Oh, but they almost won

Published: May 8, 2008 at 9:00am

The way the Labour Party and its various adjuncts are going on, you’d think that the last general election was a draw and that the Nationalist Party is governing only with the express permission of the Labour Party, and on sufferance. Malta’s little section of cyberspace is brimful of comments by those who seem to believe that the government cannot appoint anyone to a key position without a by-your-leave from the Labour Party. And who in the Labour Party would make that decision, in any case, given that it remains rudderless until early June?

But that’s not the point. The point is that in general elections, as with almost everything else in life, a miss is as good as a mile. It makes no sense for the Labour Party to argue that it almost won, because a near win is nothing more than a complete and absolute loss. Whether Labour lost by 1500 votes or 15 votes makes no difference at all. It lost. That’s it. The Nationalist Party is not required, morally or otherwise, to share the seat of government or to appoint representatives of the Opposition to key positions that are within its gift.

The ‘we almost won’ mentality is being hyped up by the pro-Labour media. The general tone is ‘iss hej, it’s not fair; we almost won but they’re not letting us take part in running the show.’ Does this make sense? Of course it doesn’t. What the Labour Party is talking about here is a virtual coalition of sorts, based on the fact that it obtained a mere 1500 votes fewer than the Nationalist Party. But our democratic system and our Constitution do not allow – thank heavens – for anything quite so ridiculous. You either win or you lose. There’s no halfway house called sharing the spoils of victory. Using the arguments of the Labour Party, in any football match where the score is 2-1, the teams would splice the trophy between them (because we almost won).

I can’t understand why they’re doing this, unless it is for the express psychological purpose of helping themselves feel better and raising morale among their supporters. I’ve never been hot on manipulating the minds of the inadequately educated and the ill-informed, so I really don’t approve. Instead of telling people that Labour has a right to key positions on the grounds that it almost won, the party should explain to people that almost winning means sweet nothing, and that the party lost with a capital L and must concentrate on not losing again, rather than on bickering to slot its men into key government positions when they are not in government.

The latest target of this x’gharukaza-imbasta-they-say-they’re-a-government-for-all campaign is Gordon Pisani, the government’s brand-new head of communications. Pisani was the Nationalist Party’s information secretary for almost a decade, and successfully worked through the last two general elections and EU referendum. He has a proven track record in political communications and he knows virtually everything there is to know about government policy. Oh, and another thing: he’s loyal to the government. The Labour Party speaks as though it believes that is a negative rather than a positive. Perhaps it imagines that the government’s head of communications should be somebody who didn’t vote for the government, who supports the Opposition party, and who has little or no experience of political communication? I suppose the answer to that question would be yes, given that it thought Jason Micallef to be a superb person to fill the role of secretary-general, Alfred Sant an excellent political leader, and now, Joseph Muscat a wonderful candidate for the post of prime minister. When it comes to choosing the right man (or woman) for the job, the last people anyone should consult is the Malta Labour Party, which has a long history of getting it fabulously wrong.

Now here we have Joseph Muscat, last seen – at least as far as I am concerned – staring at the television camera like a rabbit mesmerised by headlights on one of those discussion programmes that the leadership contenders are using to hawk their wares. He met the council members of the Federation of Industry a couple of days ago and told them something of such astounding banality that I am left in no doubt that I shan’t be deprived of yet another Labour leader for target practice. Because the Labour Party got “almost as many votes as the Nationalist Party”, he told Martin Galea and Tancred Tabone, it expects the government to treat it as an equal partner.

What? Has the man slipped and hit his head? Since when does any government treat the opposition party as an equal partner? The government is the government and the opposition is the opposition. If the opposition is an equal partner with the government, then it is no longer the opposition but part of the government. I really can’t believe that this silly chap is the great white hope of the Labour Party. We sigh with relief when he makes the occasional bit of sense, on the grounds that oh, look, here’s a Labour (potential) leader and he’s talking sense, which is roughly along the lines of oh, look, there’s a dog and it’s walking on its hind legs. But then he says something like this and we’re reminded of the very poor quality control there on the Labour production line. They sure know how to churn them out with bells on.

Yes, the government should consult the opposition and seek consensus with it in the national interest. But at the end of the day, it’s the government that takes the decisions, and the government which shoulders the responsibility and is held accountable for the consequences of those decisions.

