Looks like you CAN ‘have your cake and eat it’, after all…

See? It’s just like I had originally suspected, way back when I was around five years old. ‘You can’t have your cake, and eat it?’ Oh, but can… you most certainly CAN…

Roberta Metsola
Roberta Metsola

As anyone with any experience in TEFL will surely confirm: English can be an infuriating language, at times.

Take the expression in the headline, for instance. As a small child, I was positively flummoxed to hear fully-grown adults (who ‘should really have known better’) utter such astonishingly daft inanities, as: ‘You can’t have your cake, and eat it…’

Surely, that should be the other way around: it is, after all, impossible to ‘eat a slice of cake’… unless you actually HAVE one, in your possession. (Just ask Queen Marie-Antoinette of France; she’ll tell you all about it…)

But, well, you know how these things eventually go. It was around 20 years later that I finally discovered that the verb ‘to have’ had changed meaning a little, since that expression was first coined.  Once upon a time, it also meant… ‘to KEEP’.

Armed with this new lexicographical insight, everything suddenly made perfect sense. No, of course you can’t ‘eat your cake’… and continue ‘having it in your possession, afterwards’ (DUH!)

And yet, and yet… the expression continues to infuriate me, all the same. Let’s face it: the contruction still remains a little ‘back-to-front’, wouldn’t you say? Updated to Modern English, the same sentiment would be better expressed by… well, any variation of what I just wrote, above (E.g., ‘You can’t keep your cake, after having already eaten it’).

Another problem, however, is that… well, let’s just say that (20+ years later, this time) I’m suddenly having the same old doubts, again. Is it really all that very ‘impossible’, to retain possession of ‘something’ – including, but not limited to, a ‘slice of cake’ – even AFTER having duly ‘eaten it’ (leaving not a single crumb behind?)

Suddenly, I’m not so sure. Just look at Roberta Metsola, for example (admit it: didn’t see THAT one coming…) She seems perfectly capable of performing this otherwise ‘impossible’ feat, over and over again… and with the greatest of ease, too!

Only not with ‘cake’, of course. (That wouldn’t do at all, would it? Not at a time when cinemas are showing Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ – featuring a close-up of Marie-Antoinette’s DECAPITATION – across the entire EU…)

No: in Metsola’s case, the expression would have to be modified slightly. Something like: “You CAN keep your pro-life credentials; even after having (quite literally) signed them away, as part of a bargain to become President of the European Parliament…’

There, much better (even if I say so myself)! Because while it may still sound every bit as ‘contradictory’ – and therefore, ‘impossible’ - as ‘devouring a never-ending slice of cake’… it looks to me as though Roberta Metsola HAS, in fact, succeeded in doing precisely that, over the course of the past two years.

Let’s go over it again, shall we?

In January 2022 (on the eve of her election as EP president) Roberta Metsola emerged from a meeting with French PM Macron, to publicly declare – and we all heard her - that she would sign a declaration called the ‘Simone Veil Pact’.

Now: just to be clear what this actually entails, from a policy point of view… a newspaper called ‘The European Conservative’ (no prizes for guessing where it stands, on abortion) later reported that:

“The day after her election, [Metsola] was keen to demonstrate her commitment to supporting women’s access to contraceptives and abortion in the European Union. [She] signed a pact - named after Simone Veil, the French politician who made abortion legal in France in 1975 - intended to guarantee women in Europe ‘human dignity and human rights,’ including safe and easy access to abortion.”

In so doing, Metsola committed herself – as newly-elected President of the European Parliament, please note – to both recognise ‘easy access to abortion’ as a human right; and also, to at least TRY and enshrine it in the European Charter of Human Rights, where (according to the Simone Veil pact, anyway) it should really belong.

And… fair enough, I suppose. For in all honesty: Roberta Metsola’s sudden U-turn may well have ‘disconcerted’ – to put it mildly - some of the European conservatives who actually voted for her, in the EP election… and who, not unreasonably, will surely have expected the very opposite: given that Metsola  had actually campaigned on the ‘pro-life’ ticket, for years beforehand. (Sorry, but it had to be said.)

