The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

The dishonourable way out

Victor Calleja Sunday, 11 October 2020, 08:54 Last update: about 13 days ago

Kings come. Kings go. But the way they go is usually the way they will be remembered. Joseph Muscat is no longer a member of parliament. The honourable Dr Muscat is honourable no more. Not that he ever was, not that he ever deserved that epithet.

Few in parliament – or anywhere – deserve to be called honourable. Most MPs shine by their absence, idiocy, lack of gravitas or shadiness.

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But few in Malta had the golden chance Joseph Muscat had. Few reached such heights of popularity. Few had a whole nation salivating at their feet. Whether he won those majorities by stealth or even some diabolical pact with an extraneous power is a moot point.

What is irrefutable is that twice he won general elections by mind-numbing majorities. Majorities that political colossi, like Dom Mintoff and Eddie Fenech Adami, never even came close to achieving.

Even at his most reviled times, with scandals and dubious deals all around him, Joseph Muscat was and remained a bankable politician. A man shameless enough to be caught in interminable contradictions yet considered the most trustworthy to lead the country forward. He showed us up for what we really are: values and truth be damned, what most of us care about is money and being spinned to.

This man had the Midas touch. He spat horror after horror then displayed his horrendous grin and the whole electorate – or a huge part of it – swayed to his songbook.

The man could have been our messiah. But he chose to change his tune according to his audience and threw away principles the second it suited him. To me, and a minority of us, he was a conman through and through. A very capable salesman who, after learning all the tricks in the trade, turned into the eternal trickster, par excellence.

Muscat hit the political scene with a bang. He won his seat at the EU elections with an enormous majority then returned to his homeland, took over the Labour Party and transformed it. He rebuilt the party and gave it new life. He rebranded it, brought unity to it and gave it a winning personality.

After a quarter century of failure with no hope of regaining power, Muscat changed the party to a winning one, winning back long-lost followers and attracting people who had long been part of the PN or who had sworn to never touch Labour.

Joseph Muscat was the siren call for all types. Included in this list of renegades was John Dalli. Interviewed extensively on Labour media, Dalli helped – some say orchestrated – the whole roadmap for Labour when in power. Dalli had not been a small cog in the PN wheel. He was a star minister in most PN administrations and was merely a few percentage votes off when he contested the leadership post and lost to Lawrence Gonzi.

This is what Joseph Muscat attracted: all men and a few women from all walks of life. He was a unifier, a man who wielded the masses and managed to bring back all the Labour stalwarts to join him in his mission. He also attracted people to his fold who had never been in politics.

Muscat’s mission sounded glorious. In fact he was voted into power with glory. He decimated the opposition and gave Labour a totally new identity.

He could, and should, have used all this for true glory.

Instead of using his power for any good he used it for total despoiling of what was worthwhile about our society. The infrastructure he found he used to defraud, give jobs to the boys and keep all power centred round him and his chief of staff.

He had won so easily he could have lasted a generation or more in power.

That was Muscat’s main mistake. He had built his entire political career on sand, on lies, on illusion. He promised heaven and only cared for his, and his cronies’, paradise here on earth.

Muscat always thought he could manipulate all. The police, justice, all institutions, even foreign entities. He thought he had it all – his Midas touch, he thought, could be used to mesmerise and get away with murder.

But murder – metaphorical or not – has a way of coming back to haunt the perpetrators. Like Macbeth and all others who try to cover up too many traces, Joseph Muscat defended those implicated in a murder too vehemently. His close association with or support to the perpetrators of the most heinous murder that happened in Malta was his final undoing.

Muscat left with hardly a whimper. There was not – as he surely had envisaged – a huge crowd to see him leave parliament for the last time.

The dishonourable leave their exalted posts in stealth and near-secrecy.

 

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