“I say to members of my own party that it is doubly important for us to show we are prepared to act when one of our own, however senior, is found wanting…the house has a responsibility to ensure standards are upheld by showing that we are willing to act against the interests of colleagues when the facts require it – and in this case I believe they do.”
That was a former prime minister and party leader condemning another party leader and prime minister.
They’re both from the same political party – but that didn’t stop one leader from denouncing another. It didn’t stop the former prime minister from cajoling party members to do the right thing and take a stand against their disgraced leader.
That wasn’t Robert Abela denouncing Joseph Muscat. It wasn’t Alfred Sant rallying the party to sever ties with their disgraced former prime minister.
That was the UK’s former prime minister Theresa May defending democracy and categorically denouncing Boris Johnson’s lies.
Bravely and firmly, May stood up to defend the Privileges Committee and its members who were subjected to intimidation, threats and bullying by Johnson and his small cult of followers. The committee’s chairperson, Harriet Harman, became the target of hostile abuse and a smear campaign.
But Theresa May, the respected quiet former leader, was having none of it. With understated determination she stood up to challenge the whole House, but mostly her own party members, to do the right thing. She robustly defended the Committee: “I commend the members of the committee for their painstaking work and for their dignity in the face of slurs on their integrity, to all the members of the committee the house should say thank you for your service”.
Theresa May stands out as a paragon of integrity, fairness, courage, and rectitude – the antithesis of the chaotic, deceitful liar Boris Johnson. She didn’t pull her punches.
“Faith in our parliamentary democracy is damaged when they (the public) see us trying to save the careers of friends who have been found guilty of wrongdoing – we, each and every one, bear responsibility to put the people we serve first, to be honest with them and with one another.
“I believe we have a greater responsibility than most to uphold the rules and set an example – the decision of this house on this report is important to show the public that there is not one rule for them and another for us”, she concluded, “I will vote in favour of the report…I urge all members to do the same to uphold standards in public life to help restore faith in our parliamentary democracy”.
Theresa May’s plea worked. 354 MPs voted in support of the report. Just seven voted against it. That was a resounding humiliation for the arrogant Johnson.
Typical of the coward that he is, Johnson resigned his parliamentary seat to avoid facing parliament. The vote to suspend him for 90 days was academic. Denying him the pass given to former MPs to enter the Houses of Parliament was petty punishment – but a massive blow to the man’s oversized ego and his sense of entitlement.
It was the appropriate rebuke to the defiant former PM who threatened in his resignation letter that he would be back: “It is sad to be leaving parliament – at least for now,” he wrote. That penalty is a win for decency and democracy.
The overwhelming vote in favour of the Committee’s conclusion, that Johnson had deliberately and repeatedly lied, restores faith in justice. It is a crushing victory for decency, integrity and honour. It is sweet revenge against those, like Johnson, who felt they could wreck the system for their own benefit and get away with it. It is a slap in the face of his insolent disdain for the basic rules of decency.
Theresa May’s stand also put Rishi Sunak’s cowardice to shame. Sunak stayed away from Parliament, evading his responsibility to stand up to the lying bully Johnson.
He made pathetic excuses about diary clashes. He sought to avoid enraging the dwindling vocal number of Tories still part of Boris’ cult. He chose shameless pragmatism where bold bravery was required. Theresa May’s uncompromising rallying cry exposes Sunak for the pathetic wimp that he is.
As respect for May multiplies, that for Sunak collapsed.
Sunak’s gutlessness is mirrored in Robert Abela’s cowardice.
Time and time again, Abela defended his own MPs, even when the Standards Commissioner had found them guilty of serious breaches. Instead of doing the right thing and accepting the findings of the Commissioner’s thorough investigation, Abela ordered his MPs on the standards committee to shoot them down to protect MPs who’d behaved atrociously.
Abela’s MPs voted against endorsing the report on Rosianne Cutajar who accepted thousands of euros from a man accused of masterminding a journalist’s assassination. Abela’s MPs stopped the Standards Commissioner from testifying about Justyne Caruana before the standards committee. Abela’s MPs walked out of a standards committee meeting on Carmelo Abela’s breaches on a false premise, stalling the hearing.
Instead of putting the people they serve first, Robert Abela and his MPs put the personal interests of their colleagues first. Instead of doing the right thing and accepting the Commissioner’s findings, and imposing hefty sanctions on those who transgressed, Labour defended their own – every single time. In every case, they would regret it.
Justyne Caruana had to be fired a second time. Rosianne Cutajar’s shamelessness cost Labour dearly.
Instead of cutting him loose, Abela protects him, paying him hundreds of thousands of euros, providing him with an office with a sea view, a second car for his wife and drivers.
Instead of emulating Theresa May’s courage, Robert Abela is doing a Rishi – quietly whimpering in the corner while his disgraced former leader trashes our democracy.