Any decision-maker should have the opportunity to fly kites. You need to throw up options, even outlandish and unlikely ones, and have them debated and tested by trusted associates. The act of discarding a mad notion helps distil the remaining options. Whatever is left after you throw out the bad ideas should be good.

When the PN Parliamentary Group considered Magistrate Joe Mifsud as a possible nominee for Malta’s presidency they could have just been toying with the ridiculous, shooting at a straw man to help them identify the credentials of a good candidate by focusing on who absolutely wouldn’t be.

Contrary to the impression that may have been given by superficial readings of press reports yesterday the PN has not proposed Joe Mifsud to the presidency. They merely discussed Bernard Grech’s idea that they should.

Joe Mifsud is utterly unsuitable. He’s not fit for the role he currently occupies, let alone the presidency. He has made shiveringly racist remarks, took positions that can generously be described as misogynistic, and has conducted himself in the courtroom without anything like the decorum that should be expected. Frankly, the fact that he was for years the international secretary of the Labour Party is one of the better arguments in his favour. It’s the bigotry that rules him out.

Why would someone like that feature in a shortlist of potential candidates for the most senior office of the land? Some apologists for Bernard Grech’s idea – not the ones hoping he didn’t really mean it – might suggest that putting forward Joe Mifsud’s name and inviting Robert Abela’s rejection (as he would, no doubt reject any suggestion from the PN) could stimulate disagreements within Labour.

I’m not entirely certain that Joe Mifsud has a fan base in the Labour Party. But even if he did, and granted that disagreement in the Labour Party is an advantage to the PN, should this be at the cost of the PN’s credibility?

This is a country where prime ministers decide on most appointments, including the choice of head of state. As his shadow, the leader of the opposition is a prime-minister-in-waiting. Bernard Grech’s job is only in part to show up Robert Abela’s inadequacy. Bernard Grech’s job is to show us he’d make for a better replacement. He needs to show that he has the qualities to make the right choices when filling positions in the running of the country. He needs to show that his considerations won’t be tactical or partisan but that he’ll appoint the right people for the jobs he needs to fill.

I realise it is mildly contradictory of me to suggest that Bernard Grech should be free to fly kites and put forward for internal debate even the craziest notions and then to say that being seen to think Joe Mifsud might be a good idea for the presidency makes him look sectarian and incompetent.

The problem is the Joe Mifsud idea stopped being an internal group shooting of the breeze the moment it made the press. Once Malta Today reported the fact that this discussion was had public debate turned towhich screws in the PN were loose enough for it to consider one of the worst imaginable candidates for the presidency.

The parliamentary group leaked the discussion. It could have been because they feared Bernard Grech might not realise how bad his plan was before the rest of the country told him. It could have been because they wanted to undermine Bernard Grech because they don’t like him. Bernard Grech’s job was to anticipate that. If he doesn’t have an inner circle to filter his inspirations through a basic test of common sense he needs to get one pronto. And if they don’t tell him that Joe Mifsud for President is the worst idea since someone proposed TNT as a nice yellow dye, then he’s hired the wrong people for the job. Again.