Speaking at a Labour Party (PL) political activity on Sunday Robert Abela unusually name-checked his disgraced predecessor.
He had previously been cautious about never mentioning him by name, but this time, he not only mentioned him but described him as ‘his friend’, putting to rest the doubts of the few who still wondered whether Abela was still in the throes of the disgraced former prime minister.
Abela was speaking after his surprise Saturday cabinet reshuffle.
The name-dropping of Muscat and the reshuffle must be viewed in the optic of a moment of panic and weakness among the Labour crowd.
2024 brings the European Parliament elections and the first serious challenge at the polls. It is not a stress test for the PL as much as it is a litmus test for the system installed by Muscat and continued by Abela.
Abela was eager to stress the continuity between his and Muscat’s governments and he also needed new generals and lieutenants to close ranks in the cabinet.
The retouching of portfolios might be telling in some cases. Silvio Schembri loses the Lands Department but gains Enterprise, Clint Camilleri is now responsible for Gozo and Planning – an enigmatic and ominous cocktail for Gozo, and Julia Farrugia Portelli remains a minister but has had her portfolio reduced to the bare minimum.
Anton Refalo, the collector of national treasures, lives to fight another day in the cabinet. Zrinzo Azzopardi is another minister who has inherited a slimmed-down portfolio but rediscovers the remit of “implementation of the electoral programme”.
Aware of the battles ahead, Abela reinvented bulldogs as parliamentary secretaries, with Beddingfield sticking out as the obvious example.
Whether in the Public Accounts Committee or the general domain, Glenn acts clearly as his master’s faithful voice and as the perfect glue between the old and new labour elite.
That is what this weekend was all about. The corrupt system responsible for the backsliding of the rule of law is beginning to show its nails.
Alea iacta est – the die is cast, and Abela has chosen to gamble on what, in the eyes of many, a voter responsible for landslide victories is a winning formula.
That is why the rehabilitation of Muscat’s name is a Labour activity. That is why the new cabinet formation is what it is. Warts and all, this is l-Aqwa Zmien preparing to fight another battle.
A possible leadership contender is prepped for a trip to the EU.
Thankfully, Fearne is no John Dalli and will be able to fulfil the role of EU commissioner with the necessary gravitas and dedication.
The cabinet remains a bloated cabinet, expensive and generally incompetent. But do not measure the cost of cabinet solely from the point of view of salaries the MPs receive, measure it from the expenses on government expenditure incurred through contracts with friends of friends.
In the week when Malta received yet another unfavourable rating in a Greco report, it would seem that all systems are going for the giant resources of incumbency to be set to preserve dominance.
If they can get a little help from “My friend, Joseph”, so much the better.