In a completely controlled setting Joseph Muscat delivered an extraordinary performance this morning. His MPs looked like zombies. They were either nursing a collective hangover after a big late bash last night, or they didn’t believe him. But he looked his best.

The prime minister delivered a speech he has been rehearsing for 15 months, complete with crying on cue.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the 1,500 pages of work by the Magistrate, but unlike Joseph Muscat, I haven’t seen them. He makes the claim again that he wants the full thing published pretending he is not the one deciding everything step by step. At least that much, I hope, everyone sees through.

He knew what the full report said at least the moment the AG received it and the AG is following very close instructions about the rate at which information is being controlled and drip fed.

The conclusions in hand today show no evidence was found to back the claim the Muscats owned Egrant and received bribes through it from Azerbaijan. Finding that evidence was never going to be easy. Care would have been taken to keep it hidden and to dispose of it in case of trouble.

But this is not the time to stubbornly repeat what has been discussed for 15 months, attempting to ignore the conclusions that have indeed been published.

So here are some questions that follow from that publication.

If Joseph Muscat is as saintly and innocent as he professed to be today — complete with a crying scene first designed by that great theoretician of street theatre, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando — why is he still resisting a court order to have the Panama Papers investigated by the police? Why is he using his lawyers to go up and down the corridors of the court building to suppress even the start of the investigation?

If Joseph Muscat is so reassured by the rule of law in Malta why does he use a press conference from the highest seat of power in Malta to threaten people with prosecution on the basis of a Magisterial inquiry findings he should not be privy to since the Attorney General has not yet published it?

One final remark. Even before Joseph Muscat stepped on our TV screens this morning, Labour MPs started developing the argument that the Egrant story was not merely false, it was a coup d’etat.

This may or may not have been over-enthusiastic MPs filling up time until the prime minister finished practising.
crying on demand. But it’s hard to believe that given just how controlled and organised everything is right now. We know we are approaching darker, grimmer times, when the government starts speaking of the danger of its stability, of sedition and of conspiracy to take up arms against the state.

If these dangerous notions are followed up by actions, it would be because Joseph Muscat would feel empowered by this inquiry to punish his enemies, silence his critics and consolidate his absolute power.

He will feel that today his critics must cower into silence and obeisance. He will make sure they do.

Courage was never needed more.