The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Konrad Mizzi – Why Labour MPs changed their mind

Friday, 26 June 2020, 09:08 Last update: about 17 days ago

For years they defended him in public, carried the political weight of the scandals he was involved in, and even officially expressed their confidence in him when the Opposition wanted to discredit him in a parliamentary vote. They banged on the tables with him when he shouted “shame on you” at the Nationalist Party.

Perhaps privately they abhorred him, and probably in Cabinet and parliamentary group meetings they had heated arguments on how his behaviour was putting them all in bad light and deviating attention from the government’s work.

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But they still publicly supported him, in spite of the fact that twice he lost the post of a minister. Some of them even walked down the steps of Castille behind him on the day of his last resignation as a minister, appearing to not want to leave him alone in that moment of difficulty.

We are of course referring to how in the last four years the Labour Cabinet of Ministers and parliamentary group sustained Konrad Mizzi.

Then, almost suddenly, the wind changed direction and they all collectively turned their backs on him. To be fair, there had been several occasions in which some of them, individually, made it expressly known that they were unhappy with the situation. But they always stopped short of voting to kick him out.

Now they have done so. Seventy-one out of 73 votes is an almost near unanimous decision for Konrad Mizzi to be dismissed from the parliamentary group. He had already not made it to the Cabinet of Ministers appointed by new PM Robert Abela.

What made them change their mind?

There is only one reason for this – and this is the change at the top, with Robert Abela taking over from Joseph Muscat.

With Joseph Muscat as leader and prime minister, the Cabinet and parliamentary group were afraid to go against Mizzi. They knew that Muscat was close to him, considered him as a star and defended him to the hilt. They could not go against what their leader was saying and doing. Muscat stood by Mizzi at all times and under all circumstances, not even having the courage to disrobe him of the title of minister at the height of the Panama Papers scandal. He simply removed Mizzi’s portfolios but kept him under his wing, still as minister, at Castille. Then, after the 2017 election, he appointed him as minister again.

Things are different now. Robert Abela immediately made it clear he did not have confidence in Mizzi by leaving him out of his team of ministers. The way Abela spoke when Mizzi recently returned from the UK, the day after the new police commissioner was named, also indicated that the PM was looking for an opportunity to get rid of Mizzi. And this came just a few days later when the Montenegro windfarm deal story surfaced.

Muscat was no longer there to shield Mizzi. And with Robert Abela taking a different approach to the situation, the ministers and parliamentary group, together with the PL executive committee, took just over two hours of discussion to decide, by secret vote, that Mizzi should no longer be part of the Labour group. Muscat was not even present for the meeting and, with his defence gone, Mizzi ended up on his own.

So far, in comments they gave to The Malta Independent, Labour ministers and MPs are still backing Muscat, and see no reason for him to get the same treatment as Mizzi.

Muscat has said that he will not be contesting the next election, and so he may ride out his last few months as an MP in peace. Whether his colleagues would arrive to the point of expelling him as they did with Mizzi is debatable.

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