The Lion of Change eats lunch with Ic-Caqnu
I’ve just finished watching BondiPlus. It turns out that just before Labour made such a great fuss about the Safi supermarket permit resignations at the MEPA (the project is one of Charles Polidano’s), Labour’s Lion of Change was seen eating lunch with Ic-Caqnu himself – his guest at the Le Meridien in St Julian’s. I wonder what he chose off the menu – half an ox, probably.
You can’t do anything on this island, can you?
And so the lovely Rachel Attard found out and confronted the unlovely Alfred Sant under one of his many tents. Sant answered her with the question we have all come to expect from him now, ‘Ghaliex le?’ I’ll put the rest of his reply in English, to save my having to translate for our international viewers: ‘If they were eating together, I hope it was a nice meal in an informal context. Can’t one person eat with another?’
Apparently not, because when Sant’s stork-like sidekick Charlon Gouder found a years-old photograph of Jesmond Mugliett having dinner with the architect Robert Sant – who is now working on the infamous bridge – he stalked the prime minister with it in his hands for days. You have to hand it to Charlon: he’s a single-issue man. His obsessions verge on perversion.
So let’s see now – why would the Lion of Change have been lunching a deux with Charles Polidano, one of the barons that Labour dislikes so much, saying that he gets whatever he wants from this government? Perhaps the Lion of Change was dispatched to secure a donation for his party’s coffers. We know that Labour are such bad financial managers that they’re always broke. They pay their people peanuts, and when I won a libel suit against them, and they had to pay me around Lm600 (Joseph Muscat was required to pay another Lm600), my lawyer ended up having to place a warrant of seizure on all their bank accounts – and still we just couldn’t find that Lm600. I had to call Jason Micallef and threaten to send in the bailiffs for Alfred Sant’s desk and computer and finally I got a cheque in the mail.
That’s Labour for you. Then they want to tell this government how to make the economy grow by 4% (when it’s growing by 4% already – oh sorry, that was a misprint; we meant 6%).
Watch your tongue, Gunther Verheugen
Gunther Verheugen put in an appearance in the 2003 general election, reminding us that what the Nationalist Party says about Europe isn’t spin but fact. It seems that the people of Malta won’t believe their own prime minister and must have outside confirmation. Needs must when the devil drives.
Now here’s Verheugen again, interviewed via satellite link for BondiPlus, telling us that what Sant says he’s going to do isn’t ‘legally possible’, and even if he were to attempt the impossible and try, he’s going to have to knock on 26 prime ministerial doors and make his case to each and every one of them. That’s something that has never happened before, Verheugen said.
Sant wasn’t on the show to say that he’d bite off his long tongue, like he did last time, but his old friend Evarist Bartolo was, as slimy, snake-like and underhand as ever. And what is this problem that Labour people have with heckling the prime ministers they don’t agree with? My abiding memory of the 2003 general election is of Sant heckling Fenech Adami in that washerwoman’s voice he uses when he’s cross, even as the credits rolled in the last Broadcasting Authority debate of the campaign.
Now here was Evarist Bartolo, talking over the prime minister and interrupting him, not letting him say that the reason Malta is in the Eurozone in the first place is because Sant is wrong about Malta being in a financial mess. You can’t be in a financial mess when you enter the Eurozone. It’s not allowed. If Gonzi were of the washerwoman frame of mind, like Bartolo is despite pretending to be an intellectual like Sant, he might have said: ‘The Labour Party would know all about finances that are in a mess, wouldn’t it?’ But he’s not that kind of man, and that’s why people prefer him to The Other One.
Gonzi coins a slogan for Labour
‘Aghzel Labour ghax ihammeg’ – a sort of reverse washing-powder, perhaps. Throw a dash of Labour in your washing-machine and your laundry comes out dirty and stinking.
I have a theory about Sant and the EU
He keeps repeating that the referendum result counted for nothing in his book, that he has no regrets about his stance on EU membership, and that the only verdict he rates is the verdict in a general election.
