Watch these 49 seconds of venom first. It will do miracles for your digestion.
This tribalism is mainstream. A Labour Party MP who is not part of government out of his own strategic and cunning choice telling supporters Labour must “take care of its own” is not shocking in a country where political parties perpetuate clientelism as their key to holding office.
I realise it’s easy for me to say this being entirely out of the electoral game. When you’re in it you’re faced with the moral blackmail of people who say are supporters but are really looking at politics as a transaction. Maybe even a transaction of something they haven’t figured out they want yet but might do one day.
When you’re in the electoral game you have to flatter and charm the audience in front of you and the audience in front of Robert Abela, in a Labour Party club, wanted to hear just what he told them.
But isn’t it rich for Robert Abela to volunteer the retrograde, parochial and pre-modern battle-cry that a Labour government should “take care of Laburisti”? And isn’t it spiteful that he chooses his timing to say that (and put it on Facebook in case anyone has missed it) as a form of silent reaction to Adrian Delia’s call to the government to appoint a “Nazzjonalist” as the next President?
Robert Abela’s father, George Abela, was a President of Malta. He was selected for the job by Lawrence Gonzi who broke with tradition and appointed the first President not chosen by a Prime Minister from within his party ranks.
It was a major break with tradition at the time, one Lawrence Gonzi was under no legal obligation or political compulsion to make.
After Sir Anthony Mamo who transitioned from the governorship general as the first President, Labour appointed Anton Buttigieg, Agatha Barbara and Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and Nationalist Governments appointed Ċensu Tabone, Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, Guido de Marco and Eddie Fenech Adami. All had been Ministers in their governments and had had long standing careers in their parties. Albert Hyzler and Paul Xuereb filled long gaps as Acting Presidents and they too had been veteran Labour Ministers before.
When George Abela was appointed to the presidency by Lawrence Gonzi he had had a long career in the Labour Party. In 1992 he was elected Labour’s Deputy Leader. In 1996 he was made Legal Consultant to Alfred Sant’s government. In 2008 he contested the leadership of the Labour Party which Joseph Muscat was to win.
Choosing him for the Presidency was a clear attempt at breaking down the barriers of tribalism. It was met with disdain, even though the position was accepted.
In the 2013 election campaign, while his father was in office as President, Robert Abela took a stage at a Labour Party mass meeting criticising, incredibly, Lawrence Gonzi’s government of partisanship. “Mal-Partit Nazzjonalista, l-interess partiġġjan jirbaħ fuq l-interess nazzjonali,” he had said even as his father, an appointee of a Nationalist Prime Minister, watched him proudly on television from the Palace.
Seen in that light Robert Abela’s revoltingly partisan remarks this week — that are as obtusely tribal as they come — are no longer the product of some weak pandering to a partisan audience.
It’s really what he thinks. He is a tribal dinosaur who thinks in binary terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and for whom the world belongs to them by some right at the exclusion of the rest of us.
When she read that speech from February 2013 when Robert Abela called Lawrence Gonzi’s government partisan, Daphne Caruana Galizia reacted in character:
“Nobody should expect better from either George Abela or his son Robert, and certainly not from his daughter-in-law Lydia. What you see is exactly what you get. George Abela raised his son Robert. Everybody who has been given a proper upbringing – and I really am not talking social background here – will know why Robert Abela’s behaviour is entirely unacceptable and utterly churlish. You don’t have to be tal-pepe to be a gentleman; there is absolutely no excuse for Robert Abela’s ghastly behaviour and absolutely no explanation for his father’s failure to rein him in – he is, after all, the president of the republic – other than that he sees nothing wrong in it.
“Which figures. He is, after all, his father and the one who brought him up to behave like a knave.”
People like Robert Abela remind you, if you needed reminding, how low Labour can go.