A group of activists who describe themselves as “socialists and people of the left” protested yesterday at the feet of the Manwel Dimech memorial in Castille Square calling on the Labour government to go back to its core ideology which would never have allowed it to sell three public hospitals to crooks.

In response to them and to veterans of the Labour Party who expressed regret about some of his policies, Robert Abela, rather petulantly reacted by declaring that “I am a socialist”.

In his case, the declaration is perhaps necessary.

One could get confused by Robert Abela’s unexplained wealth, his boat trips to Ragusa, his uninhabited (and mostly uninhabitable) country villa in Żejtun which he rented out to invisible Russian billionaires, the permit for his high-end boutique hotel in Gozo, and his margins on trades with criminals. Or maybe the story of him taking his child’s soiled nappies to be laundered by his father’s staff when his father was president of Malta could have just to the right of Lenin.

Of course, rich people can be socialist, though a grasping, rapidly rising, “self-made” where-did-he-get-all-this-money-in-such-a-short-time parvenu is an unlikely candidate.

Though to be fair socialist is who socialist does. Perhaps Robert Abela expects to be judged by his conduct and his policies in office. Was his defence of a scheme to sell Maltese citizenship to faceless billionaires even as every other European country abandoned the idea particularly socialist? Or was his renewed commitment to part-privatise the national health service? Is his defence of unbridled development socialist? Is his policy of pushbacks of migrants to Libya socialist? Is his defence of a fascist psychopath who drove up suicide rates while he ran his prison socialist?

Let’s turn that around. Can anyone think of anything socialist he did? Is there anything in his conduct that makes him worthy of that description?

If he’s a socialist, then I must feel about socialism what Gandhi felt about Christians. Socialism sounds like a good idea; it is socialists like Robert Abela that put me off it.