Saturday 22 September 2012 - 18:45 by Jurgen Balzan
Labour leader Joseph Muscat addressing the mass meeting in Ta Qali.
The Labour Party today stressed its desire to create a new middle-class as Joseph Muscat's hour-long speech to the party faithful in Ta Qali was littered with references to the middle-class and repeatedly claimed that a new government will "build a new middle-class that guarantees the future of the whole country, a future that unites us all."
The speech also focused on the difference between the "inclusive" Labour Party and the "divisive" Nationalist Party.
Labour leader Joseph Muscat said a new Labour government will build a new middle class and noted that "If the people vote us into government the guarantees and stability we will bring will not mean that the blue clique is replaced by a red clique but the country will be returned to the people."
Muscat was addressing thousands of Labour supporters gathered in Ta Qali for the party's mass meeting which brought the first ever congress to an end.
"It will not be an easy journey. They will not make it easy for us but nobody and nothing will stop me from fighting for what we stand for," Muscat said as he stressed the need for unity. He said people can expect personal attacks and a fear campaign as well as favours such as in the granting of building permits.
In a clear attempt to portray the party as an inclusive force as opposed to Nationalist Party which is concerned about maintaining power for a small clique, Muscat said Labour will be a government for everybody.
He said the PN government looks down arrogantly on everyone including genuine Nationalists, as the party continued its mission to attract disgruntled Nationalist Party supporters. "It will not be a change which will leave things unchanged.
Centering his speech on the need to give the middle-class a new lease of life, Muscat said a new Labour government will create more jobs, attract more investment, reduce bureaucracy, help the self-employed grow and lower utility bills.
"If the Nationalist government has found the money to construct a new Parliament, we will find the money to give to our families and build a new-middle class."
On the party's promise to reduce utility bills, Muscat said "when we say that bills will be reduced, we will not increase other other tax to make good for the reduction in utility bills. The saving we will pass on to the people will come from better use of new technologies and better management of the country.
We have not spoken about a series of promises, but a road map which links our policies. It is a road map that will create economic growth for everyone. A road map that will build a new middle-class."
Muscat described education as the key to economic growth and social mobility. He said the high levels of early-school leavers are unacceptable and stressed the importance of providing training, education and work to the young people.
"Young people have the right to decide the future of the country, a future that unites us," a spirited Muscat said to a boisterous crowd.
The PL leader also said that all the promises Labour is making will be carried out. He said the minimum wage cannot be increased because it will create further problems for workers because work conditions will worsen.
"What you see is what you get," Muscat said. He stressed that the first thing which a new government will do is to lay solid foundations for a long-term future, citing economic growth as his party's prime priority. Muscat said once he is in power he will work hard to "implement every word we have promised."
While reiterating his party's commitment to allow the private sector and the self employed to flourish, Muscat warned that employers who currently employ people on precarious conditions will not be awarded any contracts by a new Labour government.
On the environment, Muscat said Labour will run the Delimara power station on gas and ensure that the environment will be protected. The PL leader also stressed the importance of having public-private partnerships in all sectors.
Hailing the party's first ever Congress, Muscat said "This is the new way of doing politics. Politicians must start listening to what the Maltese people have to say. We are here today to speak about the future. We are here to talk about the guaranteed change the Labour movement will bring about if the people vote us in government."
As Muscat went through the 20 principles approved by the congress, he said Labour will guarantee civil-unions for same-sex couples and in an indirect reference to the PN's confessional conservatism, Muscat stressed that Labour "is not scared of going to hell for standing by its principles."
He said "If the people vote us in government, it will vote for five years of stability. We can do this because we are willing to bring this change about and we have the energy to do it."
Muscat said "It is a choice between a divisive past and a future that unites. It is a choice that will guarantee the stability which the people want" while saying that the PN government is busy asking for the people's confidence while letting down the workers at Air Malta, sea Malta, Go and other state controlled companies.
A bellicose Labour leader said the government betrayed the people by taking wrong decisions such as the honoraria saga and the Delimara power station extension.
As the Labour Party entered full election mode, a casually dressed Muscat was given a raucous welcome by a large crowd of Labour supporters.
He said the Labour Party is shaping its policies to bring the country back to its best and said the road-map formulated during the week-long congress was an exercise in which everybody was welcome to participate.
In an attempt to portray the party as an inclusive movement, Muscat said "Labourites and Nationalists are married to each other, are brothers and live together," as the noisy crowd chanted his name.
Thousands of people gathered for the Labour mass meeting at Ta Qali. The impeccably organised meeting came at the end of the first ever Labour Party Congress designed to provide the party with a road-map for the coming election.
In an unprecedented move the Labour Party organised a mass meeting just two days after the traditional Nationalist Party mass meeting marking the Independence anniversary. Through today's meeting Labour neutralised the PN's yearly mobilisation and shared the news headlines with its eternal rival.
Labour MPs and officials sat at the fore of the euphoric crowd in a designated area, as Labour leader Joseph Muscat addressed the crowd standing in front of a group of young persons sitting on the multi-coloured stage. To add a tinge of humour to the festive mood, two actors from the popular television series Deceduti stood among the crowd donning wigs and fake moustaches, wearing a t-shirt saying Ex-Nationalists.
At the beginning of the meeting, Labour deputy leader Anglu Farrugia addressed the crowd and said the Nationalist government "has lost its social conscience," and explained that the PN has "burdened the people with austerity measures to pay for the wrong decisions it took in government."
Farrugia warned that persons who have "maliciously" taken wrong decisions during the last four years must pay for their mistakes. He said a Labour government will be "a government of the people, for the people."
"The government has shamefully made a difference between one Maltese person and another," Farrugia said. He added that the Nationalist government has chosen to invest in the clique governing the country rather than in the country itself.
"A government with no vision, a rudderless government which treats people as numbers," Farrugia said of the PN government, adding that the Labour movement must remain grounded and maintain its open-door policy.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's name was met with loud booing every time his name was mentioned by Farrugia. The PL deputy leader said GonziPN voted against the interests of the people when a Labour motion to lower the water and electricity bills was voted down in Parliament.
He pointed out that the people are "paying dearly for the government's stale and outdated policies," while reminding the Labour faithful that the PN government gave itself a 500 pay rise. Farrugia said "injustices will not be tolerated by a Labour government."
Hailing Labour leader Joseph Muscat, the deputy leader said the Labour movement is welcoming people from different political backgrounds within its ranks. Farrugia said the country needs a change that will guarantee social justice and build trust between the government and the people.