Offside on De Valette

Was the Monti relocation ‘mediocre’ because it’s easy to lay it at Labour’s stinky feet? Or does the PN get to do what it likes because of its innate ‘elegance’?

Limp marketing of the idea of the PN itself from MPs like David Agius undermine the enthusiastic attack Simon Busuttil leads on Labour’s falling standards in meritocracy and transparency.
Limp marketing of the idea of the PN itself from MPs like David Agius undermine the enthusiastic attack Simon Busuttil leads on Labour’s falling standards in meritocracy and transparency.

No wonder the quality of politicians keeps falling and falling. First we have to contend with bog-standard fellows who scrape through the popularity contest like Etienne Grech, an MD who worships Joseph Muscat on Facebook with mindless status updates promoting the prime minister as an elixir to Greece’s financial troubles.

And then there are the patronizing dullards like David Agius, a man who is Opposition whip no less, but how he musters that kind of influence with fellow MPs boggles the mind. There was an interesting encounter between Agius and one of the One News journalists, where he was asked about the uglification of Parliament square through the erection of football goalposts and basketball nets as part of the PN’s Independence celebrations.

No sooner had his central nervous system processed this very valid question – given that Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had rightfully hit out at Valletta’s uglification over the proposed relocation of hawkers’ stalls – Agius did his very best in trying to flee the situation by feebly mocking his inquisitor.

There he was, decked in black t-shirt and shorts, grinning gormlessly and patting the One News journalist’s shoulder, hoping she would go away, telling her to ‘just let us enjoy a game of football’. Oh, it’s not that simple now, is it… you must try and give her some form of political mumbo-jumbo to justify the PN’s appropriation of this hallowed space.

And what he said was (to be fair it’s what One News broadcast, so I can’t be sure of his entire explanation)… “Europe [that’s the EU…] wants us to be active… keep active…” faff, faff, faff… a triple-serving of bollocks with some cream on top from former PN mayor Michael Fenech Adami – “On Paris’s best streets… they host tennis matches… a beach.” (That’s an incorrect reference to the Paris plages where the Seine’s right banks are covered in sand…).

It’s all OK though, is it? As long as it’s the PN that’s appropriating the De Valette square and playing football outside the House of Representatives. It’s “elegant… relaxing”, PN secretary-general Rosette Thake said in describing the set-up.

Well I’m not sure it really cuts the Dijon, to keep to the Fenech Adami scion’s Gallic allusion. I distinctly remember Simon Busuttil pointing out how the relocation of hawkers onto Ordnance Street and right beneath the House of Representatives was indeed “mediocre… an insult… undermining culture.”

I think what he was trying to say was “what a right bunch of boors and chavs have taken up sojourn in Castille to foist upon us and the €80 million Renzo Piano creation, such an ignominious display of hawkers peddling cut-price underwear and ‘I love Malta’ beach towels.”

And yet, it seemed pretty OK to have their own artisan stalls lined up by the Royal Theatre and a football match to boot beneath the venerable Piano’s City Gate project.

Sure, it’s temporary. But where’s the authenticity in the criticism? Let me be straight up: I’m with Busuttil on the hawkers’ relocation and One News have only just proved how unsightly hawkers in parliament square would look. But is it mediocre just because it’s easy to lay it at Labour’s stinky feet? And does the PN get to do what the hell it likes because of its innate ‘elegance’?

It gets to me. It really does. It’s this limp marketing that undermines the enthusiastic attack Simon Busuttil leads on Labour’s falling standards in meritocracy and transparency. You can see that his image of sobriety just cannot be propped up by gurning idiots in black shorts, or self-righteous members of the professional classes. I noticed this on Thursday’s ‘discussion’ on De Valette square, when 6PM’s chief executive officer Ivan Bartolo told his audience that he could not still fathom how Labour mustered a 36,000 vote majority in 2013. “Maybe I’m not that intelligent…” he suggested, rhetorically.

Hold that thought, Ivan. There’s a lot in what Busuttil says that is right in his analysis of Labour post-2013, and I await his proposals for better governance this year, hoping it will shake this government out of its stuporous complacence.

But there’s a lot inside the PN that is also pre-2013. This kind of haughtiness, for example, does nobody any favours; ignoring the arrogance of the Gonzi administration and the way it alienated so many people afflicted by the hardship of high energy bills is a fatal error.

Which is why, irrespective of the bank guarantee for ElectroGas, the man in the street will still approve of the LNG power plant. There is a climate of business confidence and revitalised domestic spending – prompted in part by free childcare and tax cuts – that is substantial enough to keep a buoyant Labour up in the polls.

It sounds like a brutal measure of the way the Maltese think. I’d hazard that they rate ‘honesty’ and ‘integrity’ as highly as Catholics rate blasphemy and pre-marital sex in their list of pious values. But this is what Muscat has tapped into as the key to electoral success.

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