Today I shall write about an incumbent, one who has contested the European Parliament elections since 2004, and became a member following the casual elections to fill the seat vacated by Simon Busuttil who had succeeded Lawrence Gonzi as leader of the Nationalist Party following a humiliating defeat in the previous general elections.
Given a different political scenario than the one we have today I would, with all serenity, predict a solid first count of forty thousand votes considering that last time around she managed to garner more than thirty two thousand first preferences. Let us put the local political scenario aside for a moment though.
During this legislature in the EP, Roberta Metsola has planned her work dutifully and worked her plan. She is a lead MEP on migration issues and her reports on the crisis in the Mediterranean is an in-depth work that has laid the basis for further studies on this very touchy and serious matter. Her legal background and her knowledge of EU affairs, are assets that make her a focal point in the committees she sits on – Vice Chair of the Petition Committee, the Civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, the special committee on terrorism and the committee for relations with the US, her contributions are solid and her interventions during plenary and during committee meetings are concise and to the point. Her work is widely acknowledged and she was awarded MEP of the year in 2015 for her sterling service in the Civil liberties committee. Based on these statistics and performance she should be elected with no problem at all.
Enter the local scenario… there is no doubt that the election of Adrian Delia as leader of the PN has shaken the foundations of the party. What the traditionalists thought would never happen, happened, what the establishment fought so hard to prevent, materialized, I might add, due to their own misgivings and arrogance, they culled Chris Said’s candidacy by fielding Alex Perici Calascione, and they shot themselves in the foot by opting a fierce campaign demonizing Delia, a tactic that did not work with Joseph Muscat and his government, a tactic that gave the Party another resounding and humiliating defeat, a tactic that should be deleted from all the political campaign handbooks, a tactic that saw Adrian Delia become leader of the PN much to the dismay of those who thought had a divine right to chose the leader they thought best, pretty much like the Tory elders predating Thatcher.
Whilst I have no difficulty in guessing who Roberta Metsola voted for, while it is an open secret that one of her mentors comes from the very core of the establishment, she did what anyone who did not want to commit political suicide should have done – kept a poker face. Even though she had her preferred candidate, she did not condition any of the member of her staff, she kept her distance and let them choose for themselves, so much so that some campaigned for Said and others campaigned for Delia; all of them still work for her now. Her priorities were different. She did not really mind who became leader, the most important thing for MEP Metsola was, and still is, to keep in touch with the core vote, to keep her team happy and then strike at the opportune moment.
She is ambitious, and like her counterpart from the PL Miriam Dalli (who we shall discuss next week) her ultimate goal is to lead her party. She is in no position to make enemies within, and during Independence week she made sure that her presence was felt, speaking to everyone, always keeping her charming smile, mingling and ensuring that her tete a tete with the Party leader was caught on camera. She will continue to be a team player, she may even be a bridge to bring the sparring sides closer, and that will be a great achievement in her quest.
Margaret Thatcher once said that those who stand in the middle of the road run the risk of getting hit from both sides. Well I think that Roberta Metsola has so far defied that saying. Her roots are too strong for them to be uprooted. She will be elected, the question is will she improve on the thirty two thousand of 2014?
A good politician, just like a good poker player, must always keep his cards close to his chest.