Umno needs a Tony Blair to fight the Thatcher that is Mahathir, says Zaid

Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim.

PETALING JAYA: Former minister Zaid Ibrahim has offered tips to Umno on how to rejuvenate itself in the wake of its fall from power, reminding party leaders that it is not difficult to counter the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government whose manifesto he described as a work of “idealists and economists” that “promised everything”.

Zaid said Umno leaders were still groping in the dark to galvanise support with issues such as whether to ask its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to step down pending the outcome of his corruption trial, instead of coming up with a new philosophy to challenge decades-old policies including those institutionalised during the 22-year administration of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Mahathir is the Margaret Thatcher of Malaysia, so to win against him you need a Tony Blair in Umno,” Zaid, who is known for his maverick views on politicians from both sides of the divide, said in a blog post today.

The former Kota Bharu MP said Umno’s struggle to emerge from its doldrums would fail if its leaders chose to stick with “raw firebrand politics” that continued to use Malay rights and Islam to garner Malay support.

He said such a policy was a vestige of the old Umno dominated by Mahathir, but the present Umno must be “modern and progressive” in pushing the Malays up the economic and educational ladder.

He said in doing this, the party need not lose sight of its Malay roots, but should instead come up with an economic thrust that would not abandon some form of welfare for the community.

“So the economic thrust of Umno has to be skewed towards a controlled socialist state, with some room for private activities. This is the opposite of Mahathirs’s economic policies.

“To be credible, Umno must oppose Mahathir’s laissez-faire economics. They must oppose his privatisation plans, and the selling of state assets,” said Zaid.

He said one of PH’s weaknesses was its failure to fulfil the promise of various welfare initiatives.

“The problem is that the real decision makers in the PH government are not socialists or supporters of the welfare system,” said Zaid.

“They are billionaires and towkays who are close to, and are in line with, Mahathir’s economic thinking. Obviously they like selling assets and are in favour of creating more wealthy businessmen. They believe this will have a trickle-down effect, and everybody will be happy and satisfied.”

He said Umno leaders still could not understand what the present Malays want, and many were content with continuing old policies under which they had benefitted and become rich.

“This greed set in deep and it finally led to the loss in May because those policies could no longer satisfy the Malays,” he wrote, adding that the party’s objection to the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was an example of the party having no clue about Malay needs.

Saying there were “a few bright ones in the third liners” of the Umno leadership, Zaid said they should champion positive education, morality and good conduct.

“The next leader must be able to talk to taxi drivers about his plans without banning Grab. He must be able to tell the Malays how he plans to cut out greed and curb crookedness in the way power is exercised.

“Any Malay party that can instil values such as honesty and integrity in our political culture, and help nurture the Malays to be successful, will get support,” he said.