First 100 days as Labour Party leader

A weekly newspaper survey showing that Labour leader Joseph Muscat has overtaken Nationalist Party leader Lawrence Gonzi in trust rating must have removed the summer haze that clouded Maltese politics over the past hot weeks.

The good news for Dr Muscat came just days before marking, today, his first 100 days as party leader.

Considering all the doubt that had been expressed by many over his election as leader, the impact he has made on local politics is impressive already. Indeed, in Dr Muscat, many are seeing a leader that can lift Labour from the absolute morass it had fallen into over the years.

More than that, they see Dr Muscat as the man who, like a knight in shining armour, can well and truly propel his party into office after so many years in the political wilderness.

The new leader has endeared himself with the rank and file of the party for the immediate effort he made to heal wounds and, more importantly, to bring back into the party's fold those who for one reason or another felt they could no longer support the MLP.

With the kind of ideas he has been expounding since his election, he has also shown that he is not afraid of making the party move ahead with the times in double quick time. The party needs this badly.

Ultimately, however, trust is built on delivery and Dr Muscat and his party have yet to prove they deserve the confidence of the majority of the people when the time comes for the electorate to cast their vote again.

However much Dr Muscat must have impressed people with his new approach to politics, it is far too early to make predictions. He has not even taken up his duties as Leader of the Opposition yet.

The truth is, however, that although there have already been instances when he laid himself open to justified criticism, generally speaking he has been moving on the right track. This is all to the good, both for his party and the country, which can now perhaps look forward to seeing a real change in the way we do politics. Or is it too early to expect this, too?

What does this mean to Dr Gonzi and to his party? It means they now have a new, stronger challenge to reckon with, quite different to that presented by Alfred Sant. Resorting to the kind of crude, parochial pettiness they have shown so far by, for instance, referring to Dr Muscat as Joe rather than Joseph only shows they have not realised yet the kind of challenge he is presenting to them. In Dr Gonzi, the PN have a leader who for long now exuded the kind of confidence that inspired trust in his party in government.

Never mind what has now become his most hackneyed phrase, that an improvement does not come about by coincidence, even his political enemies concede that the man radiates confidence.

One problem is that people expect a party to start implementing the promises made before an election immediately after it is elected. Like Labour, the Nationalists might have been over-enthusiastic in the way they made promises but, at least, they have a strong sense of direction. Labour, too, appear to have found a sense of direction now, removing one of the greatest obstacles to being elected to power. Interesting times lie ahead.


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