‘We’re all human’ (but some of us are more human than others)

If even a self-styled ‘Labour stalwart’ like Desmond Zammit Marmara could bring himself to publicly denounce Labour as “the party representing first and foremost the interests of big business…” how many other ‘staunch Labourites’ must be feeling the same way, right now?

Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

OK: a word of preliminary warning. We may be in for a little ‘time-travel’, in this article; for this is one of those weeks where – not for the first time – I have clearly been overtaken by events.

Two events, specifically: one, the (very dramatic) court session last Friday, in which George and Alfred Degiorgio were sentenced to 40 years apiece, for their part in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia; and two, an opinion column by Desmond Zammit Marmara, published on the same day (and which radically bolsters the argument I was going to make, in the article I was already half-way through writing when ‘Event One’ struck.)

Ah, well: I guess it’s another case of Murphy’s Law in action. “If something important is going to happen… you can rest assured it will happen at a point that is far too close to your deadline, to actually write anything about’ (and when, of course, you will already be close to finishing your weekly column anyway).

The upshot is that what you’re reading right now has been added onto that half-finished article, as an afterthought; and the rest still has to be amended to accommodate all the new ‘ammunition’ supplied by Desmond Zammit Marmara this morning.

It’s complicated, I know – time-travel always is – but the bottom line is that: a) I have decided not to comment at all about the murder trial, for now (at least, until I’ve had more time to digest the implications); and b) I will stick with the article I was going to write anyway: even though it may, admittedly, seem slightly out of synch with the issue of the moment.

So without further ado: we begin here…


*  *  *  *


Thank goodness, what a relief! For a while now, I’ve been suspecting that Malta’s current Opposition leader might actually be an ‘extra-terrestrial in disguise’; and that – beneath the superficial resemblance to a mild-mannered ‘humanoid politician’ – there lurked an indescribable mass of squishy alien tentacles, just waiting to burst out of his torso…

And granted: that’s probably because I watched far too much TV sci-fi as a child (‘Space 1999’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Babylon 5’; that sort of thing). But let’s face it: part of it is also down to some of the stuff that Bernard Grech himself has been coming up with, in recent months… much of which has been truly ‘out of this world’.

But no matter: like all paranoid delusions, mine was easily shattered by simple exposure to the truth. As Bernard Grech publicly informed us, earlier this week: he’s ‘only human’, after all…

… which also means that (as a certain 1980s New Romantic band once put it): a) ‘Of flesh and blood, he’s made!’; and b) ‘[he was] born to make mistakes!”

And I reckon we’re looking at an example of one such ‘human error’, right there. Because now that Bernard Grech has established, beyond all earthly doubt, that he is indeed part of the (ahem) ‘Human League’… well, there are a few other implications to ‘being human’, than merely an aptitude to ‘make mistakes’ every once in a while.

Like, for instance, the universally-acknowledged fact that ‘all humans are [supposed to be] treated equally’… which in turn gives rise to the maxim that – on those occasions where human beings do ‘make mistakes’, anyway – they should always be ‘judged using the same yardstick’.

And this brings me to the most unearthly part of Grech’s assertion, above: the context in which he actually uttered those words. Specifically, the Opposition leader had been asked to comment on the umpteenth ‘spat’ between himself, and his predecessor Adrian Delia.

And what caused this latest ‘Clash of the PN Titans’, you might be asking? Why, Bernard Grech’s earlier statement – in an interview with Lovin Malta – that his own stint as PN leader cannot be compared to Delia’s, because… ‘nobody is running to the President of the Republic, right now, to demand [his] immediate removal as leader’.

Understandably enough, Adrian Delia’s reaction to that was also rather… ‘human’. “If the party is doing better or worse is up to the people to decide,” he drily commented. “But to celebrate that you weren’t betrayed isn’t very just, I would think…”

Delia also pointed out that ‘not being betrayed by your own party’ is hardly the most reliable of yardsticks, by which to measure the success or otherwise of any given party leader. And I suppose it’s just as well - for Bernard Grech’s sake – that he chose to stop there.

Because let’s face it: Grech was not merely ‘unfair’, to cite that as an example of ‘improvement within the PN’ since the days of Adrian Delia. It was also highly unwise for him to do so: if nothing else because – by raising the question himself – Grech has also drawn our collective attention to its existence: thus forcing us to try and actually answer it.

