I must have missed the thunderbolt that struck Robert Abela some time during these past three weeks. But he’s gone from challenging us to find just a single instance of bad governance, under his premiership, to promising, in his mammoth electoral programme, a national strategy on corruption and integrity.
Why do we need such a strategy if things have been going so well? Presumably, the indications of an undesirable high number of former Labour voters who, this time, plan to abstain.
What will this anti-corruption strategy be? It will be an ‘interministerial project’ that will lead to the ‘continuing strengthening of current rules’.
Reader, that is the monumentally grand pledge no. 904, on the issue that goes to the heart of the future of Malta and every sector of our economic, educational and political life. I assure many of the remaining 999 are little different.
It’s up to you to imagine the conversations at the various ministries as the assorted persons of trust, on extraordinary contracts and salaries, knuckle down to eliminate the very conditions that led to their own employment and their minister’s political survival.
“Should we say lovers can’t be based at our very own ministries?”
“Is it already against the rules for the chairman of a national authority to offer to go into business with someone that same authority is regulating?”
“How would it look if we say documents should be kept, not lost and made public when demanded?”
Then again, I have technically mistranslated pledge 904. It actually promises “a national strategy against corruption and integrity” — yes, against integrity, “so that the current rules may continue to be strengthened”.
Surely it’s careless editing? Probably — but given everything this government has done and justified, you can’t be too sure.
In any case, the Party promising to make us the best in the world can’t even properly edit its own key pledge.
Labour is selling its programme in superlatives. It’s the longest programme ever in Malta’s political history! Even Joseph Muscat’s programme in 2017 is 100 pages shorter!
It is indeed incomparable. It’s the longest not just in Malta’s history but the world’s. Then again, I don’t see Germany’s Social Democrats announcing, “public toilets have an important function” (pledge 964).
Has the UK Labour Party ever portentously declared, “We recognise that swings and playing fields are used by children of different ages” (960)?
Which political party anywhere in Europe goes to the polls preening itself on promising to enforce reasonable time frames on demolition and construction? When it’s already been in government for nine years?
This is not a programme meant to be read. It’s meant to shock and awe by its sheer size — like those unread 1960s home encyclopaedias that every aspiring family had to have on its shelves. To give you an idea of what it’s like we need to venture beyond the standard genre of political programmes.
This is the programme that would be written by that real estate agent-cum-interior decorator who, while taking you round an urban maisonette called Il-Girna, showed you how the tiny TV/lounge can have a pièce de résistance on every wall, while envisioning a hot-tub in the shaft, which he insisted on calling a courtyard. And, when you pointed out that there were only two bedrooms, whereas he had listed three, he replied that any room can be a bedroom if it has a bed in it.
It’s a programme by the publisher of 50 Shades of Grey, who now brings you 50 shades of studji and konsultazzjonijiet pubbliċi. Abela is airborne, high on a futuristic vision, but ready to hit the ground running. Work on the underground metro will be immediate — if studies show it’s feasible.
There are literally dozens of references to discussions “to continue” or be held — a pledge by a government that didn’t even consult experienced international journalist associations on how to protect journalism effectively.
It’s the Kama Sutra of political programmes, where you have to gape at the multiplicity of contorted positions. Look! Here’s Abela with his ear to the ground, eye on the horizon, while his finger is raised to test the wind! No, not that finger — that’s plugging the dyke that threatens to collapse over Electrogas and Steward Health Care.
You can have hunting that defies European directives but also environmentalism, which seems to mean planting trees. The government that grants permits to new or enlarged petrol stations will also bring you a “climate neutral” country. The government that boasts of its road building will see that primary school children are taught to cycle.
And, of course, there are the many financial discounts and giveaways. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet that leaves the big questions — about a real joined-up vision for the country and its security — not even raised, let alone answered.
Its only purpose is to leave people thinking that Labour is capable of renewing itself. But if you do read it, you’ll realise this is the programme without any understanding of centre-left values or the fundamental strategic challenges facing the country.
It’s the programme of a ruling Party that sees a general election campaign as a series of weekend break special offers — before it returns to its full time business of taking over the country.