Time for the mavericks?

Robert Abela is trying to clean Augean stables – a tight-rope exercise in which he is trying to balance the need for cleanliness with his need for the passionately faithful to keep on believing in the cause

Social media has done nothing to persuade party enthusiasts that the world is not black or white and that there are more than fifty shades of grey.

As has been said, many people have no political opinion but just a passionate – and illogical – enthusiasm for the party they support.

Going through Facebook posts, the ones about local political issues always manage to anger me or make me very sad. The lack of even a small attempt at looking at things somewhat objectively is evident and one generally finds many clear manifestations of how political allegiance overcomes logic and common sense.

This applies for supporters of both sides.

At the moment, the two-party system is not serving the country well. This is a pity because it was this system that gave this country its political stability since independence. Not that the different governments that led the country did not commit many mistakes, of course.

A recent poll carried out by this newspaper shows that currently, the major concern about life in Malta is the COVID pandemic. So what comes second?

For Labour voters, after the pandemic, the Opposition is their biggest worry! For Nationalist supporters the second biggest worry is corruption. The influence of the propaganda dished out daily by their respective parties is evident.

It is obvious that many Maltese look at our two-party system as they look at our rival feast system in most villages – the allegiance to one side is no holds barred.

An acquaintance who admitted that he had been duped by Joseph Muscat during the 2013 electoral campaign was told by a PN fanatic that he should have predicted what was going to happen if Labour were elected in power. Besides being utter rubbish, this is an incredibly arrogant stance, of course; but it shows the way mulish political party allegiance is currently discouraging any objective discussions and political dialogue between Maltese citizens.

Letting party MPs and PN opinion-makers stick persistently to this line will not help the party recover its electoral strength, notwithstanding the fact that internal strife has completely abated since Bernard Grech was elected PN leader.

In the current situation, this is more harmful to the PN than to Labour, because the PN needs to welcome switchers back. Instead people who are known to have switched in 2013 are being continually berated by so-called PN loyalists! As a result, many of them intend to renounce both parties, come the next general election.

Meanwhile Robert Abela is trying to clean Augean stables – a tight-rope exercise in which he is trying to balance the need for cleanliness with his need for the passionately faithful to keep on believing in the cause.

Yet I sense that there is a growing swathe of the voting public that resents this situation. I receive positive reactions to my articles, in the sense that my efforts to be objective are appreciated. Others who do not see grey, make silly accusations as a result of their assuming my contributions to be necessarily black or white, meaning politically motivated in favour of – or against – one side or another.

Many of those who appreciate objectivity would welcome a third party led by serious people who have the country’s progress at heart. ADPD has not managed to be viewed in this way by almost everybody and their support shown in the polls is miserable.

Traditionally, those who refused to tow the party line were undermined and had to leave politics. Perhaps we should start to look at so-called mavericks in a new light.

The country needs people with independent opinions – not people who just tow the party line.

Something’s got to move.

It could be an unexpected and unprecedented bold move by at least one of the two parties.

It could be the resurgence of a strong third party.

Otherwise, there will be a lot of abstentions in the next general election in 2022.

Greed and the vaccine

Boris Johnson was reported to have told a private meeting of Tory MPs that the success of the UK’s COVID vaccine programme was because of ‘capitalism’ and ‘greed’. Official reports claim that was referring to the profit motive driving companies to develop new products and that he had “very insistently withdrawn his comments straight after making them during a Zoom call with backbenchers.”

The Sun quoted him as saying “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends”, during a meeting with Conservative lawmakers to rally them to support coronavirus restrictions. It also reported that he later added: “Actually I regret saying it” and that he asked lawmakers repeatedly to “forget I said that”. An unidentified source told The Sun that he was not discussing the row with the EU over vaccines.

Johnson’s apologists say that he was making a joke with a reference to the film Wall Street, but I sense this ‘explanation’ was a cover-up for a great Freudian ‘Boris’ slip.

They denied that the PM’s comments were designed to stir up anything in the row with the EU and were adamant that Mr Johnson was not intending to be critical of the pharmaceutical companies in any way.

Asked about the comment, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was not in the meeting adding: “The prime minister always acknowledges the strong success that we’ve had in terms of the vaccine, not just the rollout, which is incredible, but also our ability as a country to develop the vaccine, and the role that pharmaceutical companies and science and technology has played in that.”

Quoting an unnamed MP, the BBC said Mr Johnson “realised he had messed up as soon as he had said it, and didn’t mean it,” adding that several sources said he had asked those present to “remove that comment from your collective memory”.

A columnist in The Economist some years ago tried to answer the question: Is greed good?

The answer, given after much deliberation, was not straightforward at all: Yes, greed is good, so long as it is regulated.

Regulating so-called Big Pharma is a big headache, of course! Pass me the analgesics...