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Karmenu Vella – Labour’s Poster boy for 1979

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 - Sunday, 05 August 2012, 00:00

by Daphne Caruana Galizia

I really don’t know why the Labour Party and its camp-followers (yes, and camp followers, too) are so clumsily scathing about the Nationalist Party’s channelling – to use a word from fashion’s urban dictionary – of Margaret Thatcher’s iconic poster from Britain’s 1979 election campaign.

1979 isn’t that long ago. Ask Karmenu Vella, who thinks it’s only yesterday. He was one of Mintoff’s Cabinet ministers then (or did he have to wait until 1980?) and he’s all set to become one of Joseph’s ministers now. And he’s writing the incoming Labour government’s policy programme for the years until 2018. Not bad for a fossil from 1979.

It’s Labour’s astonishing brass neck that really gets me. Their communications gurus attack the Nationalists about a poster born in 1979, when their policy document – if it ever makes its way down Karmenu Vella’s gastrointestinal tract – is being put together by somebody who was making policy for Labour even before that.

The fact that Labour has three dinosaurs from the 1970s still on its benches – George Vella, Leo Brincat and Karmenu Vella – wouldn’t matter so much if they were not shadow ministers and gearing up to become the real thing. They are not just part of the living legacy of Old Labour, voted in for old times’ sake and sitting bumbling in the back row, ignored by all. They are the noisiest, most vociferous and pushiest of the lot. And Joseph Muscat leaves us in no doubt that they are taking control of him and the party, and will take control of him and the government.

I don’t think we want that, do we.

I take it the Labour Party will be going down the cheap and silly route in its campaign, which is completely in line with the mental faculties and attitudes of those who run the party now – a bunch of 20-and-30-somethings who show no sign of developing emotional maturity, and who had a two-digit IQ to begin with.

They can’t distinguish between what works on a billboard for general consumption, and what works on – for example – a blog for selective consumption. I will crack a certain type of joke on this website, but I would never recommend cracking the same type of joke on a political billboard. It just doesn’t work. Billboards are not meant to reach the few who ‘get’ them. They are meant to reach the many, in particular the sort who find it hard to ‘get’ anything.

There’s another point: on a billboard, even a dig has to be made with dignity. And gravitas. You don’t spend all that money and expend all that effort just to take a jokey poke at your rival. There’s the Internet for that.

I’m a great believer in the maxim that it takes a wise man (or woman) to play the fool. The trouble with the Labour Party’s campaign so far, and it is still in its early stages, is that it conveys the impression that it’s been worked out by a bunch of students clowning around: “Eeeee, din, kemm hi tajba.” I just don’t get the feeling that there’s a sharp brain playing the fool behind those wisecracks, still less am I left with the impression that the flighty jokes are weighed down by some pretty hefty policy initiatives. It’s all a little too Kurt the Coconut for me.

It was reported in the newspapers that, at a seminar about the arts and culture, organised by a Labour Party that knows precious little about either, the future prime minister said that “Labour will soon be announcing a number of projects to preserve the national memory.”

This sounds so very right-wing and ultra-Labour that I shudder. What is the national memory and how are they thinking of preserving it?

It’s a safe bet that my memories, my parents’ memories and those memories that were my grandparents’ are far different to those of Joseph Muscat, his wife, his parents and certainly, that Laburista ħarxa nanna of his.

I hope for the sake of all that’s sane and civilised that we’re not going to have some national memory bank of folk-dancing, headscarves, ghastly puree made from dried broad beans, and rioters and looters championed and lionised as heroes and martyrs.

But I hope even more that a relative or absolute majority of electors are not going to give that lot of serial losers, freaks, fossils and nut-jobs the chance to inflict any of that on the country. Let them set up their Musew tal-Bigilla u Kitba ta’ Fredu Sant at Mile End. Let’s face it, they have more than enough room.


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