Will Labour come clean? It surely cannot have it both ways

So long as Muscat clings to his position as Prime Minister, the cleaning up cannot be pursued with the Herculean energy that is needed

For the new leader it will be no easy task. In Labour’s current circumstances, publicly hugging Muscat is no way to start it
For the new leader it will be no easy task. In Labour’s current circumstances, publicly hugging Muscat is no way to start it

Labour cannot have it both ways.

The new leader – whether it is Chris Fearne or Robert Abela – cannot promise to come clean and cut off Labour from the Joseph Muscat era when the sleaze led to an assassination while, at the same time, joining and hugging Muscat on his pathetic ‘farewell tour’.

For many level-headed persons, it pains to see the two contenders for the Labour leadership on the same bandwagon of the discredited leader. A true Machiavellian to the end, Muscat is organising a ‘triumphal’ roadshow in a bid to hang on to power for some more time and resign from the premiership in a ‘celebratory’ mood; when it would be more appropriate for him to disappear immediately into oblivion.

This is nothing but a schizophrenic stance. On one side the two Labour candidates want the vote of those Labour Party card-carrying members who still idolise Joseph Muscat. At the same time, they need to send the message to all level-headed Maltese citizens that the

Muscat era is over and that whoever is elected leader will be doing his job in the right way.

The right way begins with the cleaning of the mess that the new leader will inherit from Muscat. When Hercules had to clean up King Augeas’ stables of 30 years of dirt in one day, Hercules knew this job would mean getting dirty and smelly, but sometimes even a hero has to do these things. So long that both he and the stables end up squeaky clean.

For the new leader it will be no easy task. In Labour’s current circumstances, publicly hugging Muscat is no way to start it.

Meanwhile, of course, Muscat soldiers on with the gall of pretending that he has no fault because he was betrayed by friends working behind his back. This narrative is easy to sell to those who idolise him... but everybody else finds it impossible to accept. Not just the members of the ‘Daphne fan club’, but everybody else. This includes all men and women of good will who are revulsed, as they cannot accept – as a matter of principle – an assassination ordered with the connivance of people in the Prime Minister’s office.

As the last week has shown us, those who cannot stomach Muscat’s role in this sordid affair includes people from all shades of the political kaleidoscope. These include even those who were victims of Daphne’s diatribes – irrespective of their justification or lack thereof – as well as genuine Labour supporters who are on the point of despair when they realise how Muscat and his friends have managed to push Malta to the edge of a precipice.

The number of high-profile Labour supporters who have gone publicly declaring that Muscat should leave immediately from his prime ministerial position is impressive. This is no surprise. Muscat’s clique at Castille has crossed a red line. Now Labour has to go back and start behaving responsibly.

The narrative that Muscat did all he could in order to find those who killed Daphne Caruna Galizia’s murderers and those who ordered and paid for her assassination pales into insignificance when it is obvious that Muscat failed to take the obvious action that everybody in their right senses thought he should have done a long time ago.

Even worse: so long as Muscat clings to his position as Prime Minister, it seems that the cleaning up cannot be pursued with the Herculean energy that is needed.

This is obvious from what has been going on in these days. Like the former PM’s chief-of-staff being grilled by the police for his part in giving the middleman a ‘ghost’ job with a state entity.

For many, it looks like grilling Al Capone for a parking violation.

This sort of shenanigan on the part of the police does nothing to restore the people’s trust in Malta’s institutions. All it indicates is the need for Muscat to step down immediately, sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, he has had his way and the party has accepted his timetable for leaving.

This is doing untold harm to the country, and the responsibility for this does not rest solely on Muscat. The onus is also on the Cabinet, the Labour parliamentary group, and the executive of the Labour Party.

Labour cannot have it both ways.

There is no better time for coming clean than to start doing it immediately. And the signs from Labour are not encouraging.

Young people and labour

A survey published in this paper’s midweek edition last Wednesday has revealed a new trend among young people – a trend that is more accentuated among those with tertiary education. More of them are opposing Labour following the revelations about the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Since the PN in government opened up the University to all after assuming power in 1987, the number of tertiary students exploded. More so since the stipends system enabled everybody to have access to tertiary education.

The number of university students from low-income families increased drastically, correcting an imbalance that had existed since the University was founded 250 years ago.

This led to more Labour-leaning graduates. The change in administration in 2013 with Muscat’s landslide victory was indirectly influenced by the change in the social background of university graduates. As a student, Muscat himself benefitted from the PN policies on education. So did many of the candidates who made up the face of ‘new’ Labour.

For some time, Malta was considered a ‘normal’ country – which meant that interest in political issues among tertiary level students was no big deal. Frankly, many students couldn’t be bothered about which party was in government – life was fine just the same.

The motivation and the execution of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia have distanced tertiary education students and – to a lesser extent – other young people away from Labour. Voting intentions have swung drastically against Labour.

This is a classic irony of fate.

The PN’s radical changes in Malta’s tertiary education first produced a crop of Labour ‘intelligentsia’ leading to the electoral triumphs of the so-called Joseph Muscat movement.

Joseph Muscat’s behaviour in government is now having the opposite effect: pushing graduates and young people away from Labour.
This is how the wheels of political fortune keep on turning and returning.

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