It was never going to be a monumental speech. Roberta Metsola’s intervention at the Nationalist Party Independence Day mass meeting was never destined to shake the foundations of Maltese politics.
This was not the time or the place for historical quotations. The news lay elsewhere- in the fact that she was actually there, addressing the masses, so to speak.
In a week when the PN seemed to have overtaken the PL in some polls, all eyes were on the beleaguered party, and huge question marks hung over the crowds assembled to hear the Independence Day messages.
Was Bernard Grech handing over the reins? Was Metsola indicating a return to the grassroots after her hugely successful European career? Does Metsola have what it takes to finally be the Messiah everyone is searching for?
You cannot blame anyone for this questioning, as personality cults have long been nurtured in Maltese politics. The hollowed-out carcasses of our political parties have long ago traded the business of values and ideals for the visual politics of personality.
Part of the downward spiral of party politics also involved the elevation of “Mexxej” and “Kap” to messianic levels that eclipsed and obviated any need for concrete political programming.
Which brings me back to the Metsola Moment.
This was nothing less than an opening of a European Parliament election campaign. It would be ridiculous not to include the current President of the EP, who, as it happens, is a member of the same party as Bernard Grech (the current Kap, in case you were wondering).
Metsola’s place was definitely at the heart of the meeting.
It would also be amiss of the party not to capitalise on the opportunity to showcase that a world leader (eat your heart out, Joseph Muscat), yes, a world leader, hailing from their very own party.
Absolutely no harm there. In that sense, this was the Metsola Moment – a clear reminder of what one can achieve if one puts their mind to it. A reminder that the PN’s MEP is leading the European Parliament.
So far, so good. Roberta could not just turn up and smile. She had to say something.
The Metsola Moment was a speech that, in many ways, was a variation on the same chord the EP President has been playing around the world.
A message of hope, change for the better, and not giving in to desperation. It is a message to younger generations that the current dark clouds will disappear if we work hard enough.
Metsola glided slightly above national issues and national problems by speaking positively about a future that can be aspired to.
In a way, nothing more could be expected. This was a statement of presence. It was an opening for that most awkward of electoral campaigns. A European Parliament campaign will always differ from a national one because you cannot expect the same promises and solutions as the more demanding national elections dictate.
The cynical will say it suits Metsola perfectly since it allows a continuation of the long-arm approach to national politics while the party tries to solve its internal contradictions.
That is the problem, however, as the PN has still not reinvented itself. It sits pitifully in opposition in a sort of work-to-rule mentality going through the motions.
There is no clarity of vision, there is no presenting itself as a valid alternative with ideas for governance. Unsurprisingly, it seems to be still mired in the notion of “election by default”.
Metsola’s presence might have drawn attention away from the fact that the PN is still far from the dynamic, rejuvenated party that is desperately needed. But it would be worse if the shining star were to be only here in passing. It would be a missed opportunity if the momentum gathered by Metsola were not used as a catalyst for the real change needed to recreate a party of leaders.
It is time to capture the moment before it is too late.