The Labour Party and Joseph Muscat should swallow the fact that a great hash was made of things this time round (again) and that it’s paying the price for having made such a bad choice of leader and such a terrible choice of secretary-general. As my grandmother used to say, you make your bed, and you lie in it. It’s no use whining and complaining – or suggesting that the government rolls over and lets you lie on one side of the mattress.

This article is published in The Malta Independent today.

30 Comments Comment

  1. IM9 says:

    Vide http://www.di-ve.com/Default.aspx?ID=72&Action=1&NewsID=51270&newscategory=33 for a clear example of what DCG wrote about.

    We have a new spin on the issue now, that the MLP has won the Malta vote, whilst PN won with the international vote given that 4,000 voted and left..

    Tajba Varist!

  2. M. Azzopardi says:

    did the 1981 MLP government who was governing with a minority of votes appoint any people from the other side to occupy headship positions??????? Noooooooo……and they lost and governed the same…..so why are they expecting the PN (who won democratically) to appoint MLP diehards or hidden diehards in headship positions??? MLP (MOP) is the party in opposition so they have only the rights (but also duties) of the Malta Opposition Party nothing more and nothing less…

  3. Joseph says:

    Well said Daphne.

    How can they expect that political posts, chairmanships etc go to them as well ? Some months ago a certain Silvio Parnis assured his followers that the MOP was ready ( sic ! ) and that they already knew where to place whom and “kollox ghanhna lest….kollox……..u mhux hafna tgerfix…….nafu lil min se npoggu”

    I do not think that that they had any Nationalists in mind.

    The MLP should just try to get their house in order and elect a decent leader – not of the order of DM, KMB and AS

  4. David Buttigieg says:

    In politics there is no prize for second place, simple as that!

  5. Mcomb says:

    Di-ve’s article is interesting. The Labour Party should actively pursue a complete check of those who voted from abraod and make a case for their disenfranchisement if this is the case.

    [Moderator – Are you joking?]

  6. me says:

    The second in any race is the first loser.

  7. M. Azzopardi says:

    Mcomb is joking………this joke is very similar to that of the deceased who were added to the no votes during the referendum by the ex-leader …..new election…new joke

  8. Libertas says:

    Excellent, Daphne. The essence of democracy is a clear demarcation between government and opposition, a viable alternative, and a vote that can ‘throw the rascals out’. When government and opposition coalesce, there can be no clear choice between continuity and change. That’s also why strictly proportional electoral systems that result in post-election haggling between parties tend to obfuscate real democracy. Something useful that Labour can do now is not to start sharing power but to build a viable alternative that people can understand and trust.

  9. When the MLP officials claim they should be treated as equal partners do you think they really believe what they are saying or are they speaking that way to keep the Party faithful believing they are being treated badly by the bad old PN who cheated them out of their forgranted victory.

  10. MikeC says:


    Disenfranchisment is actually an infringement or loss of one’s rights, generally brought about as a punishment for criminal action, via a faulty electoral law, or as a deliberate anti-democratic practice such as gerrymandering.

    Are you suggesting that those who serve their country abroad should be treated like criminals?

    Those Maltese who live or work abroad are already semi-disenfranchised by virtue of the fact that they need to (a) have spent 6 of the 18 months prior to the the last publication of the electoral register in Malta (b) need to return to vote.

    We should be looking at ways of ENfranchising people not DISenfranchising them. In most western democracies, legislation exists to facilitate voting by citizens living abroad, not vice-versa. Scotland even allows a vote by proxy.


    Evarist’s speech is just another symptom of denial, as well as an indication of unsuitability as a leader of the country. The number is in any case grossly overestimated. Even so, it should be increased in future, not reduced, and no-one should need to have to come back to vote, they should be allowed to do so by post or at our embassies.

    All this quite apart from the fact that it is not only supporters of the party in government who live and work abroad.

  11. Whatever topic is being discussed someone always comes up with a brilliant remark similar to
    I think that it would be a much, much greater disaster if this MINORITY GOVERNMENT, under the present situation of a MERE ONE SEAT MAJORITY, keeps on ignoring the strength of the MLP in Opposition…..
    They don`t seem to realise that the strength of the MLP in opposition was such that it kept them in opposition.

