[WATCH] ‘Mintoff was not an innovator,’ former journalist says

Former journalist and communications expert Godfrey Grima discusses his time at the Financial Times and a career spanning over four decades

Godfrey Grima
Godfrey Grima

Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff oversaw “great social changes” in Malta but was not necessarily the innovator of this change, according to former journalist Godfrey Grima.

“Mintoff built on what had been started by the Labour parties of [Paul] Boffa after the war,” he said.

Other than the introduction of Children’s Allowance, said Grima, most fiscal regulation implemented at the time as well as social benefits granted to the population were part of the “milieu” of Labour governments that preceded him.

Grima was a guest on the programme XTRA Sajf on TVM where he discussed his long career which included a 40-year stint as foreign correspondent at the Financial Times (FT).

He recalled how after working as a casual labourer at the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror he had been accepted to work at Financial Times’ foreign desk.

The role saw him become part of the first team of eight people at the department which today has over 500 correspondents, he said.

“I recently went to original members’ funeral and people still say that that was the golden age of the foreign desk,” said Grima. “We were the beginning of it, we used to do everything.”

He described how he was recruited shortly before the dispute between Malta and the UK, where Malta was demanding payment from the United Kingdom for the use of base facilities in Malta.

“I still had a good relationship with Mintoff at the time,” said Grima, adding that he had tried to make every argument imaginable not be the one to cover the story.

“The fact that I was Maltese meant that people reading the Financial Times in Malta would interpret me within a Maltese context. If negotiations were to take a turn for the worse for Dom Mintoff and I were to say it would people would think of me as working against Malta.”

He said up to a certain point, Mintoff had considered his coverage to be good however this ended once Mintoff made, what in Grima’s opinion was a big mistake.

“He wanted to threaten the English with Exchange Control Act that would have obliged Maltese people to bring their money back from the England and worse still, have Mintoff decide the exchange rate himself,” said Grima.

“We examined the law well and the editor decided that it had to be written, so I wrote it,” he continued.

Grima described how this resulted in him being insulted in parliament and even being taken to court.   

On how he judged Mintoff as a person, Grima said that the former Prime Minister was a very jealous person, and one who would always try and convince people that his argument was the correct one, even when he was wrong.

“He was to certain extent cruel, not only with his enemies but even with his allies,” said Grima. “He would hurl abuse at his ministers and accuse them of spending too much money abroad, he wasn’t a nice character.”

The full programme can be viewed in the link above. 

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