You can feel the desolation in the title of The Times’s leading piece today.

It speaks about the vain hope that EU membership might have kept in check a government that neglects the basic obligations of democratic administration and respect for the rule of law. But the EU is found wanting. In the same way Giovanni Bonello said the Maltese constitution presumes “gentlemen” would be putting it to use, the founding fathers of the European project assumed national governments would want to preserve democratic principles.

The founding fathers assumed European people would never allow their governments to reverse centuries of democratic tradition. That European mainstream political parties, holders of institutions, universities, student bodies, strong civil societies and the independent press and media would be forces that would prove too strong for governments that start out elected democratically and become autocratic, by plebiscitary consent.

It is a perfect storm that we are experiencing: our political parties are in the grip of their leaders; holders of institutions have become complicit; the university is tired and scared of the axe hanging over its head; students are distracted by materialism and ennui; civil society is weak, impoverished and lacking experience of action without the cue of a political party; and the independent press is drowned by the screaming media controlled by the government and political parties, harangued and attacked by slander, and threatened by nothing short of murder.

The more prominent the voice, the greater the tonnage of bricks cast to crush it from a government that stops at nothing to protect itself and its own.

Considering the popular support and confidence the government enjoys it is indeed remarkable that it doesn’t treat its few, isolated detractors with disdain and indifference but rather with the full-blown harshness of a government cornered and under siege.

We are on our own. But stay we must.