They were just joking (maybe)

Published: April 7, 2008 at 11:00pm

Our spy at Labour HQ

Our spy at Labour HQ

Our spy at Labour HQ tells us that the letter instructing leadership hopefuls not to talk to the media or be disqualified from the race was just a joke for April Fool’s Day, designed to prove that Labour has a sense of humour. He pointed out that the letter sent to Labour’s electoral commission from its Board of Vigilance and Discipline is dated 1 April.

Hmmm. I’m not so sure. The Labour Party cracks its April Fool jokes on 31 March – hence the gut-wrenchingly unfunny story last Monday about a new porn channel for Malta, asking people to send in their details to register their interest. Apparently, 2000 did so without checking the contact details given, which directed you to the Malta Labour Party and not to a porn company. Or maybe the toby-jug-shaped (and sized) person who runs doesn’t know why it’s called April Fool’s Day when it’s celebrated on Jum il-Helsien. I think that’s the more likely explanation. Nobody intelligent could possibly take on the job of running unless he had long-term ambitions, like that Poodle, whose first job it was.

I think the real joke is in the fact that they first issued a ban which can’t possibly work, then they were left with an ambiguous situation which they didn’t know how to handle, and so they almost immediately retracted the ban, but not before the entire country had begun to laugh at them for imposing it in the first place.

How does a media-contact ban work, exactly? It shows that these people didn’t really think it through. But then, do they ever? So we ban Michael Falzon from giving an interview. And we ban the reporters and broadcasters who are employed with Super One from giving him coverage. We persuade the newspapers owned by the General Workers Union to play along.

Ah, but here’s the thing: we can’t ban the rest of the media from writing about Michael Falzon and discussing his various merits and demerits. We can’t prevent columnists who are fans of Michael Falzon from writing hagiographic pieces about him. And above all, we can’t prevent those who don’t like him from tearing him to shreds or mocking him in their blogs and their on-line forums. Or those who like him from uploading websites filled with pictures and information about Michael Falzon. But we can prevent Michael Falzon from replying to criticism and putting across his version. None of this makes any sense, and bears a remarkable similarly to the decisions to remove VAT, find oil or else, put in a repeater class, and sell partnership with the EU to a sceptical electorate. Do I detect a pattern here?

I use Michael Falzon as an example. The same holds true for the rest of them – though quite frankly, I would have liked to see the Board of Vigilance and Discipline trying to disqualify Joseph Muscat from the race in defiance of Alfred Sant’s wishes, if he decided to carry on with his self-publicity regardless. I think that’s the most likely reason for their summary retraction of the ban. They realised they’d made themselves hostages to fortune. If they had a bit of a brain about them, they would have realised this immediately. “Oh my god, the Poodle has defied the ban and gone on Xarabank. What do we do now? We can’t disqualify him.”

Ajma, jahasra. Then we had Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, using sophistry to justify the press conference she gave to announce her candidature in the brief period the ban was in force. She said she had called the press conference before she received instructions to behave herself and not speak to the press. Then she said that ‘unlike the other candidates’ she had not made a public declaration of her interest in the leadership before she received those instructions. So she felt at liberty to carry on with the press conference and stick to the rules afterwards. She claimed that Labour’s electoral commission agreed with her.

Well, I don’t know about that. This is what the chairman of Labour’s electoral commission wrote to leadership candidates and prospective candidates in his letter dated 1 April. He wrote that “whoever somehow showed an interest in contesting a leadership post” was not to give comments to the media. “I’ve also been instructed to inform you that whoever fails to abide by these instructions will be disqualified from submitting his nomination once the nominations are open,” he wrote. Clearly, Mrs Coleiro Preca would not have been written to had she not fallen into this category of persons.

Maybe she was the one to defy them, and then they had a real problem on their hands. “Oh my god, Marie Louise is giving a press conference. Now how do we disqualify her from the leadership race without turning her into a martyr to the cause of feminism?”

