than their counterparts in all of Europe. This is the yardstick of our success. By meddling with all of this, Labour will be meddling with your future.
We do not need a return to class politics. But we do need a better class of politicians.
If Muscat’s policies sound outdated it is probably because the cream of Labour politicians are from a time gone by.
It is worrying not only for the Labour Party but for the nation, if this is the best they can do.