Now he lists the various fights he intends to pick with the European Union. He also has one of those dreadfully incapacitating mindsets that allows for no revision of a fixed view. People miss this fact because on other matters, Sant chops and changes as he goes along, all in the interests of opportunism. But those are minor issues as far as he’s concerned. On his major, life-defining issue of EU membership for Malta, he hasn’t changed his tune for 40 years, and he isn’t going to.
So, taking all these factors and clues into consideration, this is what he’s revving up to do. First he makes it plain that he’s still Eurosceptic and that he plans to ‘renegotiate’ with Europe. That way, we are forewarned of his intentions, and if we elect him prime minister, he will consider himself as having a mandate to press forward with his Eurosceptic approach and his attempts at renegotiation.
When his renegotiation attempts fail at the first hurdle, he’ll begin trying to pull us away from, and ultimately out of, the European Union. Because he doesn’t believe in referendums, but only in general elections, he won’t even ask us for our opinion. We can march and mass and protest in streets and squares as we did in the 1980s, and he’ll just ignore us and tell us that the result of a general election is what counts, and we voted for him to renegotiate with Europe.
Gonzi keeps asking why there is nothing in Labour’s electoral programme about what they plan to do with the €855 million in funds that will come in from the EU. Well, that’s the reason why. Sant’s plan is to have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU, still less with its funds. It’s dirty money to him. Show him a bunch of euros, and he recoils. I haven’t heard him say the word ‘euro’ once in this entire campaign.
If he has his way, there’ll be no funds to bother about because there’ll be no EU membership to bother about either.
He still hasn’t forgiven us for voting Yes in that referendum. He really can’t stand us for doing it. He despises all those of us who are pro-European, and that’s another reason he despises university students – because they booed him for trying to keep them out of the EU. That’s why he’s turning this general election into a No vote for Europe and hoping that we’re fool enough not to notice.
Evarist the democrat
Evarist Bartolo said on BondiPlus that we shouldn’t be afraid Labour will take us out of Europe. With that expression of outraged honour that he likes to wear – when he’s not wearing the one that says ‘I’m an intellectual and you’re not’ – he turned to the prime minister and said: ‘At our party’s general conference in 2001, we decided that if people vote for EU membership in the 2003 general election, we will respect their decision.’
Ar’hemm hej. Allahares le, as my grandmother would say. How did they structure the question for that vote, I wonder: will we or won’t we respect the people’s verdict in the 2003 general election? Then they vote to respect the people’s decision and applaud themselves for being democratic. What are these people, and which part of what deeply secluded jungle did they come from?
You will notice that Bartolo made no mention of the referendum that lay up ahead when he and his party folk took that landmark vote for democracy at the 2001 general conference. The Iva/Le campaign was already up and running, but they were pretending that no referendum was going to happen. We forget just how bad Sant really is: while Malta was gearing up for a referendum vote, he was gearing up to pretend that it never happened (except for that brief moment when partnership won and he was drunk on a lorry with his tie askew, wondering what fate now held in store for him).
VAT on school ties and 5% off an atlas
I want to rush at the television screen and give that Evarist Bartolo a good shake when I hear him speaking about things that he can’t possibly believe in. The man wasn’t born without a brain, and he knows how to maximise his advantages. For example, he fought against EU membership in the trenches at his friend Sant’s side, but I knew he couldn’t possibly dislike the idea. Then, when his super-intelligent high-achieving daughter (a really smart girl) won a place at Cambridge, he was able to take advantage of EU membership and the fact that he doesn’t have to pay the crippling fees that apply to non-EU citizens.
You have to hand it to Labour. They really know how to work the very system they pretended to fight against to keep the irascible Sant happy. Some of the party’s keenest front-line anti-EU fighters were the first to stick their noses into the European Commission trough.
So why did I want to give Bartolo a good shake this time? It was when I heard him defend Sant’s nutty proposal about what he claims is VAT on education. Not only is there no VAT on education, but education itself is completely free for those who need it like that, paid for mainly out of other people’s taxes. How do you slap VAT on something for which you pay nothing?
