Beneath the commonplace charm which many seemed to find appealing, Joseph Muscat is a bitter, small man with a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder and the emotional complexity of Wile E. Coyote: self-proclaimed super genius, excited by his own cunning and surprised by the realisation there is nothing beneath his feet but a huge drop. He will arrive at the bottom of his journey quicker than the anvil he is carrying because that is destined for the top of his head.

The slam hasn’t hit Joseph Muscat yet. It’s a long way down and though gravity cannot be defeated, in his universe he can slow it down and defy it for a while, saying his prayers, writing his will, carving his headstone and clinking champagne with his nonplussed wife before he etches his silhouette in the ground.


There was one time, Wile E. Coyote broke the fifth wall and looked straight through the screen into the audience’s eyes. It was mid fall down those impossible escarpments of cartoon Utah. He held up a message on a cardboard sign, because of course he was mute. It said, ‘can we end this episode a little bit early just this once?’ Because in cartoons, ‘that’s all folks,’ would spare the character the splat on the floor.

Joseph Muscat is trying to dodge that splat. He knows it’s inevitable but he hopes it isn’t. And if it happens, he doesn’t want us to be looking. His resignation yesterday stopped investigations by the commissioner for standards in public life in their tracks. That will at least postpone a direct confrontation with Konrad Mizzi for whom Joseph Muscat arranged a golden handshake last November when he thought he could survive the street protests called by civil society. One day that confrontation will come and Konrad, smiling, silly Konrad, will be as heavy as an Acme anvil.

Yesterday’s resignation allows Joseph Muscat to hide from public view avoiding even the most important parliamentary sessions like the upcoming budget speech. No back benches for the kink. Only oblivion.

Joseph Muscat, rushing through the shortest speech of his life yesterday, wanted the episode to finish early. Never famous for his silence, he had no words to say to parliament on his way out. It was never an institution he held in any regard. He did not serve a day as a parliamentarian before he was sworn in as leader of the opposition. It’s a worrying trend that keeps happening – Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, Joseph Muscat, Adrian Delia, Bernard Grech – all took the path to the executive through co-option to parliament.

It perhaps explains why our legislative chamber is held in such small regard by our governments.

Joseph Muscat left at last. But it still wasn’t a happy day. We may have thought his disgraceful exit from politics something to look forward to and yet almost impossible to demand. His final exaunt came after 4 drawn-out years of scandal, of nasty retorts and of false equivalencies. By staying as long as he did he has cheapened our democracy, and besmirched an entire generation of politicians who could not run far enough away from him.

Joseph Muscat himself may have lost his security pass for the main door of parliament, but his nastiness, egomania and self-centred pettiness find new life in Robert Abela.

The day Joseph Muscat quit without words, we heard instead his successor in his worst form of acid loquacity since his swearing in. He started off last January promising to turn the page. His government would be a model of good governance. He would listen to the people’s expectations. He took over after the unapologetic Joseph Muscat who had only one regret: stepping out of line when he tried to push back migrants to Libya.

And yet yesterday we saw Robert Abela the schoolyard bully. The more scared he gets, the more vicious he sounds. The snide remark that Bernard Grech “should not invite himself to Castille until he wins an election” betrays emotional panic. He didn’t think that phrase through.

The country’s leader of the opposition is perfectly entitled to ask the prime minister for a briefing in his office. If the chief justice, the central bank governor, or the editor of The Sunday Times need to speak to the prime minister all they should need to do is ask to be allowed to visit him in Castille. The last thing they should need is to wait for an invitation or worse to be told to see the prime minister at his party office.

Castille does not belong to Robert Abela. It belongs to the prime minister, who for now happens to be Robert Abela. Edwin Vassallo may be shocked to hear me say this but Robert Abela is on notice. If he fucks up, the people of Malta will look for someone else. Politicians should stop thinking of their positions as if they were aristocratic legacies they inherited at birth. Robert Abela didn’t get Castille when his grandma died.

Incidentally, if only people who win elections are allowed to visit Castille, Robert Abela should get a tent in the square outside. He hasn’t won an election yet. He just defeated Chris Fearne in an internal jamboree so he doesn’t have anything on Bernard Grech in that respect.