Be that as it may, however: as far as I’m concerned, Roberta Metsola still remains fully entitled – according to the same European Charter of Human Rights, by the way - to simply ‘revise her own political opinions’, at will (on any topic she chooses; but especially, I should think, on what is after all a rather complex issue, that ultimately concerns women’s health.)

So had the matter stopped there, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this article at all.

The only trouble, however, is that… it didn’t ‘stop there’, did it? (Indeed, you could almost argue that it never even ‘started’, to begin with).

Just yesterday, for instance, the same Roberta Metsola was nominated as one of the ‘28 most powerful leaders in Europe’, by Politico… and this is how the event was reported in the press:

“Explaining the reason behind her selection, Politico says Metsola took control of the European Parliament at a difficult moment: a month before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and just a week after the death of the institution’s former President David Sassoli.

“At the time, questions were raised about [inter alia] her stance on abortion (in Malta, the procedure is still illegal in most cases). But over the past two years, Metsola has steered the institution through turbulent times and positioned herself as a credible candidate for a second term.”

Erm… am I the only one seeing a teenie-weenie little ‘contradiction’, somewhere in there? For as Politico correctly notes: ‘questions were asked about her stance on abortion’ (indeed, it was precisely to ‘answer those questions’, that Metsola even signed the Simone Veil pact, in the first place)…

… yet the same article also reminds us that ‘in Malta, the procedure is STILL ILLEGAL, IN MOST CASES’: even though two whole years have elapsed, since the newly-elected EP President had vowed to ‘guarantee safe and easy access to abortion’ to all women, across the entire EU (a category that, last I looked, also included ‘Maltese women’).

On top of that, however: Roberta Metsola still persists, to this day, in conveniently ‘forgetting’ that she ever signed any such ‘Simone Veil Pact’, at all… despite the fact that the same European Parliament she now leads, has actually TASKED HER (in no uncertain terms, too!) to finally deliver on those earlier ‘pro-choice’ promises, once for all.

In case you missed it the first time… this is from a news report that appeared in this newspaper late last month:

“On Thursday [19 October], the European Parliament approved [by an overwhelming majority] another resolution on the state of rule of law in Malta. However, the resolution also called for the government to ‘finally enshrine the right to safe and legal abortion’...”

.. and this, on the other hand, is from a MaltaToday article dated 21 December, 2021 (just before the EP presidential election): “Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola has told MEPs from major groups in the European Parliament that she will represent the ‘majority voice’ on abortion if elected president of the House, over challenges from French MEPs on her anti-abortion voting record…”

Metsola herself even told this newspaper, at the time, that: “On sexual and reproductive health and rights, the position of the European Parliament is clear. As President of the Parliament my duty is to represent the view of the Parliament and if I am elected, I will do my duty as I have always done.”

So, coming back to that more recent resolution: what, exactly, is stopping Roberta Metsola from actually living up to that promise, today? (i.e., when the EP’s majority voice is so much ‘clearer’, than it was in December 2021)?

But wait, how silly of me! Roberta Metsola doesn’t actually have to answer questions like that, does she? It’s right there, in black on white, in that same Politico article: “over the past two years, Metsola has steered the institution through turbulent times and positioned herself as a credible candidate for a second term…”

See? It doesn’t matter one tiny bit, that Roberta Metsola herself has never lifted even the littlest of fingers, to ‘do her duty’ and ‘represent the EP’s position’, on the topic of abortion (which, let’s face it, is not exactly ‘beyond her capabilities, as a politician’: seeing that she is now considered one of ‘28 most powerful leaders, in the EU’…)

After all, Politico still sees her as a ‘credible candidate for a second term’; the Nationalist Party still clearly sees her as a ‘potential future PN leader’; and pretty much everyone else in the entire Universe (including, naturally, Metsola herself) is already eyeing her as a highly-probable future contender, for the post of European Commission President, too…

See? It’s just like I had originally suspected, way back when I was around five years old. ‘You can’t have your cake, and eat it?’ Oh, but can… you most certainly CAN…