The leader of the Nationalist Party has to be unimpeachable

Published: August 30, 2017 at 2:53pm

Those who are pushing Adrian Delia fail to understand that the Nationalist Party is held to a far higher standard, not just by a significant core of its own supporters but by the electorate in general, than the Labour Party.

Even if they themselves vote for corrupt politicians and the Labour Party, the citizens of this country expect the leader of the Nationalist Party to be unimpeachable. It is pointless discussing the historical or social reasons for this. It has simply got to be accepted as a fact. Nationalist MPs are also held to a far higher ethical standard, by the public, than Labour MPs. But Nationalist MPs are dispensable. They resign their seat – in the case of Nationalist MPs, over the merest infraction – and another takes their place. Or the party whip is withdrawn, and that’s it.

Not so with the party leader, who represents and symbolises the party itself. A shady leader means the party is shady. That’s how people see it. A squeaky clean leader does not mean that the Nationalist Party is squeaky clean, but the way people look at it – the sensible people who vote Nationalist out of deliberate choice and not because they are ‘political fans’ – a clean leader will control and corral the less desirable elements in the party.

The leader of the Nationalist Party always has to be squeaky clean – not just clean, but squeaky clean. The three Nationalist Party leaders we knew in our lifetime were exactly that: squeaky clean.

George Borg Olivier had issues of personal sexual morality (and had they become widely known among the electorate, in that pre-media age, his position would have been untenable anyway on those grounds) but nobody could ever accuse him of financial sleaze or taking a cut on a contract. He died penniless, owning not even the house in which he lived, because it belonged to his wife.

Eddie Fenech Adami’s authority was moral authority. It was not because of the thugs who surrounded him in those extremely violent days that people respected him. It was because of his backbone. Moral courage (backbone) is not the same thing as physical courage (għandu l-bajd). Big shows with thugs are no substitute for moral fibre and for backbone.

Lawrence Gonzi survived the most terrible onslaught any party leader could fear to endure precisely because he had backbone and the moral strength that comes from integrity. If, on top of all that, he were also shady or sleazy, he would have been hammered into the ground by the electorate, which forgives Labour the worst crimes but doesn’t forgive the Nationalists for the smallest infraction in 2008. His personal integrity saved him then.

It could not save him in 2013 when people were desperate for change after so many years, and when that personal integrity had been severely weakened by self-serving (and ultimately self-destructive) decisions like the selection of John Dalli for the European Commission, the appointment of Franco Debono as his parliamentary assistant, and the installation of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando as chairman at the Malta Council of Science and Technology, to the detriment of the real scientist who was CEO there, who he replaced with a new ‘executive chairman’ position under Labour.

Simon Busuttil did not lose because he is squeaky clean. He reduced his losses because of that. Eight thousand electors switched back to the Nationalist Party in the last few weeks of the campaign because of Labour sleaze. They would not have switched back if he had been sleazy too. They would have had no reason for doing so.

Eight thousand electors is a gap between the political parties (and I am not going to explain the maths; work it out) of 16,000 votes. Had that not happened, the Labour Party would have won by 52,000 votes and not by 36,000 – exactly as it was predicting already a few months earlier, when Chris Fearne gave the game away by boasting about it. That was not an empty boast at the time: the Labour Party had surveys showing it.

George Borg Olivier, Eddie Fenech Adami, Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil – many accusations have been levelled against them, but I think we can all say with certitude that not one of them would have opened a bank account in Jersey to allow clients to launder money. Whether the money is from straight rent or from a prostitution racket, it still constitutes money-laundering. The latter just exacerbates the crime.

When Alexander Borg Olivier writes on Facebook, as he has done now, that Adrian Delia is the man required to restore the Nationalist Party to its former glory, he not only shows demonstrably poor judgement of character, but far worse than that, he insults his father’s memory.

George Borg Olivier had an actress mistress and terrible problems on the domestic front, yes. But I think we can say with certainty that not in a million years would he have opened a foreign bank account in his own name and allowed clients to pass through it the proceeds of crime.