Lessons to be learnt

When asked, shortly be­fore the national election, if he found anything positive in the Labour Party’s manifesto, former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi could not mention anything, adding that he had given the manifesto only a glance. Voters I spoke to in their homes were irked by this answer for more than one reason.

Contradiction does not help conviction

First of all, one needs to study your adversary’s manifesto – not just glance at it – especially if you are the leader of a party.Secondly, one cannot repeatedly declare that a document has no substance after only glancing at it. Finally, having many times stated that his adversary’s manifesto was copied from his, one cannot then explain that it has nothing good in it.

Indeed, contradiction does not help conviction.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was asked the same question and he spontaneously mentioned a few positive things he saw in the Nationalist Party’s manifesto. This is a reflection of Labour’s non-confrontational and positive attitude.

The electorate soon expressed its opinion regarding positive and negative political attitudes.

The competition was about who is offering the best policies to improve the lives of people. The best polices to make our country a better place.

That is what politics is mainly about. Our political competitors adamantly refused to think in this way and pounded on their attitude of eternal scaremongering, a strategy that created a negative façade of oneself rather than of the adversary while helping the adversary become more accepted by floating voters and traditional PN partisans disgruntled by the previous Government’s actions – inactions in some instances – and over all attitude.

On top of official self-defeating strategy, the PN allowed (I am avoiding saying ‘encouraged’) some speakers to use personal and venomous invective against their Maltese brothers and sisters with more affinity to the PL. The writing was on the wall.

Those who genuinely care for the PN, from within and without, warned against arrogance, aggressiveness, hatred and general negativity, which would see the downfall of the party.

On the other hand, the PL asked people to come on board and own the project we were presenting for Malta. It is evident that even those who had hitherto not agreed with much of what the PL stood for were interested and felt comfortable to join in.

They recognised that the PL genuinely wants to work for our country and our people. This discards the childish mentality that ‘we are too clever and we don’t need you’. This is not the way to work for the progress of our country, the good of our families, the future of our children.

Doing the best for one’s country is not achieved by presumptuously saying, as I heard someone state in a recent debate, that “we have huge experience and we can teach you how to govern”. This is negative behaviour. Some humility would have been in place.

The new Labour Government must continue to adopt as a major principle this same meekness. We have heard too many triumphant expressions leading to self-slamming onto the ground.

We have seen too much cheerleader syndrome’s gesticulation. It does not work; above all it does not produce.

As does the discarding of meritocracy. We know that meritocracy was not given sufficient importance by the previous Government. During one of my home visits, I met a person possessing impressive qualifications and experience who was given 12 out of 22 points for intellectual ability. This person humorously told me that a new government must replace the doorstep at the Ombudsman’s office because he had walked over it so many times that he had worn it out.

We have seen persons who deserve to hold responsible positions be discarded and humiliated by those who do not believe that the best people must occupy the most responsible places in a productive democracy. We have seen incompetent people push aside the more valid.

Just because Labour has a nine-seat parliamentary majority, the new Government will not govern with the attitude of the previous Administration, which, even with a very slim majority, continued running roughshod over many as it did when it had a five-seat majority.

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Helena Dalli is Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties.


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