The Labour Party thinks very little of its supporters if it thinks they’ll swallow this. But apparently, some of them do. I watched Claudette Baldacchino interviewing them at a mass meeting the other week and they were all saying how good this measure will be because VAT on education is almost forcing them to go out and beg on the streets.
Lou Bondi pointed out to Bartolo that the Labour Party defines ‘VAT on education’ as VAT on school ties, atlases, schoolbooks (the VAT on any sort of book is a measly 5%), computers, software, desks, stationery, pens, satchels, shoes, uniforms – with children, the list is endless. As Bondi remarked, what’s to stop parents buying assorted desks and pieces of furniture or computers for themselves, and then claiming them as educational items under Labour’s whacky policy?
Bartolo wasn’t amused. He put on his expression of outraged honour again. How dare Bondi criticise Sant’s policy? ‘You’d better be careful,’ he warned him in that Labour voice, ‘or we’ll know for sure that what people say about you is true.’
‘What do people say about me that’s true?’ Bondi asked. And Bartolo replied, ‘They call your show GonziPlus.’ Oooooooh – harsh one, Ev. You really have to hand it to these Labour big cheeses: the ability to crack a good joke is not their strong point.
For those of you who are curious about this Amazing Plan for VAT Off Education, this is how it works. Bartolo explained it. They’ll get into government and then they’ll see. Just like with the surcharge. And just like when they removed VAT and found themselves reinventing the tax wheel.
They do have a vague outline, though: parents will collect all the receipts for every single pen, pencil, school tie, atlas and blank CD they buy. Then every couple of months they’ll send these mountains of receipts off to a special VAT-Off-Education Department, where a thousand little elves will be employed to sort through the thumbed and well-worn detritus and check each little stub carefully for cheating. Then they’ll them up, work out the VAT element in each total, check the parents’ details, and work out a VAT refund to be allocated along with the children’s allowance.
Practical, isn’t it? Just like all Labour’s stupid gimmicks, it doesn’t make sense (why are we not surprised, when the person who comes up with them doesn’t make any sense either?). Wouldn’t it be cheaper and cost far less in man-hours to just slap on a straightforward increase in the children’s allowance cheque?
Ah, but no – that doesn’t have the right ring of a gimmick about it. VAT-Off-Education (when education is free) sounds a whole lot better than Vote for Us and Get Another €100 of children’s allowance every year. Telenovela Sant is at it again.
Labour strikes oil
I’m still waiting for the moment in this election campaign when Labour United produces a giant geological map and tells us that its secret oil-rigs have struck liquid gold.
Under yet another tent, this time in Senglea, Sant gave us his word that he will strike oil when elected prime minister (‘Ghaliex le? Konvint.’).
He most certainly is hoping he will, because it’s the only chance he’s got of solving the problem he’s landed his party with before they’ve even got into government. Lino Spiteri must be wiping the sweat off his brow with relief that none of this is ever going to be his responsibility.
You see, Sant is still sticking to his guns about halving the electricity surcharge for families (the European Commission won’t let him halve it for businesses, as that counts as state aid), even as the price of oil hit €103 a barrel in the last couple of days. When he first made his reckless commitment, oil cost €89 a barrel. In the mere course of this electoral campaign, the cost to the taxpayer of Sant’s opportunistic electioneering promise has soared by millions of euros.
Where’s he going to get that money? Don’t look around the room, because there’s nobody else there but you.
Being positive hurts them in the guts
The prime minister and Evarist Bartolo were asked to give just one final sentence each to wrap up that edition of BondiPlus. Well, what do you know? Bartolo stuck to the grand old Labour tradition of manipulating negative sentiments. ‘If you have always voted PN and are fed up of this government, come to us. Vote Labour,’ he said.
Classy act, our Ev – he would use his last TVM comment before the general election to address the disgruntled Nationalist vote, instead of filling us with hope and inspiration at the wonders of a new Labour government.
Come over to the Dark Side. Darth Vader is waiting for you.