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Delia’s new politics of the right

The PN's new leader is shifting the party's ideological base

Adrian Delia's ideological basis is clear. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Adrian Delia's ideological basis is clear. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The signs were there before he was even in the second round. They say he is articulate. What do you expect from a seasoned and successful lawyer? They say he has the gift of the gab. I am not sure when it comes to his idea of mimicking Mintoff. They say he is modern. Of course, he is. Who is not of the modo that exists in the now?

Some, even in the PN, are saying that Adrian Delia is a populist. Now this I do not buy. I think he is on the right and his new way is that of the right. Still new, but on the right.

This is not about Delia the person. I have no reason to doubt his honesty. I say this because no court has declared him guilty of anything. As we live in a democracy we don’t judge people’s credentials on the internet, in the market place, or on the streets. We have the Courts to deal with that sort of thing. If we don’t believe in the Courts, then we might as well pack up and forget all about liberal democracy.

With that cleared, I think that Delia’s PN is moving to the right and the signs are already there. Even when he speaks, Delia is evidently intending to show that he has a clear political lineage, which is not on the left. He does not like the terms “left” and “right”. Like him, I and many others dislike these terms, but language needs to make distinctions in specific directions, and until we have a better term for these distinctions, we have to use them.

What is at stake? The PN’s move to the right means that the centre-right position it held, mostly replicating the Maltese tendency to oscillate between established conservative and aspiring liberal views, is coming to an end.

The position taken in Parliament which inaugurated Delia’s leadership indicated a very different position from that of a centre-right conservative party. What was inherited from the Eddie Fenech Adami, Lawrence Gonzi and to some extent Simon Busuttil leadership’s lineage seems to have vanished. Delia’s leadership is clearly saying: here we are a party of the right and we are expressing this without hesitation.

Maybe one will have to wait for more moves, but there is already more. The refusal to control rent (which incidentally is shared, though from a different perspective, with Labour), and more so the proposal of a tax cut in fuel, are indicators. This is a direction that will absorb conservativism to a new notion of what right-wing politics is all about in 21st-century Malta.

The PN’s move to the right means that the centre-right position it held, mostly replicating the Maltese tendency to oscillate between established conservative and aspiring liberal views, is coming to an end.

Right and left are moving back in the mainstream, as they should. Many worry about fascists and extremists. But the mainstream is worried about the fact that the old parties on the right and left which after the War came together to found Europe, have become too confusing, too quietist—qualunquisti—as they tried to please everyone.

We can see this clearly in how the left is being transformed, where those who were on the periphery are now moving into the mainstream—such as Greece’s Syriza, Spain’s Podemos, Corbyn’s Labour, and more recently Melenchon’s La France Insoumise. This confirms that the people are not happy with mish-mash centrist populism.

Macron is already losing his popularity, and the German SPD was punished for its lack of clarity. These are not parties calling for revolution, or the destruction of capitalism, but for a new Europe based on social justice and an equitable state that intervenes on behalf of the weak.

Back to Malta, some say Labour is also on the right. I’d say that hitherto, we had two political parties becoming comfortable at the centre, declaring themselves pro-business, following a trajectory that tries to be conservative in safeguarding the current economic system, while still believing in a progressive but non-intrusive welfare state.

Delia speaks of a politics of collaboration, but he is clear in trying to establish a distance from Labour.

So, what about Delia’s claim that only the few are enjoying economic success and not the many? Is he moving to the left? Certainly not. His actions prove otherwise.

Delia speaks of a politics of collaboration, but he is clear in trying to establish a distance from Labour. He means it and he will never move to the left. Right-wing politics—such as Theresa May’s—continuously speak of alleviating poverty, of looking after the people, of looking after the most unfortunate. Yet these politicians will never be ready to attack the seats of privilege and the vested interests which sustain them.

Delia is a man of the Establishment. His approach sustains an old establishment that has determined who will rule in liberal democracies like ours. He will not go to any extremes, as he learnt the historical lessons which previous leaders since Fenech Adami have learnt. Yet he also knows what clarity of purpose looks like. He is well trained to do that. His profession gives him all the skills he needs.

Delia’s politics clearly intend to preserve, while seeking to renew, the established socio-economic order. This is his ticket. He has implied (for those who want to listen) that Busuttil’s leadership was not clear. He thanked Busuttil for the work he did for the party. He thanked him for his stand against corruption. (Go figure!) But he frequently calls Busuttil as being “too academic”, by which he actually means that Busuttil may have been too much of an idealist and I’d say, he regards this as being a form of political naïveté.

In response, Delia wants to give his party a clear direction, and he has only one direction in mind: that of moving to the right with a reach to the centre as a safety valve in case the mood is not yet ready.

I see this as rather rational. I don’t agree with it, but I also see it as a clarifying factor, which I hope would prompt Labour to identify itself more openly with a democratic socialism which needs to be reasserted, at the very least to sustain economic growth with the kind of welfare state that we usually attribute to the Scandinavian model.

What does this mean to our democracy? That remains to be seen.

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