14 MAY 2003

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Leadership contestants say Labour should vote down treaty

Kurt Sansone
When the spotlights at the MLP headquarters are turned on tomorrow for the leadership contest, party delegates will be choosing from three contenders who all believe that the Labour parliamentary group should vote against the Accession Treaty when it comes up for ratification in Parliament.
However, none of the leadership contenders is contemplating the withdrawal of Malta from the EU, opting to steer the party within the new circumstances created by EU membership.
Incumbent leader Alfred Sant and contestant Anglu Farrugia have both declared that they would align the party to the European socialist group within the EU Parliament, dispelling any notion of Labour grouping up with the fringe parties belonging to the eurosceptic EDD.
On Monday, Super One television broadcast three separate addresses from the contestants, in which they spelled out their vision for the party. The broadcast, using the same theme that was used for the 1 May demonstration in Valletta, which marked the launch of Alfred Sant’s campaign, went on air at prime time.
Sant’s satire
Alfred Sant was the first to deliver his address. Sitting down and looking very composed Sant constantly addressed party delegates and in a speech that lacked an apology for past mistakes insisted on the need for more internal dialogue within the party.
But in the way of innovative proposals for the years to come, Sant could only muster three initiatives, two of which attempt to skirt around the credibility problem Labour has with the independent media.
If re-elected leader of the party Sant promised to spur the creation of a Labour Party owned English-language newspaper and another Maltese-language satirical newspaper.
The incumbent also proposed the holding of party delegate assemblies twice yearly so delegates could meet the leadership of the party and express their concerns and proposals, away from the prying eyes of the media.
Sant added that the Labour Party must be strong in its convictions but also calm. He insisted that on the issue of warships visiting Malta the party should shortly organise a public protest to show its disapproval.
One chance
Meanwhile, leadership contender John Attard Montalto focussed his speech on what he described as the qualities that make a good leader: courage, credibility, consistency and charisma.
Steering away from attacking Sant’s leadership style the undertone of Attard Montalto’s message was as clear as can get: the party needs to reform itself to be able to attract both the Labourites that deserted it and new voters.
The lawyer, who was the first to announce his intention of contesting the post of leader soon after the 12 April electoral result was prompt to apologise for being so brash about the need for change so close to the electoral result. Evidently addressing the adverse reaction Labourites had to his announcement from the Ta’ Qali counting hall, Attard Montalto said that he had good intentions and wanted the party to be electable once again.
He closed his speech with a strange declaration, which might not go down all too well with delegates in search of a strong leader. Attard Montalto said that he only wanted one chance to get the Labour Party in government and if he did not manage he would resign. In an attempt to dispel rumours that he wanted to contest because of his personal ambition to become prime minister, Attard Montalto said that he was ready to lead the Labour Party to victory and then refrain from becoming prime minister.
Anglu Farrugia
The third contestant in the race, Anglu Farrugia started off being a little jittery but improved his performance to reach a thundering climax in which he appealed for change in the party.
Farrugia insisted for more than once that the Labour Party could not continue to lose one election after the other. Labourites are demoralised, he said. Farrugia spoke about the need for the party to be inclusive and argued against the formation of cliques, which were harming the party. Discipline was an often used word by the former police officer.
On the issue of visiting warships, Farrugia said that it was a shame for the party to have remained silent. The Mosta lawyer ended his address by appealing to party delegates to think rationally and not to be afraid of change.
kurt@maltamag.com



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