Would we be better off if Prof. Gauci did all of the talking? Oh gods, yes.

The Skinny • No. 36 | Robert Abela’s Interminable Speechifying

Duration of an Abela speech? Almost a back-to-back Lord of the Rings marathon
Duration of an Abela speech? Almost a back-to-back Lord of the Rings marathon

What are we skinning? Prime Minister Robert Abela’s speech introducing newly relaxed COVID-19 measures.

Why are we skinning it? Because it inflated the conference to the length of an average feature film, for reasons that are both interesting and worrying.

But this is a health crisis, surely a rhetorical analysis of the prime minister’s waffling is not top priority? Oh, it is precisely because this is a health crisis that such waffling felt both annoying and inappropriate.

How do you mean? The real reason the majority of us tuned in for the conference is to learn what the measures themselves were going to entail.

And we did... Yes. After what felt like a back-to-back Lord of the Rings marathon.

So? We all know that Fearne and Gauci are the ‘health gurus’ in that equation. Let our prime minister have his fun... The Prime Minister is meant to set the tone, though, not simply indulge his moment in the spotlight with a repetitive and patronising speech.

Patronising? How? Calling us all ‘heroes’ and essentially berating the anxious among us for ‘giving in to fear’ seems like quite the patronising – not to say negatively paternalistic – tone to take. One wonders how much of this is meant to be inspiring and fortifying for the nation, and how much of it is simple ego at play.

Okay, but this is starting to sound like a psychoanalysis of Robert Abela... Well, if a politician just runs on for so much, he’ll generate a huge amount of words. An amount of words that clearly open him up to psychoanalytic interpretation.

Look, I’m just glad someone is ready to emphasise some positives out of all this. Fair enough, it does us good to energise ourselves with the bright side right now. But times of crisis also require clarity above all, and long-winded speeches hardly contribute to that.

Come on – Health Minister Chris Fearne is known to wax lyrical too. Yes, I’ve noted his repeated melange of metaphors: Waves, rivers, ripples and during that last conference, even mountains. But apart from there being something inherently more idyllic about nature images, the fact that they’re metaphors is key.

How so? Metaphors collate, combine and shorten. They are a time-tested way of delivering a message without having to resort to lengthy pontification. Perhaps our prime minister would do well to remember this.

So you’re basically saying we’d been better off if Prof. Gauci did all of the talking? Oh gods, yes.

Do say: “Prime Minister Robert Abela may wish to consider editing down his speeches so as to avoid making potentially derailing faux pas as the words keep churning and churning. Clarity of messaging is of utmost importance during a pandemic, and that includes being free of waffle and excessive sloganeering.”

Don’t say: “Give our PM a break: he needs to fill up air time to make up for our newly-reduced time with Profs Gauci.”

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