Adrian Delia’s battles - Mark Anthony Falzon
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Adrian Delia’s battles - Mark Anthony Falzon

I am not a member of the PN, nor was I one when Adrian Delia was elected as leader. Had I been, I would probably have voted for Alex Perici Calascione, who seemed to me the most level-headed and likeable of the four candidates.

That said, I have no truck with the people who have vowed to destroy Delia, and who have made it their vocation to drip-feed us evidence of how wicked he is. Some of that evidence has been hollow to say the least – the fuss about the photograph with the Prime Minister and Luke Dalli was particularly puerile.

Politics is an imperfect solution at best. By democratic right, Delia is the PN’s chosen imperfect solution. The people within the PN who are trying their best to unseat him are being stupid and unfair. Unfair, because it is reasonable for a democratically elected leader to expect at least one stab at convincing voters in an election.

Iain Duncan Smith, whose career as leader of the Conservative Party lasted a sparse two years, never got to lead his party into a general election. And yet, even he was given the chance to lead the party in local elections (in which it did quite well, funnily enough).

Stupid, because it doesn’t make sense to replace a leader a couple of months before an election. That would condemn whoever succeeded Delia – assuming such a willing human sacrifice could be found – to a baptism by humiliation at the polls.

May is close enough for the rebels to wait, in the interest of their party and country. That they don’t seem to be in the mood to do so suggests to me that at least some of them are motivated by personal spite.

Beyond the intrigues, and to those of us whose hearts bleed for no party, Delia has three problems which need sorting out as soon as possible, and certainly before the May elections. The first is that he has been accused by his estranged wife of domestic abuse. That’s a serious charge by any standards, and one that is qualitatively different to much of the rest.

I don’t think there’s a single person in Malta who doesn’t raise an eyebrow when the words ‘Delia’ and ‘leader’ are conjoined

Delia’s defence is that the problem concerns his family, and that he and Nickie Vella de Fremeaux have formally agreed, in court, not to speak about it in public. If that’s the case, I’m afraid Delia has agreed to the untenable.

For example, I’m not aware that Delia has denied the accusation in public. As far as the court agreement is concerned, that makes sense. The trouble is that the rest of us are not party to that agreement. Delia must understand that there is some explaining to do. It is not reasonable to expect of members of the PN that they embrace an allegedly abusive man as their leader, no questions asked. It is even less reasonable to ask of us that we accept him as our potential Prime Minister.

Now I do understand the pain and difficulty of talking about family problems in public. I don’t think anyone who is not downright nasty wants a minutely detailed rendition of Delia’s troubles at home. And yet, some kind of clarity is necessary. If Delia wants to stay on, it’s probably time for him and Vella de Fremeaux to revisit that agreement – at their discretion and in the best interests of their family, but with his public and constitutional role in mind.

After all, they were perfectly happy to talk about marital bliss on Xarabank not so long ago. If family matters were not too private then, there’s no reason why they should be now.

The second big problem that Delia has is a general unease about his leadership. Some of it is spite, especially in some quarters. But I don’t think there’s a single person in Malta who doesn’t raise an eyebrow when the words ‘Delia’ and ‘leader’ are conjoined. The feeling is that the popular vote which gave him his position has eroded somewhat.

Delia, then, is faced with the prospect of leading a party into an election while not quite leading it. Which is why, three days ago, he and his loyalists rallied the troops at the PN headquarters. A fair decision in the circumstances, but probably not enough to repair the damage.

One option that Delia has is to bite the bullet and call a confidence vote. The risk is that he would win it and end up exactly where he is now, but I don’t think he has anything to lose at this stage. A confidence vote would at least send a message to party members that enough of them are still fighting the same battle.

Which brings me to language, and to Delia’s exhortation the other day at 5am about war, mercenaries, traitors, heroes and eternal glory. I’m an early riser myself, and I’ve noticed it’s never a terribly good idea to foist the premature manic energy that afflicts our breed on normal people before they’ve had time to digest their breakfast.

The last Maltese politician who declar­ed war on traitors condemned his party to 15 long years in opposition. The language used by Delia did not remind me of Bismarck. Instead, it brought to mind Macbeth’s “Lay on, Macduff!” final speech, spoken in the knowledge that the short-lived king was about to lose his head.

The point has been made that Delia should soldier on regardless. I agree with the first bit. Regardless, however, is not an option. He would do well to choose his manner of soldiering, and his weapons, a bit more carefully.

mafalzon@hotmail.com

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