The Nationalist Party needs a crash course in basic strategy

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You can almost feel sorry for the Nationalist Party…Four years into a Labour administration after a quarter of a century of PN rule, a general election looming and for all intents and purposes it hasn’t as yet found its feet.

In her article for (read here), journalist Janice Bartolo, strives to highlight the difference between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – a difference which, as the article goes, is due to Simon Busuttil’s penchant for sowing discord. At first glance, this is the usual fodder milled daily through the Labour Party’s media machine, but on closer inspection it fully, if unknowingly, reflects the specific malaise which has inflicted the Nationalist Party since its spectacular loss at the polls in 2013.

The spin doctors who had so successfully navigated the Nationalist Party through twenty-five years of government, the same spin doctors who had managed to bring down a Labour government against all the imaginable odds, the same people who orchestrated a deal with the party’s eternal arch-nemesis Dom Mintoff to bring this about…they seem to have curiously all but abandoned ship.

There seems to be no specific strategy at the Dar Centrali as to how to crucially undermine the Labour Party. To be fair, there is nothing specific in Labour’s policies which can consistently be criticised; the numbers are showing unprecedented success in plenty of sectors, so any half-hearted bleating by the PN is quickly and effectively shot down.

Occasional ‘glitches’ on the environment front happen, which might lightly prick our nation’s collective conscience, but these are easily ignored, because of course, most of us belong to the ‘I’m alright and eff you Jack’ school of thought. Therefore, as long as the latest aberration is not erected right on our doorstep, it obviously is none of our business. So again, any environmental ‘misdemeanour’ could ultimately prove to be quite a lame weapon in the Nationalist Party’s arsenal and one from which the country is easily distracted.

To add to the PN’s woes and if the latest EU survey is anything to go by, optimism pervades the nation and we are one of the happiest countries in the bloc. So how can the Nationalist Party, given its lukewarm attempts in mobilising the nation and other than pointlessly attacking government’s policies, successfully reclaim its glory days?

Speaking of glory days, this brings us squarely to the news items which have hogged the limelight for the past year; the malignant rot which has pervaded our way of life for generations – prevailing corruption and greed. What is truly pathetic in all the sermonising being bandied about, is the shock and disbelief with which this moralising is delivered. Corruption, bribery, greed and a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ way of doing things have been entwined in Maltese politics, consistently contaminating successive governments, since time immemorial, so this self-righteous occupation of the moral high ground by the Nationalist Party is not garnering them any brownie points, even more so after last week’s catastrophic turn of events.

If the Nationalist Party does intend to keep on using corruption as its rallying cry, it needs to first and foremost embark on some soul-searching or even more importantly, professional research and investigation within its own ranks. Otherwise, the purported cleansing of the political class, the ‘revolution’ it has so rashly embarked upon, can and will only degenerate into a silly playground melodrama – one which will soon be ignored by the voters, the same voters who the party is so eager to pander to; that rare breed which still holds an idealistic view of politics and for whom a spade will always be called a spade, no matter which party is in government on any given day.

It should always be borne in mind that attack is not always the best line of defence, especially when one’s habitat of choice is a glasshouse. A winning strategy requires not petty drama but rigorous planning, vigour and most of all an intimate knowledge of one’s adversary’s strengths and weaknesses. The ability to create such a strategy, I believe, is the intrinsic difference between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition…which at the end of the day is the difference between the making of a winner or a loser…