Pierre Portelli testified in court today to say it was his decision for the PN media to refuse to cover my response to a story they reported that said this blog had reported the PN voted for the cannabis law. I had not reported that. They refused to correct it. And I insisted in court to have this rectified.
Pierre Portelli did not attempt to deny the fact the reporting of his TV station was wrong. On the contrary he admitted willfully taking the decision to deny me the right of reply protected by the law because, among others, of reasons altogether extraneous to the case.
This is not the place to make arguments for my case in court. The place for that is in court.
But Pierre Portelli was clearly not interested in the court case but in getting another opportunity to discredit me because the only currency a journalist has is his credibility and it is crucial for Pierre Portelli and the PN to starve me of that.
That’s why he went to more than a year before the cannabis reporting incident back to the time when I was not a journalist, he was not the head of the PN media and Adrian Delia was not PN leader.
As always with a lie, some of what he said is true.
I never said before that during Adrian Delia’s election campaign I wrote for him his English language columns for The Times and The Malta Independent. I didn’t say so because the first thing about ghost writing is not to seek credit for the material your client signs for. Now that Pierre Portelli let this out of his bag for reasons I’ll go into later, I feel liberated by my former client – Adrian Delia – to say what happened.
When Pierre Portelli approached me around the time Adrian Delia announced his intention to run for party leader, like most people I barely knew Adrian Delia. I did know Pierre Portelli. As he said today we were in University together 25 years ago. And as he said, about three years ago he asked me to be Editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday. I had a job at the time which paid about 4 times what he could afford to pay and though flattered by his offer it was not what I wanted to do.
Then in June 2017 he approached me again. It was not to ghost write for Adrian Delia. He approached me because he said he believed I had to return to professional politics now the PN was getting a ‘new way’ and I would start by working on Adrian Delia’s transition team. Again I told Pierre Portelli I was happy with what I was doing and was not looking to return to politics.
He then asked me if I would ghost write campaign articles for his candidate and that his request was not accompanied by payment as budgets were tight. I agreed to do so, for old times’ sake. A college mate needed a favour and in his judgement he was helping a good candidate. I trusted his judgement: Pierre Portelli’s, I mean. I had no way of assessing Adrian Delia’s though that would come with time.
At the time Pierre Portelli asked me to do this, my blog was brand new. Try to take off the hindsight of all that happened since then. Practically everyone had forgotten about me at the time. I had last been in public life in 2013 and was a vague memory in 2017. I had been working in Africa and it was June 2017 when I started writing on my blog three or four times a week. I was no journalist. I was a software salesman who wrote some articles for fun and without payment.
I saw nothing wrong with doing a friend and favour. I wrote something like half a dozen articles through the campaign. The impression Pierre Portelli wants you to have is that he can share with me the credit for the ‘biċċa blogger’ rhetoric of Adrian Delia. No such thing at all. The articles signed Adrian Delia on The Times and The Malta Independent are my entire creative effort. I found myself writing policy. No one actually told me what Adrian Delia’s vision was or what his program was because as I would find out out he had none and I wrote material I would write if I could imagine myself in his place.
That’s what creative writing is about. Of course one never admits to ghost writing for a client. It’s the whole point. The term ‘ghost’ should be a clue. Not that it surprises anyone to learn that Adrian Delia can claim no credit for any of the ideas in those articles.
Pierre Portelli said today I’m a very good writer. I’m no poet laureate. Compared to Adrian Delia and Pierre Portelli, clearly, I am. They are incapable of writing a mid-week shopping list to save their lives and that’s not because they didn’t underline the big words when they read Enid Blyton in high school. It’s because they are incapable of thinking. No thinking. No writing. It’s simple really.
Pierre Portelli thinks he came up with some political coup today. Clearly his audience is not the Adrian Delia trolls and fans. He has just destroyed their mantra that I was nostalgic for some share of influence and power while Simon Busuttil was in office which I lost when Adrian Delia ‘cleaned me out’ along with other old junk he found when he went to Dar Ċentrali. Ironically the fact is exactly the opposite.
Now the spin is that I decided to go full-time journalist because when Pierre Portelli asked me to keep writing after I fulfilled my commitment by the end of Adrian Delia’s leadership campaign, I told him that I felt I had done him enough ‘favours’.
The experience of writing those ghost articles became more sickening as the campaign progressed. I expressed my disgust for Adrian Delia on my blog and in my The Sunday Times column. I told Pierre Portelli to his face that even if I would have ever considered moving back to political work, I would never consider working on Adrian Delia’s staff because I did not consider him fit for purpose. And what I thought of Adrian Delia I wrote publicly signing my name.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, who obviously knew I was ghost writing Adrian Delia’s articles because her keen eye could recognise the writing style in a pile of anthropology exam papers, asked me about it during the campaign. She never wrote about it because few understood better than her what a ghost writer is. But she did write in the run up to the campaign that my blog was an oasis of sanity in the midst of the madness that Adrian Delia and Pierre Portelli were fomenting.
The work that Pierre Portelli started in court this morning, continued by his trolls after that. Consider here Deputy Leader Robert Arrigo reaching the conclusion Pierre Portelli wants you to reach from his testimony in court: that I went into full-time journalism because Adrian Delia would not pay me some extortion money for my support.
Of course the dates are upside down. I wrote on this blog and on The Sunday Times of Malta (you can go check, they’re there) that Adrian Delia was the wrong choice for leadership before he became leader. Pierre Portelli asked me again to write for Adrian Delia after he became leader. That’s when I told him that now that I had honoured my agreement with him, there would be no more freebies.
But then there’s something more. Is it easier to believe that I quit my lucrative employment for full-time, unpaid, journalism because Adrian Delia would not pay me the bog standard 120 quid for an article once a month?
Is that really the Damascene experience that is supposed to have altered my life?
Or is it maybe the fact that around the same time Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed, the woman Adrian Delia called biċċa blogger when Pierre Portelli – not Manuel Delia – was ghost writing for him?
I know it’s just hard to understand any reason why anyone would leave their lucrative employment to face this. Do you think there’s any democracy in the world where journalists and civil society activists have to go through this crap? Do you think there are Labour-leaning journalists working at The Guardian getting this sort of shit from HM Opposition becuase they think Jeremy Corbyn is a cunt, and say so?
Of course not.
It took me time to write this in reply to Pierre Portelli and it has given him and his trolls time to reach out to the audience they really want to speak to. People who actually respect this website and have now been given a reason to doubt it. Because, he believes, that will make them fall into Adrian Delia’s arms.
The reason I was not in court this morning was that I went away with my wife for the weekend. And when the story broke I was having lunch in a Marco Pierre White restaurant. There are few things that justify interrupting that. Pierre Portelli is not one of them.
In the meantime Pierre Portelli’s low cunning will have worked with some people. Too bad. I say what I say and expect no reward. I had no votes yesterday I lost today. Unlike Adrian Delia of course who had no votes yesterday and he’s out there trying to gain some today.
From where I’m sitting I too wonder if this is worthwhile. I too ask myself what madness has driven me down the path of speaking my mind in a country where people without a mind are given the power to bash the people who can think.
I too wonder if, with menchildren like Adrian Delia and Pierre Portelli occupying positions designed for adults, it is not better to build a better future for my children by taking them away from this insanity and leave Malta for Pierre Portelli to bustle in.