I’ll refer here to a Times of Malta letter from Eddie Privitera not because it deserves a response in and of itself, but because in one point he makes he repeats a general line from this week’s hymnbook for Labour spokesmen from across the partisan divide.
Eddie Privitera makes the case that Bernard Grech is a weak opposition leader, in a letter which he clearly wrote before yesterday’s speech in parliament. Eddie Privitera says Bernard Grech missed opportunities “to stamp his authority on the PN opposition and the party.” Here’s the first argument for that case:
The first occasion presented itself when Repubblika’s Manwel Delia publicly humiliated Grech when he warned the opposition leader that if he ‘f****s it up’, they would find another one to replace him.
He also added that they were watching him closely!
When Andrew Azzopardi asked Grech for his reaction to Delia’s public warning, Grech incredibly replied: ‘What’s wrong with that?’
Journalist Christoph Schwaiger in this tweet picked up a similar message in a meme circulated by the Labour Party.
#Malta PL youth wing sets its sights on blogger @Manwel_Delia. This comes after years of the PL demonising #DaphneCaruanaGalizia, who was assassinated in 2017 pic.twitter.com/4fFu0edKyO
— Christoph Schwaiger (@cschwaigermt) October 26, 2020
Christoph Schwaiger’s recollection of Daphne is on point. This line by the Labour Party shows they have learnt nothing about the way things ought to work in a democracy.
I accept that Labour spokesmen do not see me as an independent journalist and an unaffiliated critic. I accept it because though I can scream out my independence until I’m blue in the face, I can’t cancel the fact that I was a political appointee for 14 years of a PN government, on one occasion a candidate on the PN ticket, and still a member of the PN. Independence is not demonstrated by what one proclaims for themselves but in the way one thinks, writes and behaves.
But even if, for the sake of argument, one was to think of me as affiliated with the PN, why is it right to expect a party leader to “stamp his authority” on anyone saying that if they were to perform badly in their job, a replacement would have to be sought?
Is this ancient Egypt? How is it wrong to remind anyone anywhere, let alone someone new to an elected position who is replacing a complete failure, that they must live to the requirements of their new job or they’ll lose it?
And how exactly should Bernard Grech have “stamped his authority” over me? Should he have “condemned” me as Edwin Vassallo is in the habit of doing? Should he have suggested I get paid from George Soros as Simon Mercieca once sought to imply? (See what I mean by Labour spokesmen from across the political divide?) Should I be fined, restrained, chopped to pieces and thrown in a well?
And why should Bernard Grech have any authority over me? I don’t work for the party he leads, I’m not an official within its structures, I’m not required by any contract to comply with any standards he sets. If I’m perceived as affiliated to the PN, I may be expected by Labour trolls to speak of Bernard Grech like that kimono-wearing newscaster they wheel out on North Korean TV whenever the country runs out of rice to sing the praises of the Kim dynasty. But if I disappoint their expectations, what should Bernard Grech be doing about that in their view?
This is not a monastery and he is not my abbot. I am not under some vow of obedience. Much as I need to earn the reputation of independence (and I admit that is hard given where I started off from), Bernard Grech needs to earn his reputation.
Eddy Privitera speaks about “strength” and “weakness” as if we’re talking about a wrestler or a fighting cockerel. Antediluvian machismo is not an indication of competent stewardship. Joseph Muscat projected an image of mind-bending and invincible, albeit serene, authority. Adrian Delia imitated him and he wasn’t even up to that.
But their willingness to censor their critics, isolate anyone acting independently of them and project an aura of infallibility led both to ultimate personal disasters.
People who want what’s best for the country will be watching Bernard Grech. It’s early days yet, but unlike Eddie Privitera I rather like what I see. Actually, given that Eddie Privitera doesn’t like it, I’m comforted, knowing we must both be seeing the same thing.