  12. Tony Pace says:

    Ok for those bright sparks who are aspiring to be MLP leederz.
    In 1997, Tony Blair won with a ”relative majority” of 43.2% of the vote….. and Labour has been there ever since.
    Now Mr Bartolo, would you mind shutting up and just think to what the MLP did when they had the MINORITY of votes!!
    ghax dejjaqtuna.

  13. Vanni says:

    How to shoot yourself in the foot? Just ask Varist.

    I wonder how Varist came to the conclusion that the 4,000 he quoted are all PN supporters? Is he saying that MLP supporters are not capable of working abroad? That they are somehow mentally, intellectually, or physically incapable of working in another country? Seems to me that ole Varist holds the great MLP unwashed in thinly veiled contempt when he utters such garbage.

  14. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    @Vanni – Evarist Bartolo is being disingenuous, as usual. It’s one of his characteristics that set my teeth on edge: coming out with these pronouncements in that vuci ta’ patri. He knows for certain that the Maltese who came from overseas did not all vote for the Nationalist Party, because his daughter, who is at university in England, was one of them (and yes, she supports Labour).

  15. Libertas says:

    Varist is assuming that all staff who work for all three Labour MEPs in Brussels and well known Labour sympathisers who immediately took up translating positions in EU institutions upon the membership they so vehemently opposed, have voted Nationalist on 8th March! Tax should be the qualifying criterion for the vote and not residency: if anyone pays Income Tax into the Maltese exchequer, then it’s only right that they can then vote in Maltese general elections.

  16. david s says:

    goaties again in the news tonight. Berlusconi appointed one of his new ministers la Russa on condition he removes his goatie. He hadnt done so for the swearing in, and Berlusconi refused to shake his hand. He promised he would shaved it after the ceremony …JM pls note!
    Daphne, your analogy with football is not quite correct. a 2-1 score is considered a clear win. A more appopriate comparison is the current Premier League where there is a good probability that Man United and Chelsea end up with the same points, but United with a better goal difference over the whole season. Thats real close. And United WIN and Chelsea LOSE, United take the cup,Chelsea take nothing no matter how close…No they dont share the cup JM pl note again.

  17. europarl says:

    A long, long time ago I used to ‘like’ Varist. Perhaps because I associated him with the then romanticised revolutionary left of bygone days… the rebel with a cause sort of thing.

    That was a long time ago.

    I have nothing against him today (although I know who tasted his fine tact), except, I have no idea what’s he on about. On the political spectrometer Varist seems to play Centre-Right-of-Left-of-Centre, but that is not the main problem. With Varist you never really know whether his pot holds tea, coffee or poison. It is one reason why he’s not trusted by most Labour delegates: you never know where he stands! He’s playing his usual soft-ball game – but he cannot win that way.

    It’s between GA, JM and, surprisingly perhaps, MLCP.

  18. my name is Leonard but my son calls me Joey says:

    @ david s – thanks for bringing up the footy … I love it, I love it. Back in 1989, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0, the second goal being scored with practically the last kick of the season. Both teams ended up with the same goal difference but Arsenal became champions because they had scored more goals than Liverpool. (Now I don’t support either team but when Michael Thomas got the decisive goal I woke my wife who was sleeping next to me to tell her about this historic moment … and she told me exactly what I could do with my historic moment). Anyway, did Liverpool expect Arsenal to hand them the cup for a few months because it was so close? Of course not. Whether it’s football, politics or anything that involves two or more parties competing for something, the key thing is that the rules are made known upfront to those who have accepted to compete and there’s no shifting of goalposts (sorry) once things get underway. I don’t recall hearing anyone from the MLP’s side prior to the election saying – isma’ ta’, jekk tirbhu b’inqas minn quota tridu tghamlu hekk u ttuna dik. But who would have thought?

  19. Mcomb says:

    Politics shouldn’t be trivialised just like a football match.

    [Moderator – Are the results of football matches trivial? To most of the world, I’m sure they aren’t as trivial as Maltese politics.]

