Surely Fearne kicks himself for not booking the long weekends before Abela

The Skinny | No. 52 • The PM’s weekend breaks

Robert Abela gets ready to plough the waves for another weekend break
Robert Abela gets ready to plough the waves for another weekend break

What are we skinning? Prime Minister Robert Abela making his deputy Chris Fearne acting prime minister for six times since May (he had two official visits abroad however), but still…

Why are we skinning it? Well, after the whole Ragusa boating holiday went viral, and some other Gozo boating vids, you sort of start thinking whether a prime minister who takes frequent weekend breaks is a bad look during a pandemic and a partly self-inflicted refugee-related PR crisis.

So you’re saying the Prime Minister shouldn’t take weekend breaks? Not at all. It’s only a fascinating insight into the brilliant handle that the most powerful politician in Malta has on the summer magic.

But recreational time is also an important facet of professional life, all the more so when you’re occupying a post that is so public, and prone to so much pressure. But he knew that going in.

Okay, but I don’t want a burnt-out PM. That’s when the TRUE hare-brained, trigger-fingered decisions happen. I would imagine that former bodybuilder Robert Abela knows how to pace himself and conserve his energies either way, holiday or no holiday.

How do you think Fearne feels about all this? You’ll have to ask him. I’m sure that every single weekend he gets told he is acting PM he checks the Cabinet leave calendar and kicks himself for not booking the long weekends first.

There’s quite a lot to sift through, if we’re honest. Quite. Assuming office right in the wake of Joseph Muscat’s unceremonious downfall, COVID-19, and the ongoing flow of refugee arrivals, which Abela has decided to ‘tackle’ with a decidedly populist stick.

But we’re back to his energy levels now: didn’t he explicitly complain about just how ‘exhausting’ the refugee situation is to him, during this interview with Andrew Azzopardi? Yes. He said that keeping track of incoming boats is a constant job, and that although it ‘pleases’ him whenever we succeed in turning them away, he does find the relentless nature of it quite tiring.

An odd take-away, don’t you think? Yes. But if exhaustion is Abela’s primary feeling here, I envy him.

Why? A lot of the migrants that it ‘pleases’ Abela to push back will end up in a highly volatile situation in Libya. ‘Exhaustion’ might not be the first feeling that would come up if I were in his shoes, I reckon. Slow-gnawing, crippling guilt would be more likely…

But you’re not in his shoes. This is a decision you won’t ever likely have the misfortune to have to take. And it’s just one of the many thorny choices a PM has to take on an almost-daily basis. So I should shut up and cease all attempts at criticism, is that what you’re implying?

No. I would just like us to keep a cool head about it, and maintain some perspective. The kind of perspective that we’re often illuminated by after a refreshing and restorative weekend break, you mean?

Possibly. Yes, I am in fact tempted to book a sunshine-and-treadmill holiday over in Sicily now that another long weekend is coming up. Our prime minister’s not the only one who’s ‘exhausted’.

Do say: “While the prime minister is certainly entitled to take time off every now and then, we’re also perfectly within our rights to inquire into how and where the political leader of our country is spending his time during a pandemic.”

Don’t say: “Malta is a generally saner place when Chris Fearne is at the helm. Maybe Abela can begin to take even longer holidays that expand and expand with each passing month? Sounds like a win-win solution for all concerned.”

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