What are they going to promise us next? Immortality?

A fair percentage of all the people I have ever known, and who are now dead, died specifically of cancer, in one form or another. Would any of them still be around today, I wonder, if the PN made this kind of electoral promise, say, 10 years ago (i.e., before an election it actually had a chance of winning) instead of today?

The PN billboard that was deemed offensive by cancer patients
The PN billboard that was deemed offensive by cancer patients

Now that’s what I call an election freebie, folks. None of this namby-pamby ‘win a Fiat Panda’, or ‘a hamper from JB Stores’, or a ‘dinner for two at Joey’s Pizza/Pasta Emporium in Bugibba’, etc., bullshit. That’s all old hat now. If you want to really grab voters’ attention in these fast-moving times, you’re going to have to offer something a little more substantial than just the usual ‘coffee morning’ fare.

Like a cure for cancer, for instance. Or the secret of Eternal Life…

That’s the thing with electoral campaigns, you know. It’s in their nature to escalate as we get closer to voting day. Traditionally, political parties always save their best electoral promises – or their worst political mud-slinging, depending how you look at things – for the very end. It’s a little bit like stand-up comedy… no, wait, let me rephrase that. It’s a whole lot like stand-up comedy, now that I think about it. Partly because – like political billboards – comedians tend to be at their funniest when they don’t mean to be funny at all; and partly also because… well, they don’t usually give away their best gags at the start of the show, do they?

No: as a rule, they will always start with something ‘safe’ and ‘middle-of-the-road’ – if nothing else, just to gauge the audience’s reaction – and then progressively unleash their finest material as they build towards a climax.

Usually, it’s the same with electoral campaigns. On day one, they’ll offer you maybe a free pen-drive or a mobile charger… you know, just to gauge how easily your vote can be bought later… but if you hold out till the eve of the election, they’ll eventually drive you to the nearest home refurbishing store, and simply invite you to take your pick of domestic appliances and white goods. (Come to think of it, I still have a whole room stuffed full of Indesit washing machines and Zanussi fridge-freezers – or ‘fridge-freebies’, as we used to call them – left over from the summer of ’98… one for every house visit, in fact…)

But where was I? Oh yes, elections campaigns. Well, just look at the one that’s going on right now. With more than a week still to go before the election, the PN has just topped every electoral promise ever made (not just here in Malta, but everywhere in the democratic world). ‘Vote for us… and together, we’ll beat cancer’.

Yikes! I mean, if that’s their mid-to-late campaign pitch… what the hell are they going to come up with on election eve, that could possibly up that ante? “Vote PN, and together we’ll… um… reverse the ageing process? Make mortality history? End all wars, famine, disease and death? Bring all your dearly departed back from the grave…?”

I don’t know, but it’s going to have to be something pretty darn miraculous, not to come across as an anti-climax after that last electoral promise. A cure for cancer, no less. Something tells me that no amount of ‘fridge-freebies’ is going to do the trick. Not even a permanent exemption from income tax would come close. Nor a ‘word with the PA’ about that dodgy permit application... nor a free parking space right outside your front-door… and no, not a cushy job in the Civil Service for that unemployable son-of-a-friend-of-a-relative of yours, either…

Forget it. The bar has now been firmly raised. All the old ways of buying an election are clearly out of the window. Henceforth, political parties are going to have to be a little more… creative than they’ve ever been before. I now expect that, in no time at all, they’ll be finding cures for everything from dysentery, to AIDS/HIV, to Hepatitis A, B, C, D (and sometimes E); the Ebola virus; and heck, maybe even chicken-pox, while they’re at it… thus also putting an end to all this ‘anti-vaxxer’ nonsense once and for all.

