First published on my Facebook page on 30 May towards the end of the general election campaign:
Towards the end of a PN-term in government — I have been a small part of four of those — the word ‘arrogance’ becomes mainstream. You know the drill. Nationalists think they have some divine right to rule. They have a habit of apologising too late in the day for their airs. They assume their supporters will back them through thick and thin as they gallop on their high horses.
Towards the end of a Labour-term in government — since the beginning of my conscious existence, this is the third time — ‘arrogance’ does not feature as an adjective. Somehow it feels too trivial. There is nostalgia for arrogance as a weakness devoutly to be wished for when compared with the atmosphere Labour breeds as it comes up to an election.
A politician that pretends not to campaign for power is a hypocrite. It is fair to say that for most power is a means to achieve the good of their country. But they cannot be useful from the opposition benches. They would be like those perpetual, hairy hippies that have had little to eat and too much to smoke all their lives, only in their case they get paid for it.
But you know as you watch him that as Joseph Muscat argues for his re-election he looks like he has something more to lose than his office to do good.
Competing and arguing in an election — a dialectic of disagreement and debate — is a central function of the democratic process. How can you expect people to make a choice if arguments are not organised in party programs and then confronted? That is well and good.
But when it gets to the point we are in, you understand there’s more to this than a debate on tax and spending.
In order to win this election, The Joseph is resorting to some tactics that will chill cool historians in 20 years’ time as today’s historians shiver at Labour’s tactics of 1971-1987.
I mention some examples:
1. The viciousness of reporting on Super 1 and its subsidiary TVM has reached proportions that would embarrass the official journal of the Kims. This is only a part of the picture. Quite what Super 1 gets up to is its business. But TVM comes with the credibility lent by its status as national TV and as arms’ length neutral from the extremes of both parties. But think about it. TVM failed to report the statements of an eye-witness to a massive fraud scandal involving the Prime Minister’s wife. TVM made the judgement call that that fact was not newsworthy.
2. Adjectives and appendages such as ‘traitors’ and ‘enemies of the people’ are being bandied about like it was a particularly sweaty and bloody day outside the Bastille and the Widow’s blade needed sharpening. Not since 1987 has this language become so mainstream here. I wonder what Matteo Renzi and Tony Blair would make of l-orizzont and Super 1 if they could be translated to them. Is Tony Blair a traitor for expressing on the world stage the view that the UK is wrong to go down the path of Brexit? Some middle England muslim-bashing fanatics certainly think so. But here this fanaticism does not belong to the loony fringe: it is the central theme of one of our main political contenders.
3. Intimidation is the order of the day. Switchers who were national heroes in 2013 are enemies of the people now for daring to switch again. Labour still thinks in religious terms. When people switch in their direction they are converts to be welcomed with open arms. When people switch away from them they are apostates: fodder for the stake. What the Winston Zahras, Philip Rizzos, Grace Borges and others of the sort have had to experience in the last few days simply does not belong in a normal democracy.
4. Suppression of state institutions. Yesterday I commented on l-orizzont’s editorial line straight out of Pol Pot that in place of a professional judiciary, justice must be exercised by “the people”, a mob that will acquit The Joseph and condemn his detractors. This is a simple extension on Muscat’s logic that some whipping boy must be imprisoned in his place if a prosecutor fails to have him convicted. This “sfida li jekk ma jsibu xejn jirreżenja ħaddieħor” line is the most illogical, populist and frankly horrifying notion of many The Joseph has come up with.
5. Plata o plomo politics. It is fair to compare a criminal political structure to organised crime and the common methods are there to see. The Joseph will first try to buy you into collaboration and submission. It is cheaper to do that — especially if you’re using tax money — than it is to force an enemy’s submission the hard way. The Joseph will try to bribe anyone: even little old me. During these past 4 years I’ve had some tough times finding productive employment and Keith Kasco Schembri through a common acquaintance sent a glass of water to a man lost in a hot desert with a come over “u nsibulek xi ħaġa x’tagħmel”. My reply was I would rather sell peanuts on the beach than come over. I will not take your plata. I am not criticising those who did. They will have had their reasons to make their political calculus. After reading his interview on Sunday can anyone criticise Philip Rizzo’s motivations for working with Labour? But when he and others walked away from it they had to face plomo: the cruel bullets of Labour’s wrath.
6. Nineteen eighty-four. Truth is devalued, derided, denied, destroyed. The message is ignored. The messenger shot. Box files filled to the brim with evidence. Box files are empty. Evidence is produced. There is no evidence. The magistrate has decided. The magistrate will face the consequences if he decides too late. Simon Busuttil invented it. Vladimir Putin did it. The Russian employee is a pathological liar. The Russian employee is a spy. If enough confusion is thrown out, they will bleat at the last applause.
7. Dirty tricks. Anything goes. Promise not to involve children in campaigning. Draw up a meme that would hurt any decent person’s sensibilities about Downs Syndrome. Push it around till kingdom come. Parade yourself with Downs Syndrome children. Anything goes.
8. Use the power of incumbency to the hilt. Abolish Nationalist rules about freezing pre-election employment and civil service promotions. Give people what they were entitled to 4 years ago, 3 days before the election and they will forgive anything.
If you thought goose-stepping big-booted armies placed dictators in power, you have not been watching. We have our own The Joseph and his many people waving flags.