Malta Today said today Adrian Delia got his Christmas present. His trust ratings have ‘shot up’ which the newspaper attributes to respondents warming up to the PN’s successful strategy of “embracing the Simon Busuttil faction” by taking a strong stand on 17 Black.

In other words they tell him the old way works better.

Of course Malta Today is being generous.

By its own figures if an election were held today the result would be less catastrophic than if it had been held last November. But it would still be worse than any other result the PN obtained since its leadership was liberated from Uganda concentration camps.

No one who voted Labour in 2017 trusts Adrian Delia according to this result. His name doesn’t feature at all. 39.2% of those who voted PN in 2017 say they do not trust him. Almost all of them (32.8%) say they trust neither of the two party leaders. The rest are split between the uncertain and respondents who actually rate Joseph Muscat higher than Adrian Delia.

If this is good news, I’d have to use that adjective I used a few days ago and got kicked for on grounds of criminal snobbery. This is Panglossian. It’s like Dr Pangloss who tells Candide he should feel grateful he survived drowning in a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean only to land in Lisbon in the midst of the worst earthquake in memory. Lucky, lucky.

Mindless optimism is not going to address the situation which is a matter of national urgency, never mind partisan interest.

Eurobarometer say Malta’s government is trusted by 63% of the population. The government says that’s an indicator of its success. If by that they mean a success for the PL in consolidating its support, they are not wrong. Malta Today’s survey of today — that is described by the newspaper as good news for PN strategists — is actually seeing an increase in support for the Labour Party over the previous survey. Some good news that is.

But a trust rating is not a measure of the quality of a government. It is a measure of the quality of its relationship with the electorate. The populist formula has well and truly worked for the Labour Party. Joseph Muscat’s engagement with voters’ thinking has short-cut expert opinion, journalistic endeavour, even the basic critical faculties of the political process.

What we have instead is blind trust. Like the serial philanderer who has convinced his wife he is the best husband in the world because of all the jewelry he buys her, Joseph Muscat enjoys trust because a great mass of the population has willfully agreed to look away from causes of suspicion preferring the rewards it perceives it is getting out of the relationship.

At first, “PN strategists” — as Malta Today calls them — envied that relationship. They admired it. They accepted they could not beat it. So they tried to imitate it, seeking to outbid the philandering husband with the blinding promise of greater plenty.

But the obvious response was the begged for question: why change for more of the same?

Malta Today says the direction has now changed and reads in the numbers some response in voter thinking, if you can use that verb.

So the PN finds it’s time to be tough on corruption again. There’s only a 30% trust rating gap to bridge. Truly a time for joy.