Why, indeed, is ‘no one running to the President, right now, to have Bernard Grech removed as Opposition leader?’ And while I’m at it: why did such a thing even happen to Adrian Delia in the first place, back in July 2020?

Let’s see, now: as I recall, President George Vella was urged to use his Constitutional powers, for the purpose of removing Delia, on the basis that he had just lost a vote of confidence by the PN Executive Council.

And that vote, in turn, had been taken for two reasons, above all others:

One, because of the emergence of ‘chummy’ Whatsapp chats between Adrian Delia, and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech [note: before Fenech’s arrest, but after he had been outed as the owner of 17 Black]; and two, because of MaltaToday polls, in June 2020, which suggested that the Nationalist Party (under Adrian Delia) could lose the next election by ‘anywhere between 40,000 and 70,000 votes’.

Now: never mind, for a moment, that a ‘worst-case scenario’ that had only been predicted for Adrian Delia, actually became a reality under his immediate successor (after all, Bernard Grech lost the 2022 election by well over 40,000 votes: and not only was there no ‘rebellion’, by the same clique that had earlier ousted Delia… but Grech was even re-elected PN leader, UNOPPOSED).

And never mind, too, that similar (albeit not interchangeable) allegations would later surface of Bernard Grech’s own ‘closeness with the Fenechs’, too: this time, suggesting that he had attended private meetings with members of the Fenech family, to discuss the possibility of a ‘Presidential pardon’...

No, the real problem is not that Bernard Grech has somehow eluded the same fate as Adrian Delia (despite being just as guilty of the same, shall we call them, ‘shortcomings’)… it is that today’s polls actually paint a far, FAR bleaker picture of the Nationalist Party’s survival chances, than they ever did under Grech’s immediate predecessor (or indeed, any other PN leader since the 1940s).

Not only has support for the PN declined to a mere 19%, nationwide (which - all other things remaining equal – would translate into an electoral disparity of even more than 70,000); but Bernard Grech’s own popularity rating among younger (16-35) votes has slumped to a scarcely-believable 7.3%.

In other words, more than a full percentage point LESS than the support for Alternattiva Demokratika, among the same cohort. (And what was it again, that the PN used to repeatedly tell AD voters all those years ago? ‘Don’t bother, because it’s a wasted vote’?…)

But wait, there’s more. The context we are looking at goes well beyond the PN’s inability to ever improve its own electoral standing (which, as I recall, was pretty much the only job Bernard Grech was actually entrusted with, when he took over in 2020).

Apart from spelling out so much trouble for the PN, the same MaltaToday survey is not exactly very reassuring for Robert Abela’s Labour Party, either.

On one level, it registers a marked increase in ‘voter-apathy’, especially among the young (and this had already taken a fair bite out of Abela’s majority, during the last election). But Labour appears to have also lost a not-insignificant 2.6 percentage-points, since July.

And if that’s not enough, to suggest that ‘great big cracks’ are now beginning to appear all over the Labour Party HQ in Mile End: there’s also that Desmond Zammit Marmara article I mentioned earlier.

Here, we admittedly have to a be more cautious – for at the end of the day, it remains but the private opinion of a single, solitary human being… and even then, arguably one who is not even particularly ‘representative’, of what the Labour Party has become today…

… but, well, that’s whole point, innit? If even a self-styled ‘Labour stalwart’ like Desmond Zammit Marmara – who has spent literally decades, championing the PL’s more traditional ‘core values’ as a Socialist party – could bring himself to publicly denounce Labour as: “no longer the political party providing a shield for the workers but [it] has become the political party representing first and foremost the interests of big business…”

… how many other ‘staunch Labourites’ must be feeling the same way, right now, about the direction ‘their’ party seems to be taking?

And yet, despite the unique opportunity that all this would offer, to any serious Opposition Party, in any country in the world… Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The PN once again proves perfectly incapable of clawing back even a single, solitary vote, of the 40,000+ it has lost since 2003… and it even manages to lose a few tens of thousands more, while it’s at it.

See what I mean, about suspecting that Bernard Grech might be an ‘extra-terrestrial in disguise’? That is, after all, the sort of political feat that takes more than just an ‘ordinary human being’, to actually accomplish…