Race to the bottom

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2019-01-03T09:49:08+00:00Thu, 3rd Jan '19, 09:49|0 Comments

In 2015 Anton Borg was President of the Chamber of Commerce. He received Simon Busuttil and a PN delegation to discuss the PN’s economic program of the time. It was a case of the Opposition trying to project the image of a government in waiting.

But Anton Borg had other things on his mind: “it should never be a race to the bottom when it comes to governance, rule of law and standards. Instead, it should be a battle between the two sides of parliament on which party can offer the best policies while upholding excellence and quality in everything it does.”

He was warning the PN that they should not give in to the temptation of outdoing Labour’s clientelism and corruption, even if Labour — without any apparent irony — branded that as “business friendliness”.

It is only short-sighted gold rush prospectors who wallow in the grease of a corrupt government. The people for whom business is a lifetime commitment want legal clarity, rule of law, fairness and transparency.

Anton Borg in 2015 couldn’t have known much more than the rest of us about just how far down that bottom the Labour government had gone. That conversation preceded the Panama Papers revelations, the recruitment of thousands of cronies, the parcelling out of public land for real estate and so on. The list is long but you get the drift.

He was still speaking in the wake of those first scandals — the Cafe Premier sort — that now are a distant memory of more innocent times.

Being used to competition and rivalry and advocates of its benefits, the Chamber of Commerce did not suggest political parties should not compete amongst themselves. On the contrary, that speech underlined the fundamental importance of a dialectic approach to politics. Parties should seek to outdo each other, providing the electorate with innovative options for the betterment of the country.

You’d have to wonder what Anton Borg’s speech would be like now.

For decades Labour set the bar of indecency in our political world. Somehow the PN chose to prove to the world it can match it. It can match the bar that is, not Labour. In the process any sense of rivalry or competition between the two has been relegated to “old way” or “negative” politics.

Which is why the PN has become so comfortably aligned with Labour in fighting common demons instead of each other.

It is impossible to measure the parties’ political positioning from the conventional methods of assessing politicians. Policy documents are few and far between and anodyne by design. Speeches are rambling rhetoric, simplistic, even childish.

The thinking of political parties in our time and in our context is reflected in the output of the media they control and the trolls that turn around instructions they receive into mantras of the day.

In there you can see what concerns are foremost on their mind, what’s making them nervous and what they feel they need to hit out at.

The PN’s Sunday newspaper had a front page story about supposed secret plans by the government to introduce abortion. The government officially says it’s not looking at this within the term of this Parliament. That may or may not be true. 

Joseph Muscat’s government has used social issues as means to divide the PN. As the PN has in the past been a coalition between Catholics and liberals, divorce, civil union and similar initiatives brought to the fore these fissures. They were always items the PN wanted to avoid mostly because they would reveal its vulnerabilities.

That schism has now effectively come to pass and in a twist of supreme irony it is the PN that is now bringing abortion on the agenda consolidating its Catholic nucleus into a siege mentality.

The intended effect is transparent: whoever does not support Adrian Delia wants to kill babies.

To leave no doubt the front page of the PN’s newspaper on Sunday, il-Mument, said Occupy Justice was pro-abortion.

Occupy Justice denied even being concerned with the subject. It has never expressed an opinion on the matter and the story could not even be called speculative. It was pure fake news. In other words a lie, concocted by Pierre Portelli who you can see here taunting one of the activists from Occupy Justice that he was waiting for an “official denial”.

Remember that Pierre Portelli runs the company that publishes il-Mument. The story is his.

In any case the official denial came shortly after that but that changed nothing.

The trolls are now telling people that attending Occupy Justice events amounts to campaigning for abortion.

Labour used to do this when some of its supporters flirted with voting for the EU and they would tell them their grandchildren would be flown back from Europe in body bags having been forced to die in European wars.

The abortion lie works for the Catholics (the gullible ones, that is).

The next targets in this grand strategy are the conscientious liberals who attend Occupy Justice events because they are keen on good governance.

Labour’s One TV yesterday ran a story that a “former Occupy Justice activist” called Erica Mizzi (who?) resigned from the group because she was “forced” to raise tens of thousands of euro and she doesn’t know what’s happening to the money.

A complete fabrication, of course, attributed to a person who either does not exist or has volunteered to lie in the interests of those who are using her.

It may have been broadcast on Labour’s TV station but it’s PN trolls that are having a field day with it. The news even made it to semi-official Facebook pages of PN party branches which now use One News as a reliable source of information without a twitch in the eye.

You can see what’s going on here. Activists are being bullied and gaslit. They are being made to deny things such as being embryo-crushers or fraudsters or all sorts of fantasies that detract from the truths they have been calling out.

And you can see the political parties aligned against a force they now realise they must reckon with.

Consider this post by Pierre Portelli.

He got his media to ignore these protests for months. When activists were assaulted he got his media to ignore the news. When government banned the protest and censored it several hundred times he got his party to look away.

Now, in the hour of need, when he realises these activists cannot be wished away, he resorts to fabrications to elbow them out and seek to inherit their work.

It has become a three-legged race to the bottom and political parties’s alienation of people with a modicum of civic pride is fast reaching the point of no return.