Robert Abela yesterday beat the drum of racism again. Populist fear-mongering seems to be working for him. ‘There’s no need for a conference to discuss migration,’ he said. ‘Malta is full up.’ Who counted? Where was the limit established? Who by? On what grounds? There are far less people in Malta now than there had been before the covid outbreak and yet the “full up” mantra is being thrown at us like a lifeline as we teeter on the edge of Dingli Cliffs expecting to fall over. Pushing migrants to Libya was Joseph Muscat’s only publicly confessed regret. And yet it’s front and centre of Robert Abela’s policy talk, if that’s what you want to call it.

Sadly, things only get worse. Joseph Muscat was greedy and is likely guilty of much that we still have to account for. We can’t let go of the mission of seeking justice though some of it comes with his walk of shame yesterday.

Photo: AFP/Matthew Mirabelli

We called out: ‘no change, no justice’. Perhaps we should have been specific. It would have to be ‘change for the better’. Robert Abela isn’t. He refuses to be humbled by the people’s anger that forced his predecessor out. Instead he taunts us.

Consider how he mocks Bernard Grech for the crime of speaking at one of the vigils organised by civil society to mark another month since the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. There was no leadership election on the cards at the PN then and Bernard Grech was no candidate. He was one of many who showed up at vigils and protests and accepted an invitation to speak.

Now he’s being portrayed as “a puppet of Repubblika”.

Robert Abela is helped by agents of the Labour Party who are pushing this narrative to make Bernard Grech look weak and to associate him with positions adopted by Repubblika that Robert Abela believes could keep the Labour Party together: civil society’s hostility towards Joseph Muscat il-kink, our uncompromising, persistent and from their point of view annoying call for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, our humanitarian call for the country to respect its human rights obligations towards all humans, even if they’re black.


I got a lot of hate mail over the last 24 hours since Simon Mercieca and Edwin Vassallo took a quote from an article I wrote and accused me of undermining Bernard Grech and the PN. Though I owe no one an explanation if I choose to criticise the PN and Bernard Grech because that’s my job, the ones doing the undermining are indeed Simon Mercieca and Edwin Vassallo.

It’s unbelievable to me now that someone could be so wrong and yet so arrogantly self-righteous. Trace Edwin Vassallo’s Facebook over the last 3 years and you’ll find several assaults on me because I dared criticise Adrian Delia. Edwin Vassallo, along with his accomplice Simon Mercieca, accused me of speaking for some mysterious, hidden hand. While they claimed to speak for the democratic will of the membership of the PN.

On Saturday they will have realised that actually the great bulk of the PN membership agreed with me that Adrian Delia was a lousy party leader. The party members agreed with me and disagreed with Edwin Vassallo and Simon Mercieca. And without blinking these two switched allegiance, turning 180 degrees so they can continue saying I am working for a hidden hand.

The hand they work for is not hidden. Do you remember how the Labour Party used to taunt Lawrence Gonzi, challenging him to condemn Daphne Caruana Galizia for writing something the Nationalist Party did not agree with? It was one of the classic lose-lose political party tricks where either answer you give is an opportunity for spin. Edwin Vassallo is now challenging Bernard Grech to condemn me, distance himself from what I write as if he was close to it to begin with. You know the hand is not too well hidden when the script is written by the Labour Party.

They are using me to hurt Bernard Grech and spreading the message that he is weak and beholden to Repubblika. Another former Adrian Delia acolyte, Andre Grech, said it in so many words in comments to Times of Malta published this morning: “He claimed the party was now ‘controlled by Repubblika and Civil Society Network’ and he predicted more resignations would follow.”

It is no surprise to see Andre Grech in the company of John Bonello and Robert Musumeci plotting more harm to the Nationalist Party and its chances of ever challenging the Labour hegemony.

Frankly, I’m tired of all the hate mail and the trolling. I’m tired of being portrayed as some sort of fifth columnist by people like Edwin Vassallo for whom the hatred he drums up is a currency to preserve his own political survival. I’m tired of the nastiness, the mediocrity and the sheer stupidity of people who cannot see that resisting Labour’s tyranny cannot work if it is armed with intolerance and invective and an antediluvian need of fanatic zeal.

Who could have told us a year ago today that Joseph Muscat would not be an MP, Adrian Delia would not be PN leader, Chris Cardona would have gone underground, Keith Schembri would have his credit cards frozen and Konrad Mizzi would have been exiled from the Labour Party?

Who could have told us yesterday that today would feel so cold and hope of change – real change, change for the better – would feel so futile?

Because here, ‘that’s all folks’ doesn’t spare us the splat at the end of the fall. Though, free falling, sometimes I wonder if we’ll know when we’ve finally touched the ground.