I have been angry at the Nationalist Party for the last 13 years. Even when I was horrified by the rot that emerged from the Labour government from 2016 onwards, my disillusionment with PN always seemed to take priority.
I’m not quite sure when this PN resentment crept in, but I know when it began to disappear.
A few weeks ago, a parker struck up a conversation with me as I was leaving my car. “I recognise you,” he told me. “You interviewed Bernard Grech, didn’t you?” I nodded.
“Do you think we stand a chance with him? I’m a Nationalist. I’m not as keen as I used to be though. Labour is doing a lot of good,” he said. “Just look at the flyovers.”
I almost rolled my eyes at the thought of flyovers being the pinnacle of a government’s vision. Then he said something which struck me.
“The problem is that they have too much power,” he warned. “Anke l-Laburisti qed jarhom dubbien.” (Even Labourites are being seen as flies.)
After 20 minutes chatting, I realised this simple man represented a profound idea.
He formed part of the 30 per cent of voters who have stayed with the Nationalist Party through thick and thin.
I used to look down on people like him. I felt they did not represent the kind of critical thinking I pride myself on. But that day I realised there was wisdom in his decision to keep supporting the Nationalist Party.
He understood instinctively that the only real way of keeping the government’s power in check is to support the opposition.
By continuing to support PN, this parker was being more effective than me in curbing Labour’s excesses.
It got me thinking about when PN had a one seat majority in parliament between 2008 and 2013. I was a journalist at Times of Malta at the time and we were very conscious of our responsibility because any story we wrote could trigger the collapse of the government.
Today, the Labour government has a seven-seat majority, which means it can basically get away with anything, whether it’s impunity that enabled the murder of a journalist, keeping a suspected bank robber in cabinet or being responsible for the greylisting of what used to be a proud and reputable country.
If the government had a slimmer majority, it probably wouldn’t bulldoze over 150-year-old trees or hand out permits despite 17,000 objections from the public.
But instead of narrowing the gap, people like me have spent years widening it, by focusing on what’s wrong with the PN instead of trying to make that right.
Like many people of my generation, who grew up with EU membership, cheap travel, widespread internet and good education, I’ve spent most of my adult life dreaming about how spectacular Malta could be if we had a forward-thinking and ambitious government that really tried to make the country reach its true potential.
I always thought people like my parker friend were an obstacle to those dreams and we desperately needed a third party to eventually break through the duopoly.
What I realise today is that people like him are actually our springboard to fight what has become a virtual monopoly.
The parker forms part of the solid base upon which the Nationalist Party can form a strong opposition and eventually a strong government.
The obstacle is actually people who prefer to sit down and criticise instead of standing up and giving a contribution. We are the ones failing ourselves when we wait for the party to be perfect, instead of trying to perfect the party.
I realise now that the time for punishing the PN is over. After all, for all its faults, this party has a proud history of transforming this nation and being there when the country needs it most.
Today, what our country needs is a strong opposition that can offer an exciting new vision for the future. At the very least, we need to narrow the gap, rather than keep sliding down a slippery slope towards a two thirds majority in parliament.
And ultimately, we need to make sure the opposition is ready to govern properly as soon as the electorate decides it is time.
Today, anybody who is dissatisfied with the government or its worryingly strong majority should start doing what they can to fix it: either support the alternative as it is, or help to make it something you can support.
Politics is the art of persuasion. It is the art of the possible. If the PN does not meet your aspirations, you should do your best to convince it to do so.
This is what led me to step down from Lovin Malta and commit my services to the PN, to contribute towards building a new vision for the next government.
Bernard Grech welcomed me with open arms and asked me to help bring back all the other prodigal sons and daughters who have left the party over the years, so we can shape our future together.
He’s a father, a mediator, a good listener and a humble Nationalist who simply wants what’s best for this country. He’s also showing up and doing his best, which is a lot more than many of us have been doing.
So, the bottom line is this: If you want to change this country and form part of Malta’s next government, get in touch and let’s start writing the next chapter together.
Let the next chapter be a legacy we look back to with our heads held high, proud of our nation.
The door is wide open and there’s hope in the air.
We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
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