Now the numbers have got serious for Robert Abela

Everyone knows that the blame for this deal is Joseph Muscat, but Abela should have been more forthright and admitted that the government should be sorry for its action and that it would leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this great train robbery

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

Yesterday’s Polar survey published in MaltaToday comes as no surprise. It comes after a damning court sentence on the Vitals/Stewards hospital contract. If we were to be sincere, the court sentence could have been more punishing to government. It was not.

The decision did however confirm beyond any doubt that the deal was rotten. No one in his right senses can remotely say that Joseph Muscat was right in allowing this to happen. The return on the monies passed on to these crooks was zilch. Those that present excuses to justify Steward’s presence are non-existent.

The reaction to the court sentence by Robert Abela could have been more sensitive to the long reaching impact of the hospital’s contract. Everyone knows that the blame for this deal is Joseph Muscat, but Abela should have been more forthright and admitted that the government should be sorry for its action and that it would leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this great train robbery.

That is falling short of accusing Muscat of getting Malta into this mess.

Relations between Abela and Muscat are non-existent and not at all good. But sooner rather than later, Abela will have to face the music and push the blame button. Unlike the 1998 Mintoff/ Sant debacle, Abela has a healthy majority and is at the beginning of his second term. He has time to act and bridge to dissenters and Muscat diehards.

But yesterday’s poll, which sees the Labour party, dropping from its historic majority of 54,000 down to 8,500 – at least for now – should not mean that Abela should become more indecisive.

It means that that he needs to understand what the issues are that will gain traction. There are many, but the three that come to mind and that always resurface in polls, one is that voters are seriously concerned about political responsibility and the inertia of politicians to react to allegations of misconduct, the environmental issue, especially the question of land use, and more importantly the cost of living.

Abela has to address these issues without appearing weak and unfocused. He needs to ensure that the reforms that need to happen are not hindered by fear of losing out.

Whereas the economic drive needs to be maintained, one cannot forget about the quality of life and the need to address pressing issues of land-use and traffic. And on the political front, Abela needs to find the best way to detach himself from Muscat. There is no other way. More so if the magisterial inquiry puts Muscat in a more difficult situation.

On the other side of the trench, we find Bernard Grech with good reason to be cheerful. Yet he has to overcome one crucial malaise in his party. How to be credible enough to attract the middle ground and Labourites to make his electoral base stronger. With Talibanesque statements on Labour by some in the Repubblika and Occupy Justice camp, it is very unlikely that he will attract any Labourites. That is one problem he will have to solve. No easy matter, but just in the same way that Abela exiled Manwel Cuschieri, it would not be a bad idea if the same yardstick was applied to some individuals who come across as sanctimonious and self-centred.

Another consideration is the need of the Nationalist Party to start acting like a secular party. The PN continues to believe it needs to set a morality barometer and dictate its dogma on what people should do or not do with their personal lives. The PN needs to find a way to learn from sister European parties with a conservative agenda. Young people find it very difficult to associate with the PN in its current set-up.

So hopefully this latest poll will service to galvanise both parties to address their weaknesses.


Today is the last edition under the editorship of Matthew Vella.

I recall the first time I met Matthew as a young man seeking a career in journalism. I foolishly turned him down in his first interview, but he returned for a second. In 20 years of working at MediaToday, Matthew Vella has experienced the political machinations of over two decades. There are simply too main episodes to recount, but I think that the Gonzi years, the divorce referendum, the 2013 oil scandal, the rise and fall of Joseph Muscat, the Panama Papers and the migration crisis marked Vella’s years as editor.

Together we spent long hours debating and arguing over stories and editorial stances. He was steadfast in his role as editor and unwavering in his approach to standards that other journalists would simply ignore.

Like most journalists at MaltaToday, he was often attacked and harshly ridiculed by political and business apologists.  There were many difficult times in the last twenty years which we had to share together as colleagues.

Matthew Vella brought with him a fresh look, a unique command of both the English and Maltese language, and a distaste for the establishment. He was also hard-headed and refused to compromise on principles.

He also knew how to judge when a story was a story and when something was not worth the candle, or when he felt something that did not punch up fit his criteria when using the power of the press. He also understood good journalism and resisted attempts to turn the newspaper to being superficial or tabloid. And he fully recognised the value of the digital world and its social media challenges.

I shall miss his presence as an editor and a friend, and the hard-hitting discussions that made me fume at times – especially on weekends when most normal family folk do not work. I am grateful that he will stay on as a journalist. And I wish him well.