The Malta Independent 2 March 2021, Tuesday

Baldrick rules, ok?

Claudette Buttigieg Saturday, 16 January 2021, 08:02 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last Sunday’s Malta Today survey saw a swing of just over 9% away from Robert Abela (-4.7%) in favour of Bernard Grech (+4.6%).

This is a remarkable feat which has not happened since 2017. Of course, this is just a snapshot and the next monthly surveys will need to show more PN gains to confirm this much-needed shift is  solid.


The survey was a definite boost for the PN, its parliamentary group, the party structures, the volunteers and supporters. Above all, for the party leader, Bernard Grech. The encouraging result coincided with the 100th day of Dr Grech as Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition.

It also coincided with the Prime Minister’s first year in office, and perhaps it clouded the much-awaited event for Abela.

The Prime Minister must have felt vulnerable when he decided to address parliament last Monday. It was either that or else he panicked.

It is important to remember that the first speaker in a debate in parliament can speak for an hour. Rosianne Cutajar, who presented Bill 119, must have been looking forward to this speech. It was her first opportunity to try to wipe away the bad press related to the alleged commission she took from Yorgen Fenech while acting as a ‘real estate agent’.

The Bill under discussion falls within her remit. It concerns the introduction of mechanisms which would guarantee a more balanced gender representation in parliament.

However, Robert Abela could not resist the opportunity of a one hour televised event. He decided to step in and take over from his junior minister.

That’s not all. He almost completely ignored the equality issue and focused on what he thinks is of relevance to the country now.

No, not COVID-19. Why would he care about a deadly second wave? It was all about himself.

Abela fluffed and struggled to speak about a topic he seems to know very little about. But that lasted for just a few minutes. Then it was all about how he saved the country, how he rose to the occasion, how he had the courage, etc.

There were also the occasional jibes at the Leader of the Opposition and members of parliament facing him. He went from childish comments, to disrespectful attacks, to frankly arrogant statements.

No gravitas. Just pure panic.

Honestly, I thought starting parliament on this note after the Christmas break was bad enough. Little did I know what cunning little plan was being hatched by our Baldrick in Castille.


Another cunning plan

Sitting in Parliament on Wednesday was another unforgettable surreal experience.

Just after the prayer, Mr Speaker informed the House that Gavin Gulia would be taking his oath as a new member of parliament. Two cameramen entered the chamber (representing One News and DOI). After a slight hesitation Gulia entered the room and took the oath. He then moved to one of the first chairs closest to the door and gave his speech.

When he said that the Prime Minister had requested him to stay on as MTA chairman, all the members of the opposition present expressed their disgust. How could the Prime Minister, just like his predecessor, find nothing wrong in an MP holding such an office? Manuel Mallia, Anton Refalo and Deo Debattista all held or still hold such posts while being MPs, in violation of the principle that backbench MPs should be independent of the Executive branch.

What struck me was the angry look on the face of at least six MPs on the Government side... and a huge grin on the Prime Minister’s face. He would have beaten the Cheshire Cat hands down!

He seemed very proud but he was soon to look even prouder.

Then came the bombshell. Gavin Gulia resigned there and then.

Robert Abela must fancy himself another Machiavelli. This was a very calculated stratagem, make no mistake. But like Baldrick’s cunning plans, in the classic comedy series Blackadder, it turned out to have a little flaw.

With this ploy Abela managed to eliminate three persons at one go. The other Labour MPs were stunned.

Some had put up posts to congratulate Gulia and were now racing to understand what this meant for them. One hint: Abela played them for fools as he had strung them along.

Don’t expect any serious protest or rebellion from them, however. They are more likely to watch out for their own skins, after seeing how fast and loose Abela is prepared to play with the spirit of the rules, especially to get rid of people he doesn’t want. Nobody will have the courage to stand up to him.

But the self-satisfied schemer missed something important. The new rules of appointment mean that Gulia cannot automatically be reappointed Chairman of the MTA. The appointment needs to go through parliament.

With Machiavelli, cunning plans never ended in farce. How should we understand what happened?

A year ago, Lord Blackadder departed from Castille and, just for continuity, left Baldrick in charge.



Claudette Buttigieg is a Maltese member of parliament and Deputy Speaker

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