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Not who, but what - Chris Fearne

With the almost daily political upheaval that Brexit is scripting for Theresa May’s government, a joke is doing the rounds in London. Late one evening a figure is spotted jumping the garden fence of 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister’s official residence. The security team chase and eventually catch up.

The tackling officer is heard saying: “I’m sorry, but you have to stay in office till you sort out the Brexit mess, Prime Minister.”

The way the Egrant inquiry conclusions triggered the grandest meltdown in the Nationalist Party reminded me of this joke. You can just imagine Adrian Delia being caught trying to escape from his Pietà party headquarters suffering from multiple stab wounds. Not in the back, in the front, I might add.

Looking at this sorry state of PN affairs from a purely partisan perspective, one would think there might well be reason for rejoicing in the Labour Party and government ranks. We could just sit back in our front-row seats at the Colosseum, bring out the popcorn and place fun bets on the Nationalist gladiators tearing each other apart down below.

After all, one might think, the PN have no one to blame but themselves. It was only they, the former – and now the current – party leaders who embraced the lies, false signatures, non-existent bank transfers and flights that never took off and whatnot, and carried an entire party with them to the mess they are in today.

Alas, the consequences of what is happening in the PN run deeper than this spectacle. As once this well-deserved Labour party (excuse the pun) is over, stock has to be taken of how a once-powerful, smart and successful PN has been reduced to this state.

Can a political party whose leader fails to even call the shots with his own MPs run a Cabinet with the same people?

If our political system is to continue to flourish, the Opposition needs to be as effective as the government. Our European democracy requires no less.

So how did the PN come to such a not-so-pretty pass? 

For starters, the PN seems to have lost sight of the reasons that it exists. A political party might well share certain attributes of a band club committee, a business, a debating society, a football team. Yet the key and unique characteristic which distinguishes it in a democracy is that its mission is to run the country.

It is the only organisation which asks citizens to cede some of their freedoms, to delegate some of their powers as individuals, to a political party. In return a party is expected to run a government that guarantees everyone’s rights, increases prosperity, distributes it fairly and generally fosters a better way of life.

Today it certainly cannot be said that the PN is acting like such a government in waiting. Having lost sight of why it exists, the PN has acquired all the worst attributes of a badly run band club, business, debating society and football team. Hand on heart, and regardless of who you voted for in the past, can you honestly trust your future, your family’s and your country’s in the hands of a party whose leader cannot – or is not allowed to – lead his own party, let alone the country?

Can a political party whose leader fails to even call the shots with his own MPs run a Cabinet with the same people?

Once the principle that a political party should be run by men and women guided by love of country is sidelined, the race to the bottom is under way. 

I can hear the unexpressed questions rushing through Nationalist politicians’ minds today. Why care about the country when my ‘colleagues’ are looking out for themselves? Why tell the truth, when lying is more politically expedient?

Why carry political responsibility when no one else is?

Why be consistent when inconsistency grants me a tessera to both factions in the party? Why worry about the party’s electoral chances if they get in the way of getting myself elected? 

To adapt an old adage, the consequence of the PN losing its sense of national purpose is not that it believes in nothing but that it believes in everything.

From a former leader who can’t bring himself to accept that he lost to his successor who can’t find his way out of that loss.

If we put the national interest first, and if we genuinely believe that a democracy requires a strong opposition, it is not who is leading the Nationalist Party that matters, but what is going to be led.

Chris Fearne is Deputy Prime Minister.

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