What will be new in the race?
They’re off! Officially, at least, because the electoral race never really stopped since 2008 and started in earnest over a year ago. The circuit of the race is well mapped out. We also know the direction in which the political athletes will be going. Question is, what will they carry to the finishing line, where they will be straining most mightily for voters to give them their preferences?
Trouble is the answer is so predictable. Each of the big parties will have three bundles on their back. The Nationalists, reinvigorated with the cunning reshuffle made possible by the John Dalli mystery, will present bundle one in the form of their record. They will point out that the real economy has not being doing badly overall. They will ignore market segmentation – parts of the economy doing swell and others very poorly. They will also try to spirit away the ballooning national debt, Lawrence Gonzi’s biggest negative legacy. They will boast and crow their heads off.
Bundle two will be presented in the form of more scares than one with a guilty conscience suffers nightmares. They will scare the electorate with the Labour record of the 1970s and 1980s. And they will frighten innocents with the accusation that part of the Labour team is old, by which they really mean experienced, unlike their own star candidate who has never managed an office on his own, let alone a ministry.
The third bundle will be the trickiest one to convince with. They call it change. But change into what? The star candidate gave the definition on Saturday’s Dissett: thumping on his chest in primordial style he said, implicitly, the change is me, like the French king who said he was the State.
The Labour Party’s three bundles will also be clear. Bundle one will be the leader. His youth and energy and how he’s changed the party into a united movement. Modernism will be a recurrent theme. That will be shored up with Labour’s own change of deputy leader.
The second bundle will be to point to the fact that the Nationalists have been in office for almost 25 years and look at how many scandals they have to show for it, like the new power station; how much waste – like the bridge that leads to nowhere; how much irresponsibility, like the national debt which will break the back of the next generation; like unmitigated arrogance and division.
The third bundle will again be the trickiest to sell. It will be about how to cut energy tariffs. That will draw the most attention and the harshest fire from the Nationalists.
Even a cursory look at the six bundles to go on show tells a startling story. They are all old hat. There is nothing new in them. They’ve been discussed ad nauseam. What sensible voters would like to know is what can the contestants for office offer that is new, that is not simply old vinegar in new wine bottles.
For instance, with the threat of the EU breaking up, what contingency plan does Malta have to survive? What are the plans if only the United Kingdom leaves the EU after its inevitable referendum? Not unrealistic questions for those who follow the EU debate, aside from the local debate about who’s the cleverest dick of the lot.
The electoral race should not be about old hats. It should be about new substance.
The two parties will talk technocratically and say each one them would be the best manager. But which potential CEO will bring to the table invigorating plans which call for new energy? And, obsessed with their bundles as they are, which will recall in time that there is such a thing as social conscience, which calls out to be satisfied after being ignored for so long.
Who will dare say that there should be wealth and income redistribution, and propose how to bring it about in a context of social justice?
Who will point out and prove what distinguishes one party from the other?
They – the parties – are off.
We – the people – should be more on guard than ever not to be led by the nose during the campaign.