Naturally, this is all wonderful news. And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment, too. I myself am reaching that age when ‘cancer’ is no longer something you just read about in the newspapers… or which only ever happens to other people’s grandparents. I am stepping into that zone when things like ‘cancer’ become possibilities you contemplate may actually one day happen to yourself. And which start happening to real people, in your wider circle of family and friends, almost everywhere you look…

So I must say, I am hugely relieved to find that I just no longer have to worry about it at all. All I have to do is go down to the polling station next Saturday, cast my vote for all the Nationalist MEP candidates on the ballot sheet… and hey presto! ‘Together, we will beat cancer’. A cancer-free future is guaranteed…

Mind you, it does raise a few teenie-weenie questions. Like… how long has the PN been sitting on this miracle cancer-cure it seems to have just suddenly discovered? Like I said earlier: I’m at an age when friends and acquaintances do get diagnosed with cancer from time to time. I’m happy to report that some of these cancer victims have indeed fought, and won, their battles with this disease. (For it is true that cancer – some forms, anyway – can be beaten).

But I also know other people who fought their battles, and lost. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to state that a fair percentage of all the people I have ever known, and who are now dead, died specifically of that very disease, in one form or another.

Would any of them still be around today, I wonder, if the PN made that electoral promise, say, 10 years ago (i.e., before an election it actually had a chance of winning) instead of today? Might they have been ‘saved’ by a Nationalist victory at the polls, where months and years of chemotherapy had been to no avail? And if so… how, exactly? What medical breakthrough has the PN been able to achieve, in the field of cancer research, that has so far eluded the best and most eminent cancer specialists for well over 100 years?

Actually, this latter question has already been asked (because, unsurprisingly, cancer patients were kind of curious to understand this ‘new hope’ they were suddenly given, on the eve of an election)… and apparently, the idea is to “to find a solution, even from Europe”… in the form of “the European People’s Party’s (EPP) lead candidate for European Commission president Manfred Weber [proposing] a master plan which would see funding for cancer research doubled across the EU in order to better fight the disease….”

Erm… hang on a second there. For starters, this is beginning to sound suspiciously like Baldric from ‘Black Adder’: it’s not so much that the PN has ‘discovered a cure for cancer’; but that… ‘they have a cunning plan’. (Or, better still… they would have a cunning plan, if only enough people voted for them in a European election…)

Even then, however – i.e., even if the PN does pull off an even bigger miracle than merely ‘curing cancer’, by actually winning a majority of seats in this election – this ‘cunning plan’ would still be contingent on Manfred Weber going on to become European Commission President (a 50-50 chance, at best), and then convincing the EU to double its cancer research budget… not to mention the ability of those researchers to actually find a flipping cure for cancer at all: no matter how much money the EU throws at them for that purpose.

And yes, great, they’d have twice as much money to do it with. But ‘discovering cures for killer diseases’ is not like winning an election, you know. It doesn’t depend exclusively on how generous you are with other people’s money. The most Manfred Weber’s ‘master plan’ can possibly hope to achieve is to facilitate cancer research in the only way a non-specialist can. By donating money to the cause.
And hey, I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, either. I can certainly think of far worse things the EU can spend its tax-payers’ money on (starting with the entire European Parliament itself, lock stock and two smokin’ barrels).

But if that is the full extent of the Nationalist Party’s ‘anti-cancer’ initiative… a vague and nebulous proposal to increase EU cancer-research spending, with not even the remotest guarantee that the fight against cancer will be won… well, it’s a far cry from ‘beating cancer’, don’t you think?

All things considered… I’m beginning to miss the good old days. I think I prefer the more archaic ways of simply buying elections. The times when political parties made promises we all knew they were actually capable of keeping. Like jobs for the boys, for instance; or special exemptions from taxes. Or fridge-freezers…. Hey, that’ll do nicely, in fact. Only it’s a dishwasher I need this time. Preferably with a five-year warranty. You can manage that, can’t you?

So tell you what: save all the ‘cure for cancer’ promises for when you really do make that elusive medical research breakthrough… and for the time being, just get me a dishwasher. Something I can see, feel, and touch with my own two hands… and which actually has a practical use for a change.

Then, and only then… yeah, sure, what the hell? I’ll vote for you guys no problem…

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