Those who mocked and criticised the prime minister for not calling the general election earlier know now the reason why he called it for March, and perhaps understand at last why their mockery, carping and criticism was completely out of place.
It wasn’t to ‘hang on to power’ ghax iggranfat mas-siggu tal-poter, as the accumulated forces of Gonzi-bashers and the camp-followers of JosephMuscatDotCom put it. It was out of a sense of duty, because there was a one crucial job that had to be done before JosephMuscatDotCom got in to mess it up: negotiating Malta’s share of the EU budget for the years 2014 to 2020.
And now it’s been done, just in time. Malta has come away from the negotiating table with €1.13 billion, while JosephMuscatDotCom prances about in a sea of Malta Taghna Lkoll placards that mean absolutely nothing.
On Friday, after negotiations which began 25 hours earlier and carried on right through the night and into the following day with nobody getting any sleep (one London newspaper made much of the fact that David Cameron and the British team kept themselves going with a bag of Haribo sweets somebody found in a briefcase), Lawrence Gonzi and his aides secured €1,128 million in funds for Malta. This is twice what was offered at the start of negotiations late last year, and considerably more than the €855 million they obtained for Malta in the 2005 negotiations for the current 2007 to 2013 budget.
While Gonzi and his negotiators were sweating it out, with such high stakes and the odds stacked against them, JosephMuscatDotCom was pictured in the press taking a tour of carnival floats, then setting up his farcical white mobile podium in the middle of some street somewhere for the purpose of talking to six journalists, five supporters and a couple of stray cats. On Friday night, when Lawrence Gonzi flew in from 25 hours of negotiations without sleep and went straight to his office for a cabinet meeting attended by the police commissioner and the attorney-general, to discuss a presidential pardon for the man who wants to turn state evidence in the Enemalta corruption investigation, JosephMuscatDotCom was busy fooling about in Mosta with a large fabric igloo and John Bundy.
This is where you can really tell what people are made of. The man we want to replace negotiated for 25 hours and doubled Malta’s funds to an unprecedented €1.13 billion at a time when the EU is slashing its budget. The man with whom we want to replace him was talking to King Carnival and to a few tame journalists who refuse to bite back.
JosephMuscatDotCom is all show and no subtance, but in a culture where people wrap their sofas in plastic and have a kitchen for show and another for use, he strikes a chord. Those who think nothing of having a show bathroom that isn’t plumbed in are not going to see anything odd in having a party leader who’s just there for show even though he’s plumbed into a podium.
Lawrence Gonzi, who’s still doing the job of prime minister even as he campaigns to make sure that JosephMuscatDotCom doesn’t get in to put all we’ve done so far at risk, can’t waste time ferrying a mobile podium around the country and standing on it to make ridiculous pronouncements. He doesn’t have that luxury.
This is the time to ask yourself: what if the general election had been called earlier and JosephMuscatDotCom were prime minister this week? How in heaven’s name would he have handled those negotiations and whose help would he have had?
Look at him – for crying out loud, just look at him. Look at him and listen to him. He’s not fit. This is somebody who can’t even speak to five journalists in the street without the security blanket of a silly podium, who can’t give a speech without reading it off a teleprompter, who is at a loss in situations which he cannot control 100 per cent. Worse still, for Malta, would be the fact that JosephMuscatDotCom is immediately identifiable, in an environment where high-level negotiations of this nature take place, as – and I borrow from corporate language here, which is something he himself will appreciate – a non-intelligent customer. He doesn’t have what it takes and it is obvious to anybody outside the Labour igloo that he doesn’t have what it takes.
I would say that even some of the businessmen now throwing large sums of campaign money in JosephMuscatDotCom’s direction understand only too well that he just doesn’t cut the mustard, but as long as they think they’re in with a chance for tenders and deals straight from the hand they’ve been feeding, they don’t care one jot beyond that.
I am left with the stricken sense that we are about to walk straight in to a tragedy of our own making.