We are now formally in an election campaign, though the change in the national atmosphere is only formalistic. The campaign is far longer than its last 33 days. Since 2017, since Joseph Muscat, election dates are no longer announced in sober statements delivered by an outgoing prime minister on the way out of the President’s office.

That’s how it used to be done. Prime Ministers like Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi used to be concerned with correct form. You did not announce an election without first having the courtesy and the Constitutional nous of formally shaking the President’s hand.

And the last formal act of the government before campaigning starts used to be a sober press conference highlighting the government’s past performance, giving account of itself as a government before all the waving and screaming as a political party starts.

In 2017 Joseph Muscat changed all that starting a new convention of gathering a huge mass of supporters and screaming the announcement of an election as if the announcement was itself an achievement. The crowds hoot, honk, waive, scream, and shout, acting as if they were surprised at the most inevitable job any prime minister has announcing their time is up.

It is not the worst lowering of standards since Joseph Muscat came along, but it is indicative of the general picture of our times. Both the 2017 elections and 2022 elections were announced by Labour’s leaders as a solution to a crisis to their credibility. Neither one of them could afford to approach their electoral tests with the calm serenity of having delivered on a job well done.

For the second time in a row Labour approaches its re-election to power burdened with an unfathomable paradox: they are again certain of victory and they are again frantic with fear and panic that when they win, they will very soon wish they hadn’t.