Friday, 13th June 2008
Give them the tools
It appears that many people too easily assumed that my promise to resign my post as chairman of the Green party was to be taken with a pinch of salt. It appears that power is intoxicating and not a few make fools of themselves in the end by clinging on too long.
Perhaps I have the advantage on them because the power and glory that is the share of the leader of the Greens is just a tot and not enough to inebriate anybody. It is time to go and I am going.
In this too I believe that I serve the political party I have co-founded and served as soldier, staff officer and general for almost 19 years: Alternattiva Demokratika, as all political parties, will contest the European Parliament elections this time next year. In order to present a fresh proposal, it would be best to have a break with the past, a new image. And how better than by having somebody new flying the flag?
There is not much time available to make all the necessary changes and to establish the leadership in the public mind, not a day to spare. Judging by the report prepared by the commission engaged to analyse the general election results, AD will have to start from scratch. It seems there was nothing there at all. Certainly no money to speak of and the handful of people involved were obliged to multitask to breaking point. It's all true.
It has been a matter of keeping up appearances for a very long time. The age of volunteers is long gone, our socio-economic model has changed over the years and people expect to be paid for work, not least for hard work and often unrewarding of itself. The few who do it gratis are overburdened twice over because they are so few and because they too have to survive in the rat race.
It is poor consolation that AD may be the only political party with its books in the black and its soul intact. The commission's report certifies the Greens clean. But clean and unable to communicate one's vision is also a betrayal of a sacred trust.
Although still out in the cold, the Greens have positioned themselves evenly between the PN and the MLP, sitting astride the centre with a support exceeding the difference between the main contenders. The fact that the PN and the MLP together with the mainstream media avoid this fact as though observing a taboo only serves to underscore the Greens' potential for themselves, for a possible political ally and for all those seeking a radical change and able to invest time, effort or money to achieve it.
Tomorrow's extraordinary general meeting is billed as a changing of the guard and as the start of the discussion on the clinical dissection which the commission's report claims to be. Nobody will be asked to take a vote; there is nothing to be decided on; no official document before us to approve or otherwise, so nobody will check whether one's subscription is paid up. Party members, old and new, as well as interested bystanders, will be most welcome.
I do not expect that there will be time for everybody to have their say on each of the very many issues raised in the commission's report, so the event will be something of a media ritual, but this does not make it any less a watershed in our history which should be attended by those who have watched our progress with interest.
It will also be a farewell and a time to augur the new leadership the strength and persistence it will need to address the many shortcomings pointed out by the commission as well as the wisdom to weigh up and decide on the policy and strategy issues raised. I certainly hope that, in the coming weeks, it will have the benefit of many contributions from the party grassroots and not only the good wishes of all concerned. It is time to look forward, for me and for the party. I confess that I am looking forward to charging realistically for my services once more: no more free legal advice, no more environmental consultation gratis, no more political lobbying as an unpaid public service, no more articles, policy documents or even formal correspondence written without significant financial reward. At last it will become politically correct for me to accept the tempting eco-business proposals I have puritanically refused by the dozen.
It may not be a bad idea for the party to work out something on these lines itself. With no public financing of political parties available, how can all those who turn to the Greens for support continue to expect them to campaign for them with no resources? Perhaps the commission's report will make the matter more easily acceptable.
The Greens need almost nothing more than this: the commitment is there, the vision is clear, their relevance grows by the minute. They do need support and encouragement. It is Malta that needs the Greens and not the other way around. Perhaps we should all stop taking them for granted.
Dr Vassallo is the outgoing chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika - the Green party.