The new PM's job

So we will have to judge the new Prime Minister by what he does in his first 100 days, rather than by what he has been reported saying during the run-up to the leadership election

I am writing this piece when the election for the new Labour leader is still pending. It will be read when the decision of the Labour Party would have become news and the country will know the identity of the person who is to be our next Prime Minister, tasked with taking our country out of the mess that it finds itself in.

The task ahead is the same – irrespective of whether Chris Fearne or Robert Abela is the new Prime Minister. He will have to oversee and steer the Labour government and the Labour party in their efforts to come clean. The way of doing it will vary according to the personality of the winner, but the task is the same. It is a daunting job and we will only know all about the possibility of it being actually done from the first moves of the new PM.

How different, for example, will the new PM’s set-up at Castille be from the one he will be inheriting from Joseph Muscat? That will be one of the earliest signals.

It will have to be a very interesting balancing act. The new leader will not be able to renounce outright the bad moves and mistakes of his predecessor. Not only because many Labour supporters still support and admire Joseph Muscat, in spite of the fact that recent events have left them in a stupor. Denouncing one’s predecessors is always difficult – remember Alfred Sant calling Dom Mintoff a traitor in his ‘famous’ speech at the Vittoriosa waterfront. Labour lost a small – but important – pocket of voters that returned to the fold only when Muscat succeeded Sant.

When they belong to the same party, leaders do not denounce their predecessors overnight. Nikita Khrushchev gave his famous speech on ‘The Personality Cult and its Consequences’ in a closed session of the congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union some four years after Stalin’s death. Only then did Khrushchev denounce Stalin, the cult of personality he had fostered and the crimes he had perpetrated. And his speech was not meant to be public – the text was smuggled out of Moscow and later published in the West.

Admittedly, there are aspects of this throwback that are more than odious, but – lest I am misunderstood – I am not comparing anybody with Stalin. I am just pointing out the realistic fact that political leaders face a very difficult task when they decide to denounce their predecessors, whatever the circumstances. No Labour leader can be in a position to denounce openly Joseph Muscat’s doings at this point in time.

The differences in the manner by which the two contenders ran their leadership campaign reflects more the differences in the characters and traits of the two personalities, rather than the differences in the way they will behave if they win.

In their campaign leading to the election of the Labour leader, the two contenders said things that jarred with many people. Whether they were doing this just to woo the Labour Party grassroots – rather than because they really meant it – is a judgement that needs to be held back for some time.

Indeed, the two candidates were caught in a quandary: saying that their election would signal continuity sounded right for many of the voters who were to choose between them; but it sounded horribly wrong for most Maltese citizens who expected them to declare that they intend to make a clean sweep of the mess at Castille.

It was a balancing act, an impossible tight-rope walking test that both men failed to overcome – even though, as I have already pointed out, expecting any one of them to denounce Joseph Muscat at this juncture was unrealistic.

So we will have to judge the new Prime Minister by what he does in his first 100 days, rather than by what he has been reported saying during the run-up to the leadership election.

It will not be an easy job. It is no ‘twenty questions’ game.

The new leader’s moral strength is going to be tested as from day one.

Every decision will be scrutinised by everybody. But most of everybody is already biased in favour or against whatever he will be deciding. The need to shake off the shadow of Joseph Muscat while not hurting unduly those who still idolise him will always remain a problem.

The problem stems from the fact that Joseph Muscat had nurtured a personality cult – something that seems to happen with all Labour leaders, irrespective of their suitability to be political leaders. Remember how Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was also revered? Yet, he was in a permanent quandary as he could hardly overturn the short-sighted policies that were put into practice by that other idolised Labour leader, Dom Mintoff.

Idolising political leaders is always wrong, of course, but it is an addiction that Labour Party supporters seem unable to shake off.

The new PM’s job is certainly not an easy one. The courage – or lack thereof – of the new leader to take the bull by the horns and call a spade a spade will make him or unmake him.

It will eventually become a very important topic in Malta’s political history.


Another Trump failure

When Donald Trump was elected President, he abandoned the agreement that was successfully restraining Iran’s nuclear programme and that had been made with the consensus of the entire international community.

Trump not only abandoned that deal. He also instituted a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran, arguing that if the US crippled their economy, they would become less aggressive in the region and go back to the negotiating table. Then he would make a better deal than Obama’s.

This policy has failed miserably.

This is confirmed by Trump’s own words: “The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.”

Rather than refraining from provocative operations, Iran continued doing them and even increased them. They had become so aggressive that the Trump decided to assassinate Iran’s most important military official.

Meanwhile Trump continues to brag: “Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast.”

Psychologists must be having a heyday deciphering Trump’s personality from the way he says things...