Canadian Professor Marc Edge recently reviewed for Newsbook Joseph Muscat’s performance on the BBC Newsnight interview with John Sweeney. He said he was shocked by the appalling performance. Anyone outside the country not wearing the blinkers that fit us so tightly here, will have found Malta’s prime minister untrustworthy. And that’s being nice.
Marc Edge grinds nobody’s axe. He is only moderately interested in local politics the way you would be if you lived in Hawaii for 6 months. It’s there so you watch it and some of it sinks in.
His assessment was professional and he certainly did not feel he had enough facts to have a position on whether the prime minister was lying or not. For all Marc Edge knows the prime minister was speaking gospel truth about not being the artful dodger of Europe or having secret accounts where he received money from Azerbaijan.
Marc Edge actually goes as far as saying that he would have given full marks to Joseph Muscat if he had just read a transcript of the Sweeney interview.The words were right but the body language was a horror.
Assuming Joseph Muscat was not lying, as Marc Edge certainly must, the alternative explanation for Joseph Muscat’s twitchy grinning was that a dwarf prime minister from a dwarf country will have been nervous and intimidated when faced by a behemoth like the BBC and a man of John Sweeney’s reputation. Google Sweeney and Scientology and you’ll understand. Presumably Joseph Muscat had done that before the interview.
But yesterday night Joseph Muscat did not have the BBC pushing their microphone in his face. He was faced by Lovin Malta, The Malta Independent and some others of the local press corps covering his trip to the V18 offices on what should have been an uplifting photo-op.
His body language is his usual smug, M C Hammer, ‘who’s-your-daddy’, self-satisfied, arrogant look. But his words matched that. ‘I only react to comments made by prime ministers’. That was his answer to Socialist MEPs asking their party to cut ties with Malta’s Labour Party while he heads it.
He’s gone way beyond even meaning to have a relationship with his former colleagues in the European Parliament. Because we cannot forget that Joseph Muscat was an MEP himself, quite the darling of his party in his younger days. And now he replies with disdain and contempt to anyone beneath his rank.
In that statement Joseph Muscat burnt any democratic credentials he may have had. He is used to function in Malta’s so called democracy where prime ministers can trample on Parliament with unstoppable authority. Here were no separation has ever been attempted between the legislative and the executive branches of government, MPs can be ignored. The “people’s representatives” are treated with complete contempt if the prime minister chooses to and Joseph Muscat chooses to as a matter of course.
On the European scene this behaviour is objectively shocking. Sven Giegold mustered the most visceral adjective a polite Berliner could come up with when describing Joseph Muscat’s attitude towards the European Parliament even before this quote of the day was pronounced: on our rule of law report “Malta’s prime minister was disrespectful”.
He is far worse than that but we understand what Sven Giegold means.
Consider how all the alumni of the University of Malta had, in yesterday’s same set of comments by our prime minister, their degrees reduced to nothing. In the ultimate unjust equivalence Joseph Muscat yesterday ranked the University of Malta at par with that other licensed academic institution in Malta which employs one academic and a handful of cleaners and teaches 23 under-graduates. Teaches them what?
“The University of Malta and the American University of Malta are both great institutions,” the prime minister said yesterday. The American University of Malta is great only by the standards of Humphrey Appleby who wanted to award the most efficient hospital in his country because it met all targets especially since it did not have to deal with the disruptive detail of having to care for any patients.
He says these things because he knows nobody who matters would complain at his outrageous remarks. Certainly no other prime minister. And certainly not even most academics at the University of Malta would dare stand up to this prime minister. It is perhaps why I could only spot 3 of them at yesterday’s vigil in Valletta.