Marlene and Godfrey

With Godfrey losing the health ministry in an ensuing Cabinet reshuffle, Marlene’s ire could not be contained

Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia
Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia

There was hardly a backlash or anything said on the surprising decision by MPs Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia to resign from the political party they themselves founded, and right in the middle of a legislature in which they could have been paving the way forward for the PD.

It could not have been worse for those who chose to put their name and face to a fledgling party.

Worse still, they chose to hang on to their parliamentary seat, arguing that they owed it to the people who voted for them – of course – when in all certainty the people who voted for them have by now surely lost their faith in their politics and theatrics.

Malta, like all other places in the world, has a problem with memory. Very few people remember what Marlene Farrugia did in the past or when and where Godfrey Farrugia started off in politics. Nor are they privy to their business interests or even clued in to what their political ideology might actually be.

The two were indeed simply representative of a very traditional type of politician. Marlene’s base was Zurrieq where she actively involved herself in sponsoring village bands and festas and building her political foundations by embracing this kind of soft patronage. Godfrey too, was immersed in his Zebbug constituency, obsessed with fireworks culture and close to the an insular style of politics. Nothing wrong with that – they were after all, constituency MPs in the greater Labour party who had no special need to be as high-minded about their political destiny.

Within this provincial setting of sorts, both MPs were not the liberal, open-minded chaps seeking radical change. On certain issues they were characteristically conservative by being vehemently against IVF and pro-life on other issues, even anti-divorce when both MPs had had their fair share of matrimonial discontent.

Marlene Farrugia had swayed from a Labour background to the Nationalist arena (when married to the former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando) and then back to Labour and then once again, cosying up with the PN. She was so comfortable with this Tarzan-like swinging that she considered herself as a suitable PN leadership contender at one point.

Godfrey on the other hand started off as an independent politician who seemed to have reluctantly landed himself a Labour candidature. He was instantly made health minister under the first Muscat administration. It was a choice borne out of Muscat’s insistence that only one of the Farrugia power couple have a Cabinet post – and Marlene sent off Godfrey to the executive, yet the new minister actually appointed his partner to be his own, unpaid, consultant. That little venture came to an abrupt end as soon as the media cried foul.

And then, what followed next was Marlene’s constant lament in the shadows about how Labour’s slogan ‘Malta Taghna Lkoll’ had been one big joke. Almost immediately, with Godfrey losing the health ministry in an ensuing Cabinet reshuffle, Marlene’s ire could not be contained. With Konrad Mizzi now as super-minister for both energy and health, matters simply came to a head with the Panama Papers scandal, the straw that broke the camel’s back and, justifiably in certain respects, led to Marlene’s parliamentary outbursts and her final decision to leave Labour.

In her singular battle as independent MP she finally embraced and praised PN leader Simon Busuttil who returned the compliment, and throughout all this time, Godfrey Farrugia retained his position of whip for the PL.

It was an untenable position, for the gallant whip had to contend with a domestic partner who was his own party’s self-styled adversary. I wonder whether she even cared about Godfrey Farrugia’s predicament at that stage, for at times Godfrey truly seemed to be out of his depth by kow-towing to his partner’s self-centred approach to politics when he had his own career to cultivate.

Marlene’s antics were also unwelcome for the PN. Never mind the excessive brio at the rallies and meetings, and the delirious rhetoric and celebrations inside the PN clubs. There were questionable moments in the PN-PD coalition that ensued: even at the supposed moment that Marlene Farrugia had clinched her coalition deal with Simon Busuttil, she was accompanied by the discredited police supergrass Mario Portelli, whose conspiratorial claims were not only thrown out by the courts (his recent sectioning and livestreaming antics alleging he holds sensitive information on political leaders, turned him into some PD protegé...).

The rest is history. With the Egrant affair as their propellant, the PD burnt its bridges with any Labour support they could muster, and creamed off some Nationalist middle-of-the-road voters who parked their number 1 vote with a PD candidate. The PD succeeded in electing two MPs by hitching a ride on the PN, which lost two MPs before realising what a mistake they had committed.

And even at that point, freshly elected to parliament and learning of Simon Busuttil’s resignation, Marlene was actually kite-flying a PN leadership bid. It was soon clear this was not on and had no chance of finding fertile ground in the PN, so she joined the anti-Delia chorus.

Fast-forward to 2019, where the PD managed to steal most of the third-party limelight from the long standing Greens, wallowing in existential mode from the resignation of stalwart Arnold Cassola, and largely thanks to a new kind of candidate, the clean-up campaigner Camilla Appelgren, who managed to steal Godrey’s thunder in the European elections.

Yet the PD failed to make any inroads.

What many did not realise was that Marlene’s political project was simply a vehicle to carry her forward. Surely but slowly many people realised that the PD would die a natural death – and indeed, it was right after Marlene Farrugia’s bid to make life hard for Adrian Delia’s co-option to parliament, that an exodus of former candidates and activists took place.

Without its two MPs in the House, this is truly the end of Partit Demokratiku.

Maybe it is also a chance for Alternattiva Demokratika to regroup, and bring together those who feel they should take the environmental battle-cry to the polling booth. If the environmentalists want to change our political destiny they have to threaten the political class and the establishment with their vote: but it has to be about a vision and not about reaching some personal goal, as was the case with PD.