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A promising politician to ponder

The general reaction after the Nationalist Party’s disastrous trouncing at the polls last Sunday was quite consistent: several people felt that those who were protagonists and at the helm of the party’s electoral campaign should resign and assume full responsibility for this defeat.

Lawrence Gonzi and Paul Borg Olivier immediately accepted responsibility for the PN’s defeat and decided not to contest the upcoming election for the party leadership.

The attention then turned to Simon Busuttil to see what he would do.

There seems to be a lot of speculation on whether Busuttil would ultimately contest the post for party leader. Several comments were made and others pronounced themselves very openly in the media, including on social media sites. Many asked whether he should bow out of Maltese politics and also assume responsibility.

Before reaching certain conclusions, one must look back at what Busuttil really achieved over the past years. His unconditional loyalty to the party always came first, at times even before his own family. His commitment was always exemplary and sincere.

He is a relatively new face to local politics. He was not part of the outgoing Government since he served as a Maltese MEP for the past nine years. Notwithstanding this demanding role, he gave a valid contribution ‘behind the scenes’ in various areas within the PN. This included his excellent input in the compilation of the electoral manifestos in 2008 and 2013.

His exposure to Maltese politics became more visible and evident when, a few months ago, he was appointed Gonzi’s special delegate to reach out to civil society. Then, last November, he was elected deputy leader of the PN following the resignation of Tonio Borg upon his appointment as European Commissioner.

In all these roles, Busuttil was always there to give his utmost.

He decided to contest the post of deputy leader of the PN at a very difficult and critical time. On the eve of a difficult general election for the party, he was elected by party councillors with an overwhelming vote of just over 70 per cent. This decision had its own consequences because it was evident that the polls were already showing an inevitable Labour victory.

Some described Busuttil’s decision to take this important step as political suicide. I described it as a humble decision coming from a person who, in politics, always strived to be of service to his party and his country.

I have no doubt that he took this decision consciously. He could have sat pretty and waited for the opportune time to contest but he didn’t. He could have remained in Brussels as an MEP but he didn’t. The party needed him at that particular time and he responded immediately to this call.

During the recent electoral campaign, Busuttil used all his energy and efforts to try and change the outcome of what was being described as a sure defeat at the polls. I still think that his election as deputy leader made some difference to many who felt distant from the party. His outstanding performance at the polls proved beyond any doubt his huge popularity among the electorate.

After the election and once the result was known, he could have comfortably decided to remain an MEP and abandon local politics. But he did not want to betray the trust of the Maltese electorate. He made a commitment and it is his style to honour it.

During his short stint as deputy leader, Busuttil tried to inspire people and he always portrayed a party with a vision and a mission. Several people said that he arrived too late in the day to help re-energise the party and make it win the election.

The PN’s fate at the polls was probably already sealed even before he took over as deputy leader.

In a testimonial I gave on Busuttil before the general election, I described him as “an honest person, a man of great integrity and a person who, in politics, worked with conviction and not convenience”. These words are even more relevant today.

The PN needs a young and energetic leader that would bring it back on its feet as a dynamic and united party.

Busuttil possesses all these attributes and should not be made a victim of this massive defeat.

» See also page 4

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