[WATCH] How Charles Xuereb’s blue tie was interpreted as victory for the PN in 1987

Xtra Sajf on TVM | Veteran broadcaster Charles Xuereb recounts anecdotes from a decades-long career and his controversial views on the George Cross in an interview with Saviour Balzan

Veteran broadcaster Charles Xuereb
Veteran broadcaster Charles Xuereb

Veteran broadcaster Charles Xuereb has recounted how an innocent decision to wear a blue tie on TV during the 1987 election was interpreted as victory for the Nationalist Party.

Sharing his life experiences and beliefs on TVM’s Xtra Sajf on Thursday, Xuereb recounted how it was up to him and economist Edward Scicluna to deliver the election broadcast on Xandir Malta, the State television station, in 1987.

“I am very careful on how I look on TV and so I took different sets of clothes to change in during the marathon 52-hour broadcast from the election hall in Ħal Far. I had taken three ties and the last one left was a blue one. At one point, someone informed me that people were expecting the PN to win because they took my blue tie to be a signal,” Xuereb reminisced.

The PN did go on to win the 1987 general election but Xuereb insisted his tie had nothing to do with covert signals but was simply a display of his fixation to look his best on TV.

Xuereb, 73, recounted other anecdotes from his colourful career that spanned the printed media as a cub reporter with Times of Malta, broadcasting, teaching and his interest in Malta’s history.
Interviewed by Saviour Balzan, he recalled the censorship prevalent back in his teens when as a 15-year-old he published a youth-oriented magazine called Malteen.

“I once had a photo of actress Kim Novak wearing a two-piece bathing suit as part of a film review and without my knowledge, censors simply blotted out the picture with a black box,” he recounted.

It was but one of the many displays of church influence on Maltese society, which he says persisted because the British colonial rulers had no interest in secularising the nation.

Xuereb, a self-declared Francophile, believes Malta lost out when it got rid of French rule and invited the British to take over.

It is his long-standing conviction, based in facts, he argued, that the French would have pushed for secularisation and allowed the Maltese to rule themselves much earlier than the British did.

“The two-year interlude between 1798 and 1800 when the French were blockaded in Malta, was demonised by the British and Church. The church wanted to hang on to its privileges, something which would not have been possible under the French,” he argued.

But travelling forward in history, Xuereb also believes that Malta should remove the George Cross from its national flag. He appreciates the value of the George Cross but insists it is a museum piece and not something that should be displayed on the flag.

“It was the British, in all their cheek, to impose the George Cross on the Maltese flag that had been with us for thousands of years,” he said.

The George Cross controversy is not something recent for Xuereb. He says that he had written a poem in 1967 dissing the George Cross as a symbol of British imposition. At the time, he worked at Mabel Strickland’s Times of Malta, which until today still displays the George Cross on its masthead.

“The poem was only published in 1969 when I had left the Times but had it come out before, Mabel would have certainly terminated my job there and then,” Xuereb chuckled.

He still harbours hope that one day in the future when nostalgia for British rule would have faded, Malta will decide to remove the George Cross.

“In the Constitution, the Maltese flag colours can only be changed by a two-thirds majority vote but only a simple majority is needed to remove the George Cross, which is a clear indication that politicians after independence wanted to leave the door open,” he said.