The Malta Independent 29 September 2022, Thursday
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Dad’s Army 2022

Noel Grima Sunday, 14 August 2022, 06:49 Last update: about 3 months ago

They called, Joseph Muscat and Manwel Cuschieri that is, and at the appointed time only a score of Labour core turned up, most of them elderly. Not even JPO, who pledged he would be there.

The rest of the country chortled. Robert Abela, whose party tried to dissuade people from going, probably continued with what he was doing.

I can remember a parallel episode. When Alfred Sant was competing with Lino Spiteri for the leadership of the party, recourse was had to the party’s Disciplinary Board, which most people had never heard of. Then, when they appeared in public, they turned out to be three elderly gents who seemed to have broken off from a bocci game. That’s where the ‘Dad’s Army’ epithet came from.

At times on Monday, the small group was even outnumbered by the media present.

The call to protest was actually an exception considering the number of high members of the Muscat administration who have been arraigned with no protest registered. Whether Monday’s call was due to family relationships or to the gravity of the charge is uncertain, although it would seem the latter is not the case.

There is, or should be, full freedom for people to gather and protest, so the duo of Muscat – Cuschieri was well within its rights. The problem is political, not legal. This small group that turned up is indicative of Cuschieri’s assiduous listeners, those he keeps addressing from inside his parked car, or his washroom as some say.

As a listener base, it is a dwindling base, buoyed by the rest of the PL cohorts. The same dwindling cohorts that reduce the sales of print media.

The Labour Party took some risks when it stopped Cuschieri from using its facilities. It must have had its own reasons to do so and, in the absence of other cogent reasons, it is being interpreted as a growing dissent between Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela, with Muscat putting pressure to slow down or abort investigative procedures on his henchmen.

According to this interpretation, Monday’s failed protest intended to put across this message with regards to the former Roads chief who also had a past in energy generation.

If Labour isn’t grinning, the Nationalist Party hasn’t much to gloat about either. Right after tomorrow’s Santa Maria festa, life resumes and picks up and the party must begin to prepare for the Independence celebrations, its high point of the year.

But the party, as seen from the outside, is in a shambles with open dissent in its parliamentary group, with most of its elected and unelected MPs hibernating throughout summer unless turning out in full dress for the village festa’s high mass. Very few have made their presence felt.

As for the party leader, he has become a solitary presence, stumbling around on so many issues, collecting innumerable U-turns, shooting himself in the foot and choosing many times the side farthest from the party sentiment, whether it be on hunting, development etc.

In the past days he has been roughly attacked by his former deputy, Robert Arrigo, although I am not certain this was occasioned by contingent health reasons than by other reasons.

Still, the overall impression it left was of a rather rudderless party swept hither and thither by the so many things that are happening in the country.

And lastly Robert Abela, prime minister. Running before the storm, juggling with an Air Malta threatened with bankruptcy, a deficit that resists curbing, and multiple calls for enforcement of the rule of law; getting to realise that many ministers he chose are not up to the job. Especially the tourism minister and the minister for transport who seem to specialise in coming up with the most damaging soundbites that have everyone double up and guffaw.

Oh well, at least there’s some light relief in this torrid weather.

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