Surviving the leadership

Gordon Brown did not promise a new beginning. In his first speech as Premier he emphasised the need for change in education, housing, health and quality of life. He stressed that he was simply another Labour leader but different from his predecessor and with a different vision for Britain. He declared that he wants to learn and listen to the people, implying that he wants to become the Prime Minister "of the people" and "for the people". He is eager to show that Labour is still relevant for the British nation and sitting in his new hot seat is nothing but an opportunity to prove that he is worth his salt.

What a smooth changeover: from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown. And what a great lesson could we learn in terms of transfer of political power and the proper way of doing politics!

It is unconceivable to expect that Labour in Malta would somehow react in a similar manner, especially if there would be the necessity to change the leadership or in dealing with internal party affairs.

The past and recent history of the Malta Labour Party is enough proof that here we live on a completely different political planet. Our style and rationale of doing politics are unique and incomparable. For that matter, the Nationalist Party is no different at all.

The only difference between the MLP and the PN is that the latter have a better sound-proofing system surrounding their headquarters' walls, thus disallowing outsiders to recognise the internal rifts, the disgruntlement of the activists or the manoeuvring of the various factions within the party hierarchy. In both cases there would never be a smooth transition of party leadership the likes of Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

It's against our own nature and it would go against our self-imposed notion of partisan confrontation. Lawrence Gonzi or Alfred Sant will have a taste, if not an overdose, of all this the day after the next general election!

But by that time, which is less than a year from now, they have to struggle hard for their own survival. The next general election would not only determine the next government but it would also pave the way for the new leader of the losing party. It is therefore no surprise that the main targets during the electoral campaign would be the leaders of the major parties not only in their capacity as political heavyweights but, unfortunately, also on a personal basis.

Whether it is unofficial or not we all know that electioneering is gaining momentum day by day. Recently, I met MLP supporters who are pretty convinced that the election would be held this year and they even mentioned October 27, as the big day. On the other hand, my other friends who whole heartedly support the PN insisted that their party could not afford an election prior to February or March of next year. There is too much work yet to be done by the PN to ensure a better chance of winning the next election. They admitted that, relying on what they term as their greatest asset, that is, having Dr Sant leading the opposing party, is no guarantee at all of securing another election victory. And I won't blame them because Labour strategists are not to be underestimated.

Irrespective of what the regular party polls indicate there is a general feeling among the electorate that Labour would be the right choice at the moment. Labour strategists are targeting various segments of our society. In particular, they are attracting the middle class, the young generation, first-time voters and the undecided. Their insistence that they are prepared to govern in a better way is not falling on deaf ears. The publication of vision statements policy documents and plans and proposals on various sectors - even if, at times, rhetoric and vague conclusions are so evident - are leaving their impact on the citizen who believes that change of government is at best a necessary evil!

Labour would be elaborating on its plans and surely would tactfully explain the reading between the lines in the coming months. That is a commendable positive approach which would eventually yield the desired effects.

Labour leaves no stone unturned. The latest span of corruption allegations against leading exponents of the party in government is not coincidental. It's the result of a well-thought out and planned political strategy that undermines the credibility of the government on one side and neutralises the feel good factor the government continuously promotes through its declarations of economic success and political achievements on the other side.

Labour knows that the electorate would be more concerned by the mention of scandals, abuse, corruption, fraud, crime and mismanagement rather than by the boasting of the new state-of-the-art hospital, the introduction of the euro or the implementation of infrastructural projects financed by the EU. The reasonable voter would never consider the latest stories spearheaded by Labour as merely part of a mud-slinging campaign.

The government reaction was defensive all the way and the people are now demanding a truthful account of what really happened at the Malta Transport Authority, at the Malta Maritime Authority at the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and at other government entities.

The Labour media might intentionally be blowing these issues out of proportion but even the man in the street is contemplating whether the government has become so insensitive to the people's demands or whether it is so confident of public support that it could get away with murder! Within this context, on the eve of a hot electoral campaign it is superfluous to comment on political responsibility and the national interest. However, taking into account the present political climate, it is obvious that the earlier the elections are held the better for the MLP... at the end of the day it might not pay to target Dr Sant or Dr Gonzi.

We do not enjoy the wisdom of Mr Blair or Mr Brown in Maltese politics!

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