The Importance of Being Bernard

Barring any last-minute surprises, the race for nationalist party leader will be run by two horses. The incumbent who failed to read the writing on the wall will be faced by an ‘outsider’ from Birzebbugia.

Polls and surveys on a lazy, heatwave ridden Sunday seem to have anointed Bernard Grech as the more plausible winner. If that is the case, the Delia albatross will soon have been detached from the PN’s neck. Not that it would spell the end of all its woes, but the ditching of Delia is definitely a good start.

Who is Bernard Grech and, most of all, what does he represent? Claims to fame include the appearance on an advert for Konrad Mizzi’s airline, another appearance on a TV programme in tandem with Joe Giglio with the not too difficult task of outshining Andy Ellul and Robert Musumeci (sbalordit) and finally a role in the anti-divorce lobby. The latter, for some liberals, would seem to be the only blemish in his hitherto not so stellar political campaign.

So Grech is not a chip off the old Stamperija block? From where I am sitting that should be a good thing. The Stamperija block’s produce tends to rubber stamp the system that needs changing and with that I do not mean the PN establishment but the whole edifice upon which our flailing democracy has been constructed.

Even the Rebel Alliance had me worried that once they would manage to purge the Delia carbuncle from within the PN fold they would revert to old style PN politics. That is the PN part of the PLPN duopoly that partitions power and serves as an opiate to the people.

What does Grech represent then? In an interview, he claimed not to form part of any present faction. His pitch is more of moderator than leader. Which is where, at least in my view, the trouble begins.

Sowing the seeds of peace, love and fraternity may seem jolly good for your Party diehard. Burying the hatchet for the survival of the Party could seem attractive – who knows, even the wave of implosive self-destruction that is the Delia faction might be brought back in the fold.

Unfortunately, I believe that without blood being shed, without the necessary amputations and without the necessary tough determination to rid the Party of the old mentalities, not much progress will be made. Lest I be misunderstood, I mean blood metaphorically.

This period of crisis requires confrontation, a clash of philosophies, a show-down of ideas between the old party apparatchik methodology and a possible new way that moves the PN into a new era away from the connivance of PLPN power sharing and constitutional theatrics.

Grech cannot sit there and tell us that he will start a counselling session with the factions until an amicable compromise is found to keep the PN wreck floating a bit longer. That is not the change that is needed.

The change requires leadership with ideas. Ideas that are not a return to the politics of words and false promises that are never backed by actions once the Party is elected. Leadership requires a mission: as Roberta Metsola rightly pointed out prior to dropping out of the race: “The PN either changes or it dies”.

Is Grech the change that is needed? I remained ambivalent towards the man after having read his mission statement on Facebook. His was an admirable 360 degree look at what he believes in. It was, in a way, a throwback to the wording of the PN Fehmiet Bazici (Basic Beliefs) document with much of the common good and common wealth as a basis. As far as that goes, it was pretty encouraging stuff quite capable of convincing you that something good was happening here.

You had to applaud a man whose second paragraph in a statement of beliefs is an affirmation that a political party is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Here finally was a man who did not beat on his chest while swearing loyalty to “il-partit”. A Daniel? Maybe. However, the next paragraph was a bit of a downer.

For a moment I thought that Grech would echo Delia’s switch away from the crucial battles that have raged in Malta since Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. His argument that the Party cannot talk about noble issues like justice, rule of law and battle against corruption while people were on the edge of poverty, unemployed or hungry. I almost yelled at the screen that one does not go without the other. Good governance is a result of justice, the rule of law and the battle against corruption.

Then Grech’s next words calmed me, slightly. He said exactly what I was almost about to yell at the screen. The danger, you see, would have been electing another leader who reasons in terms of what people want to hear rather than in terms of what people need. It would be electing a leader who reasons in terms of twisted democratic concepts. Grech might be a promise of change in this respect but we reserve judgment till more evidence is available.

In the meantime, the importance of being Grech, the neutral outsider, is clear. He is the chosen anti-Delia who will eventually be a precursor for better times when the PN can look into the mirror and bring about real change without any shame.

Should he defeat Delia, there is much work to be done before the PN change comes about. It is either that…. or the PN dies.


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