Gaħan laburist? This is all just locker room talk, surely...

The Skinny | No 98 – Gaħan Goes Voting

Justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis

What are we skinning? The revelation of a particular slice of WhatsApp correspondence between Justice and Governance Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and the alleged mastermind of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, in which Zammit Lewis makes reference to “stupid Labour voters” (Laburist Gahan) who seek to curry favour with some of his colleagues in exchange for favours.

Why are we skinning it? It confirms what a lot of us have suspected for a long time: that beneath the thin veneer of egalitarianism and populist rhetoric, the post-Muscat Labour elite’s tendencies towards suspiciously ‘PN-like’ levels of sleazy snobbery very much rule the roost to this day.

But surely we must make a distinction between what is said in private and one’s public stance and policies? In theory yes, but inclusivity was the key ingredient of the Labour Party’s stratospheric success post-2013, along with the impression that Muscat’s government-in-waiting would do its utmost to ensure the country is never run by an elite ‘klikka’.

It seems that Zammit Lewis was annoyed by voters resorting to clientelism, though, more than anything… That may be, but neither can we deny that ‘Laburist Gahan’ is an innately classist slur that says far more about the person using it than it does about the segment of the population it’s levelled at.

How do you mean? ‘Gahan’ is a folksy country-bumpkin figure. Not just ‘stupid’, but stupid in a particular way.

In what particular way? The Gahan is poorly educated and wholly disinterested in improving their intellectual plight, scraping around at the bottom of the barrel for any remaining scraps tossed over by his superiors. That kind of thing.

It’s certainly a bad thing to call someone. But how does the ‘laburist’ thing fit into it exactly? Let’s put it this way. Do you think that Gahan Nazzjonalist’ would roll as easily off the tongue for someone of Zammit Lewis’s ilk.

I see what you did there and I agree, and now I feel dirty. Exactly. In one fell swoop, Zammit Lewis resurrected the ugly stereotype of Labour voters as lumbering, thoughtless drones.

Not all of them, though, surely. Academic as it is to point out, you may be on to something there.

How so? Well, chances are that Zammit Lewis is performing another facet of the Muscat legacy here - take the Gahan for granted (i.e., that old school Labourite who has helped prop up the party through thick and thin) and focus your attention on the non-Gahan… who in the imaginatively limited sphere Zammit Lewis and his ilk operate, will be limited to the scions of big business.

With construction intensifying and any concerted effort at promoting culture having dissipated after 2018, the results of that approach are evident for all to see. Quite.

Do say: “Edward Zammit Lewis’s casual elitism shows a contempt for the electorate which is both telling and depressing.”

Don’t say: “This is all just locker room talk, surely?”