Perhaps no other statement by Robert Abela before his remarks of today better represents the depth of anti-democratic populism in his politics and the politics of the ruling Labour Party. Coldly and cynically, he shattered any hope or any dream a child might ever have of being inspired by his example and motivated by his ethics and his leadership. He called on us all to abandon all illusions that politics might be the profession which aims to make life fairer, that people in public life might aspire to ensure that the state honours everyone’s rights without fear or favour.

Instead, Robert Abela, like the cackling villain in a gothic novel, told us today that we must never aspire for anything better than this. He told us our fate is to live on our knees, hoping for the clemency of an administration that provides privileged access to public services to supplicants who vote or might be persuaded to vote for the Labour Party. The rest can go fuck themselves.

Robert Abela could have been a little hypocritical. He could have waxed lyrical about his mission to ensure public services are handed out fairly such that anyone entitled to a service can be given it without having to grovel in a government minister’s office. He could have said he’s the prime minister of the entire country and his job is to protect and honour people’s rights, not force people to crowd constituency clinics. He could have lamented the misfortune that people still expect favours from ministers but that his mission is to change the culture, his ambition is to make sure public services are so efficient that no one would have to call in favours just to get things done.

But no. There are no plans to make things better. “That is the way the political system works. If anyone is saying this should not apply for this country, I disagree,” the prime minister chillingly said. Robert Abela told us we must no longer have hope, even a fool’s hope, that one day we’d have a country that works without the need of selling our vote in exchange for a government minister’s patronising generosity. He trapped us in a feudalism where we can only get the services of the state if we pay him or his vassals our personal loyalty.

It would have been nice if Robert Abela was a little hypocritical, if he pretended not to see the evidence that his ministers and his staff worked a parallel system outside the scope of the driving licensing regime set up by law. For us mere mortals there are forms and lines and procedures and tests. For card-carrying Laburisti there’s a conversation with someone (the prime minister even said he handles these issues personally as well) that is then handled over WhatsApp with no record of the arrangement being made.

There’d better be no record. Most people who are reading this have a driving license. Most of them never whispered in a minister’s ears to get it. They learned how to drive, became reasonably competent, and underwent a test. That’s true of most people who were licensed under the stewardship of Robert Abela. But some – just some – felt that wouldn’t work for them. They couldn’t get the desired result on their own steam. They couldn’t wait their turn to undergo the test and maybe at a second or third attempt pass it. In other words, they could never demonstrate their competence as drivers. But that didn’t matter because they spoke to the minister. They could demonstrate they are or will become Laburisti and that’s enough to get your way.

The Employers’ Association described Robert Abela’s remarks as an “invitation to anarchy”. That’s an eloquent way of saying that Robert Abela has rushed as far from the rule of law as it is possible to be. Instead of a rules-based system where rights are honoured by the administration that works under the law, we are told we must live under a favours-based system at the pleasure and convenience of Robert Abela.

Some people called Abela a prince because he behaves like an entitled, spoilt brat. But now that appellative has an even deeper meaning. He spoke today like a monarch, a man with a shiny hat from before Magna Carta. He told us his benevolence, the gift of his patience and generosity, as all we can hope for, all we can beg for.

In the process he has denied us our right to expect the same treatment from a government we don’t politically support. If I (or, if you’re reading this, likely you) were to ask for a favour from a minister, our chances of success would be limited.

“Fuck him,” they would likely say on the parallel system of public administration conducted on WhatsApp without audit and without trail. That’s what they said in at least one case exposed by this scandal when an official working on Robert Abela’s staff decided it was not worth his time to respond favourably to the supplication of someone who didn’t appear to be a Laburist.

Fuck you, Robert Abela declared today. He was addressing you, the reader of this piece. This is the way politics in Malta works, he said. Fool you to have dared wish things better.