Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia conceded that his party needed to step up its effort to made its voice heard properly in an interview with Newsbook.com.mt editor-in-chief Sylvana Debono this morning.
The interview, which aired on the party’s NET TV, focused on the party’s ongoing reform process.
Debono noted suggested that the party was struggling to make itself heard, and Delia highlighted that his party had far less resources, not least because the government could ‘seize control’ of public broadcasting whenever it needed to.
But with Debono noting that it appeared that the public was not even aware of PN proposals which were ultimately emulated by the government, Delia admitted that the matter concerned him a lot. It was of concern, he said, that the issue was not that people disagreed with the party’s positions, but that they were not aware of them.
For a summary of what went on in the interview, and the other issues it touched upon, please follow our blog below.
And that's it from us, as with that remark, Delia draws the interview to a close.
The aim, he concludes, is for people not to see the PN as the party of Delia or of its leadership, but as their own.
But he emphasises that the issue is not about taking ownership of ideas.
It is of concern, Delia argues, that the public did not actually disagree with the PN's proposals: many wouldn't even have heard them.
As Debono asks him to state what, he hopes, would be the first tangible results of the restructuring, Delia admits concern about his party's failure to get its message across.
He emphasises that the party is working on a structure which would give a space to society – including non-political elements such as civil society, academics and the media – to make its voice heard.
As Delia refers to the party getting back to its roots, Debono questions this, noting that such sentiments have been heard for the last 7 years.
Delia points out, however, that the party is nevertheless giving importance to Maltese identity. One of the 14 'clusters' in which its MPs, MEPs and leading activists have been grouped focuses on 'national identity in a global society.' These clusters are categorised under four horizontal streams, with Delia pointing out that one of these was 'values in a modern society.'
Debono asks about the party's updating of its statute, including removing references to its old motto "religio et patria."
Delia refers to the concession on three public hospitals granted to VItals, now run by Steward Healthcare. He insists that were it not for this concession, the government's €100 voucher could have been €900 instead.
However, Delia adds, this was not only unnecessary: Malta would be better off without such practices.
The government, he says, practices a sort of blackmail, pushing the perception that the cost of people living comfortably was its politicians and their friends enriching themselves.
Delia argues that this mentality can be addressed by highlighting that ultimately, corruption had a cost and left everyone worse off. It was in people's own interest to see an end to corrupt practices.
Debono presses him on this issue, noting that corruption is often perceived as endemic, and that people may realise that they can exploit the situation to avoid paying fines or gain a development permit.
He states that his party would work towards growing the economy without damaging the reputation, insisting that it would actually do better if corruption is taken out of the equation.
But he also highlights that political parties go through cycles, leading to their fortunes rising as well as falling over time.
Delia points out that the situation has evolved over the years and that changes in mentality are now far more frequent. Generation gaps can happen overnight, he says.
Debono suggests that the party's poor electoral performance may fuel perceptions that the PN is a losing party, thus dampening voter enthusiasm for it.
He argues that the party should not shy away from trumpeting its achievements. But it should also acknowledge its past mistakes, apologise for them and show that it was changing for the better.
Delia states that this has been an issue for years, noting that the PN had been in government for practically all of the 25 years before Labour regained power.
Debono asks about the party's credibility problems. Delia seizes on the assertion that it may cause him sleepless nights, stating that he did sleep, but also worked tirelessly for days on end.
But he insists that balance within public broadcasting should not only be reached between Malta's two largest parties, but also in favour of smaller parties and other voices of society.
He points out that the PN was regularly put at a disadvantage when compared to the government in state broadcasting. While there may be debate programmes in which both sides are given equal time, the government would then fill the advertising slots with its propaganda.
Debono seizes on Delia's assertion that the government seized control of public broadcasting, asking what his party would do to guarantee its independence in the future.
He states that instead of passing on savings to the public on utility bills, the government chose to enrich the wealthy few, condemning a supposedly socialist government for choosing this course of action.
The PN leader also refers out the constant allegations coming out of Court and other fora, stating that the government's only defence against an allegation coming today was the fact that others would follow tomorrow.
Delia insists that the government brought about economic growth at the cost of Malta's reputation, and that this loss of reputation will impact the country going forward.
This segues into a reference to the expenditure on social media that has led all of cabinet being the subject of a police investigation.
Debono suggests that the PN failed to make its message heard, prompting Delia to highlight that its resources were far inferior to that of the government.
But beyond proposing different economic measures – as his party had suggested – Delia insists that more direct help should have been given to families. Particularly the 11,000 unemployed.
He states that the first thing that needed to be done was to cast partisan politics aside.
Our editor-in-chief Sylvana Debono asks what Delia would have done differently had he been PM during the Covid-19 crisis.
Especially his 'mischievous' (mqareb) father, who Delia explains, isn't one to easily stay put. He himself takes from both parents, he adds in response to a follow-up question, citing his mother as a calming influence.
First question is on how Covid-19 affected Delia, who recounts having to distance himself from his elderly parents.
Welcome! The interview should start shortly.