The Labour party is optically at the weakest it has been in a number of years, having received a number of devastating blows in close succession which have left it gasping for air. To counter this, PL has taken onboard Sun Tzu‘s maxim – “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”.
However it’s far from Zugzwang for PL ; PL still commands a large natural majority and a slick and heavily resourced marketing machine, and has never stopped reforming itself, though the pace has slowed down considerably since Robert Abela took over as party leader.
The Nationalist party would be committing a grave error if it counts merely on voters switching from PL to PN because they, the voters, are disillusioned with PL due to recent events. People rally behind a party for two reasons: conviction about causes that they profoundly believe in, and WIFM (what’s in it for me).
Hence, PN’s top and foremost priority is to have clarity on its vision, a vision that inspires and which people will aspire to. A vision clearly differentiated from that of PL and of PN of old. Not a cosmetic touch up, not a let’s fix what’s wrong, not a sanitised version of PL’s vision or that of PN of yesterday or of old, but one that tangibly prioritises people, the operative word being tangibly.
Serious and well-thought out policies are a key strategic imperative. They give the public the confidence that the party is competent, credible and ready to govern. Policies are based on vision, and must be formulated professionally. No back-of-the-envelope calculations. Policies need to be formulated by dialogue within teams of professional policy makers, regulatory and competition experts, behavioural economists and psychologists, people who understand and know how the EU works, experts in the relevant field, politicians and people (focus groups and surveys). Goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and timely). Otherwise they are just empty words, hot air.
Key to this, and fully in line with the PN’s tradition, would be a vision of a caring society, addressing those ignored by Muscatian trickle down economics. This is the PL’s soft underbelly, as the workers party has mutated into a party of oligarchs and speculators. If the PL emphasises money, the PN must emphasise people.
It is useless having the best product if people don’t understand why it is the best product, and what’s in it for them. Marketing is key, and PN’s marketing needs to be drastically upscaled. Without a doubt, PN’s main hindrance is cost, and good marketing costs money. Lots of money. PL’s marketing machine is heavily resourced, co-ordinated and effective, and accounts for much of PL’s electoral successes. But if PN does not significantly upscale the quality and quantity of its marketing efforts, it will not succeed in improving its electoral performance, let alone win the next election. The vision and ensuing policies must be widely disseminated and well explained. People must understand what they mean to them tangibly. People don’t buy features, they buy benefits.
All this might seem obvious, but in reality, when a political party has been going through defeat after the defeat, the problem is usually at a basic level. It’s the basics that need to be tackled first, the foundations. PN must really and truly reform and renew, and this can only be done if there is a generational shift at all levels. It’s not about sweeping out the old. It’s about flooding the party with the young, inducting them in basic political science and history.
PN must also ensure it does not go down the same path as PL and repeat its mistakes. It must show uncompromising, moral fortitude and integrity at all levels and at all times. Integrity has no shades of grey. It’s like virginity, you either have it or you don’t. We can no longer have a country based on amoral familism, freemasonry and freemasonry-like relationships, cronyism and nepotism. We can no longer have a country where rule of law, democracy and human rights count for nothing, where the institutions are hijacked and emasculated.
But all too often the PN has been content to just focus on the issue of corruption, as important as it is, but toeing the PL’s line on other issues. PN must also focus on areas (in addition to corruption) where the PL approach is leaving an extremely bad taste. Environment for one, but also addressing what is an increasingly unsustainable economic model, looking at neglected areas like research and new industries, agriculture, etc.
PN still has large strides and key milestones to reach to catch up with its adversary. PN’s foundations have been rocked to the core over the past years, and it has been razed to the ground.
It’s high time for the phoenix to rise from the ashes.