Revenge of the bogan

Now, more than ever, it seems ever more urgent to see that a new political party, one that springs forward from the will of the people, comes forward to challenge the majoritorian hegemony we are seeing before us

Bogan, the Australian slang for someone with unrefined speech, backwater clothing and foolish behaviour, was at some point introduced in the Maltese vernacular of those who felt no love for the average Labour voter and who adored the running commentary of blogger Caruana Galizia. I don’t know why they never used the Maltese word ‘hamallu’ or perhaps the English ‘chav’ if they so despised their working-class opponents. But those who “fear the bogan” might have to get down with the reality of today’s MaltaToday survey, which indicates that Labour is scarily leading with over a 71,000 majority.

Scary, because it sounds like the death knell for the Nationalist Party that spent the last four years insisting and perhaps, believing, it has the divine right to be inside Castille.

And now more than ever, it seems ever more urgent to see that a new political party, born not from the ashes of the PN, but one that springs forward from the will of the people with a vision and a programme for the future, comes forward to challenge this majoritarian hegemony we are seeing before us.

PN leader Adrian Delia has the chutzpah to be leader, but perhaps nothing else for now. And a new party that simply is a re-issue of the old PN, perhaps with PD and the greens, or the new Civil Society Network as the harbour for a particular strand of Nationalist voters (and Labour haters), would not work.

As things stand, the writing is on the wall. Most people still believe in Joseph Muscat. Die-hard Nationalists might see him as the most corrupt thing since Satan, but there has also been a problem over the last five years: to actually prove he is corrupt.

I recall meeting Simon Busuttil several times when he would ask me, with his earnest eyes: “Saviour, so you do not believe that he is corrupt?”
I’d ask,” Where is the proof of this corruption?”

Again, I believe that the sooner Magistrate Aaron Bugeja releases his findings on the Egrant affair for the benefit of the public, the better for this nation’s sanity. For I do suspect that the allegations could have been motivated by an ulterior motive. 

In May this year, Busuttil had scoffed at reports by that foreign intelligence services had claimed Russian meddling in Malta’s election – namely, it has to be said, by virtue of the Egrant affair and the Russian whistleblower, who has since returned home. Everyone laughed off the allegation, fantastical as it sounded.

The French publication claimed British and American intelligence agencies, “with MI6 and CIA at the forefront” were concerned about possible Russian interference in the Maltese election process. 

The report stated that, “Allegations were made by a Russian accountant, Maria E., who long worked in Cyprus and is now in Malta, where she previously served with Pilatus Bank,” and also namedropped Alex Zaslavsky and his e-payments firm in St Julian’s, where it seems Maria E. once worked. 

At the time MaltaToday could not confirm whether Zaslavsky, listed as an American citizen with a California domicile (according to the Maltese company registry) shared the same address with the whistleblower as claimed in claimed “some officials perceive it as a move to destabilise Malta’s pro-Western Prime Minister that comes from on high in the Kremlin, especially because it has occurred at a time when Muscat has been openly opposed to Moscow,” referring to Malta’s refusal to allow Russian  vessels like the RFS Dubra sailing to Syria to stop over and refuel on the island. 

The report claimed this stirred Moscow’s fury as it deemed such refuelling vital, and indeed the Russian foreign ministry had condemned Malta’s decision saying that the island had “fallen victim to an information war led by the West”.

At the time most considered that report as ‘heresy’. It was also considered ‘heresy’ to even question whether Egrant was a fabrication or some attempt to bring down Muscat at all costs. Heading this campaign was the founder and creator of the Bogan tag, together with Simon Busuttil. The social media commentariat passed judgement, and indeed it worked hard to create the impression that the PN stood a chance to win the 2017 elections. Even journalists could not believe the polls or get themselves to believe that the electorate would simply not buy the allegations being made. I was told over and over again that Egrant “cannot be a lie”.

At the time, journalists who shared my scepticism were fewer than you could possibly think. Objectivity suffered in a bid to push the line that the Egrant allegations were solid.

Today’s MaltaToday survey, in part confirming previous surveys recently published, suggest that the Maltese – or maybe Boganville, to channel the spirit of those who enjoy that word – think very differently. The press too must get down with this reality. Or we risk becoming irrelevant to our own readers.

Adrian Delia will be facing more internal trouble as he consolidates his power base with his two new lacklustre deputy leaders, his chosen secretary-general and his right-hand Pierre Portelli as the head of his communications arm for TV, print and online PN web.

Delia manipulated the election to such an extent that MEP David Casa was left in the dark, and withdrew his nomination for secretary-general, unaware that Delia was not telling him the truth but was withholding the fact that Portelli was, in fact, not eyeing the post of secretary-general. 

To be fair, if I had to vote for either of them, I would have had a problem myself.

Back to the survey. Muscat is now enjoying his highest trust rating since becoming Prime Minister in 2013, a sign that people must be judging him positively over his handling of the Caruana Galizia assassination. As a matter of fact, I somehow think that the Occupy Justice and Civil Society only helped to strengthen the electorate’s resolve for Muscat.

Delia, who became PN leader last September, has floundered over the past month with his trust rating dropping by 6.9 points and now ‘enjoys’ a trust rating of 15.2%.

It is clear that Delia has kicked the old guard to the side, but may be unaware that without the old guard he stands no chance of regaining his hard core vote. Even the very fact that close to 40% have decided not to collect their voting document to vote for two of the four candidates for deputy leaders speaks volumes.

Unlike Muscat, who up until 2013 was flanked by veterans Toni Abela and Anglu Farrugia, Delia might imagine he has unity but, in fact, he has none of the sort. Communications is now in the hands of Pierre Portelli, who is surely delving deep in Goebbel’s propaganda manual. After he turned The Malta Independent into an extension of the Nationalist Party, one wonders how much refinement Media.Link’s muck-raking on their bogan nemesis will get. Such an approach could only push the party further into the abyss if those hang-ups don’t get replaced with proper journalism and provocative discussion that also refine the PN’s ideological agenda.

Meanwhile Delia will also have to start worrying about where he is going to source the private funding for the highly-paid salaried officials and his own in an electoral climate which clearly shows the PN in such an upsetting position. Only the insane would consider digging into their pockets and donate undeclared money so that Clyde Puli can carry on smiling. Still, stranger things have happened.