Huge support for Grech as Labour deputy leader

Louis Grech promises ‘tangible’ change

Louis Grech and Joseph Muscat (right) yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Louis Grech and Joseph Muscat (right) yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

MEP Louis Grech was overwhelmingly approved as the Labour Party’s new deputy leader for parliamentary affairs yesterday, replacing Anġlu Farrugia who was made to resign last week.

Promising to deliver “tangible” change for everyone, Mr Grech also had a strong and timely message for politicians: “Politics is not just about Christmas greetings... We have to earn respect, not buy it.”

Mr Grech, who was the only candidate in the running, won 97 per cent of the valid votes cast, with a total of 724 votes approving his candidature.

The 65-year-old MEP and former Air Malta chairman addressed the press after being elected and said he was aiming to deliver meritocracy, accountability, transparency and impartiality in governance.

“We cannot keep being a country where an election means trauma for half the people... where 50 per cent of us feel threatened,” he said.

He stressed that society needed an “upgrade of values” and his aim would be to ease prejudice and make Malta less judgmental.

The Government, he added, should not make promises it could not keep and should be honest with its citizens if anything went wrong. He appealed for Maltese politics to embrace irony and develop more of a British-style sense of humour.

He said the Government must ensure a competitive economy while safeguarding the interests of the environment and vulnerable people.

Citizens, he added, should be empowered more than politicians.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said Mr Grech was a “formidable” deputy leader and his “enormous” approval by the party’s grassroots was a strong sign of confidence.

He said Mr Grech would contribute to the country through his vast experience, his understanding of the business sector and his European credentials.

“The spirit he brings is that March 10, the day after the election, will be a day like any other,” said Dr Muscat, confident that voters would feel secure with Mr Grech as Deputy Prime Minister.

Dr Muscat confirmed that Mr Grech would contest the election and said he was “more than convinced he will be elected”. The districts he will contest have not yet been chosen.

Asked whether this election was a “one-horse-race” similar to the one by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi earlier this year, Dr Muscat said this was an election to fill a vacant post whereas Dr Gonzi simply challenged himself for no reason.

Speaking about Dr Farrugia’s resignation, Dr Muscat stressed that his former right hand man was not kicked out of the party and remained “relevant”.

Mr Grech said he had not yet spoken to Dr Farrugia because it was not the appropriate time to do so but he would as soon as possible. He stressed that he was not involved in any way in the party’s call for Dr Farrugia’s resignation.

“I hope to be a good politician but, more importantly, a good human being,” he said, adding that he had respect for Dr Farrugia, who remained a “valid” person.

Dr Muscat rubbished claims that the Labour Party’s statute does not allow for an MEP to contest the post of deputy leader of parliamentary affairs.

The statute says that “only members of Parliament are eligible to contest for the role of deputy leader for parliamentary affairs”.

When asked about this point, Dr Muscat said the election of Mr Grech was totally in conformity with the rules because the statute listed MEPs as part of the parliamentary group. He added that he was more than convinced that Mr Grech would be successful at the general election.

The election to appoint a new deputy leader was rushed through the Christmas season to be concluded before the start of the upcoming campaign, starting January 7, for the election on March 9.

Out of 789 party delegates eligible to vote, 749 voted but six votes were invalid. Out of 743 valid votes, 724 voted for Mr Grech, 16 against and three abstained.

The party said 36 voters said they could not make it because they were sick or abroad.

To be confirmed as deputy leader, Mr Grech needed more than 50 per cent of the valid votes cast. The election was coordinated by the party’s electoral commission chief, Tony Abela, and the district secretaries.

Dr Farrugia was asked to resign after he accused a magistrate of political bias over a judgment about vote rigging. His claims are being investigated by the Commission for the Administration of Justice.

His resignation also came just days after a widely criticised performance he gave during a Xarabank debate against the Nationalist Party’s new deputy leader, Simon Busuttil.

Dr Busuttil was elected late last month, succeeding Tonio Borg who was appointed European commissioner, replacing John Dalli who was forced to resign after a damning investigation by the EU anti-fraud agency, OLAF.

Mr Grech, a widely respected Oxford-educated MEP, was best known for his role at Air Malta. He rose through the ranks of the airline’s management to be appointed CEO and later chairman, leading Air Malta under Labour and Nationalist administrations.

He sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets.


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