Sigh. The chairman of Labour’s electoral commission told questing journalists more or less that they should mind their own business because “these are internal party matters.” Mrs Coleiro Preca takes that same argument and stretches it: the election of a Labour Party leader is an internal party matter, but to reach the “900 delegates and more than 140,000 who vote Labour” you have to use the media, she said.

Oh, so by that reasoning, the national media are there to be used to serve the interests of Labour’s leadership contenders, the Labour Party, the delegates and those who vote Labour. Well, I’m not sure I get that, but then I wasn’t secretary-general of the Labour Party during Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici’s reign of terror.

As it would happen, a reporter asked Mrs Coleiro Preca about that part of her CV during the press conference. And here’s what the woman who wants to take Labour into the 21st century replied:

I think we didn’t work enough on the history of the Labour Party and heard only the version of others. I went to express my solidarity, along with a number of other MLP officials, at the Gudja PN club a few hours after Raymond Caruana was shot, but nobody says that.

Really? The shooting of Raymond Caruana was the only terrible thing that happened while she was secretary-general of the Labour Party? It was the worst single thing that happened, yes, because it involved loss of life. But let’s not forget that the climate of oppression and fear that led to that killing didn’t just happen. It was created.

However nice Mrs Coleiro Preca may be today, she can’t have been nice in the past and still been secretary-general of such an ugly political party. The last thing the Labour Party needs is a leader who was secretary-general when KMB was leader. Look at all the flak Alfred Sant got when people suddenly realised – way too late after 1996 – that he wasn’t a new face at all, but was president of the Labour Party during the days of its worst excesses in the mid-1980s. They hadn’t noticed him earlier because he was such a nonentity, forever lurking in the background making his creepy plans.

Then after 1998, every time his lips formed the word ‘corruption’ (not that his lips move) a chorus would shout: “And where were you in 1984? Oh yes, you were president of the Labour Party, when the Labour Party was at its most corrupt and violent.” The Nationalist Party used this very fact to great effect in its most recent electoral campaign.

It’s a question of credibility, that’s all.

5 Comments Comment

  1. Edward Clemmer says:

    When the ban occurred, I thought to myself, “How ironic, now, who are the April Fools?” I also thought that the DVB must think of itself as a kind of Malta Broadcasting Authority, too, “If the BA can control ’em (with our own representation there), so can we.” So much for MLP transparency and credibility. The only purpose I could fathom for the ban was the prospect of George Abela, whose known prospective canditure is implicit in the ban, and must be regarded as a threat to those clinging to power on the inside. Yet, even from Alfred Mifsud and Lino Spiteri, despite their respective lines of reasoning, and speaking from the sidelines because it was no longer honourable to remain on the inside, explicitly say that George Abela is the right person for the head job–and the PN also know this (to their potential disadvantage). Well, that would be a challenge to everyone.

  2. David Borg says:

    hi5: marlie louise coleiro

    loveinn says: Posted 17 Nov 2007 14:45
    Always fight for human development at all forums

    brendon says: Posted 13 Oct 2007 18:00

    [Moderator – Why the Labour infatuation with hi5 profiles? According to, it is most popular in these countries: Peru, Thailand, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Colombia.]

  3. europarl says:

    And I guess we all know who shot RC, right?

    Or don’t we?

    Some people do know the story – and you’d be surprised.

    There are a number of mysteries that will one day surface. That is when the Maltese “civil war” will be clearer to all. It happened, yes, all we need now are the facts.

    “Is-sewwa jirbah zgur”, EFA used to say. U z-zejt jitla’ f’wicc l-ilma, he could have added.

    It takes two to tango…

  4. David Borg says:

    It was actually a tip to have a look at the photos there. There are two which stand out and remind us of the 80s you are talking about. One shows the aggression of the speaker even when not provoked and the other shows her militantly marching in the good old days.

  5. eve says:

    @ Europarl.

    You seem to have certain knowledge about something, which the majority of us, ordinary mortals, do not. Enlighten us please.

Leave a Comment