  20. Herbie says:

    Labour should have won by default. The responsibility that they didn’t lies entirely with its internal administration that is striving to hang on to power come what may and not to voti mixtrija u nies gejjin min barra. My son too came to vote on a planeload of labour supporters who made a real din during the flight chanting labour party slogans throughout (qazzu dinja).
    The fact is and please note Peter Muscat this too is a FACT the PN won and that’s that no matter all the moaning and screecing. Let Super One continue with its gloom and doom and unfortunately, yes I do mean unfortunately, Labour is doomed to the opposition benches for a very long time indeed.

  21. Libertas though he hides his name is 100 percent right. Only those who pay income tax in Malta should be eligible to vote. I know some one that while living abroad(In the USA) and does not pay any income tax in Malta, interfers in local politics and is always present to vote during general elections. Of course he votes P.N.

    [Moderator – All citizens should be able to vote. A governing party could create unfavourable economic conditions for its opponents, who will have to emigrate en masse. It will not accept income tax contributions from them, therefore they will be disenfranchised and the party will govern in perpetuity.]

  22. Don`t you think that the contenders for leadership have kept the political scene really lively with their brilliant remarks – they outshine each other. It would have been so dull without them.
    I hope someone is keeping a record of the best statements and then publishes them.
    What amuses me is that they all are making such an effort to appear calm, confident and sincere. Also the men have all roped in their wives.

  23. Paul says:

    Ghaziez laburisti,bil biki ma iggibu XEJN.Ahjar tirrangaw is sitwazjoni takom qabel tiprovaw tmexxu pajjiz.Il-kliem li konna nighdu in nazzjonalisti qabel l-elezjoni li’alla hares jitla l-labour’kollu jamel sens illum.
    Qabel tifthu widnejkom u tibdew tisimhaw il kritika u ma tahsbux li hu tmaqdir,hadd u xejn mhu se jaqlakom mil oppozizjoni.
    Hawn hafna bhali li huma nazzjonalisti ghax il laburisti jamluna hekk.Jien inhoss li jien nazzjonalist BILFORS.
    Jien hdimt fil kampanja elettorali ta bejn 1981 sa 1987 (ghal min ma jiftakarx,kienet kampanja elettorali ta 5 SNIN)biex niliberaw li Malta mil-HAKMA tal labour u ma jidispacini xejn,ax konna fl infernu.Pajjizna ghadu jsofri mis sitwazjoni kerha ta dak iz zmien.Il punt hu li in Nazzjonalisti uzaw kull siegha li ghaddiet f dawn il 21 sena u il Labour hlewhom kolla,ghax ghadhom fl istess sitwazjoni li kienu fin 1987.Jigifieri bla mexxej,maqsumin,u bla policies.
    Issa zgur li se nsib xi laburisti li jighdu li mhux naghmel sens imma dik hi il problema li ghandhom.
    Jien qabel ma jien nazzjonalist,jien MALTI u ma nixtieqx li xi darba ikkolna gvern bla boxla,b’mexxej bla sens. Kull mexxej li kellhom tal labour min kemm niftakar jien, kollha b diffetti kbar u li tisthi tighd li huma il Priministru tieghek.
    Nixtieq li insib min jikkumenta fuq dak li ghadt,specjalment min ghandu iktar min 40 sena jaf x qied nighd perfettament.

  24. I have just read moderator’s remark that the government could, through some sort of action (my interpretation), force many to emigrate.
    Funny, this made me recall the mass exodus of workers, most of them if not all, MLP supporters. Had they stayed in Malta, the P.N. would never have been able to increase their strength from some eleven Parliamentary members to the present 31(+4)
    And remember, during the P.N. administration(Dr.A. Cachia Zammit was the minister concerned) there was a band playing at the harbour while the emigrants boarded the ship and relatives shedding tears on the quay. I think that there is a Maltese saying “tohrog bil-banda” (sent away accompanied by music). Those were the times!

    [Moderator – And the band played Waltzing Matilda//As we sailed away from the quay//And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers//We sailed off to Gallipoli.]

  25. Libertas says:

    Michael Debono’s comment just shows how stuck in the past Labour is!

  26. Libertas says:

    It will soon be the Gozitans’ turn. One of the leadership contenders will soon tell us that Labour enjoys a vote majority in the Island of Malta!

  27. What has Gallipoli to do? Gallipoli was a slaughter house for British troops including some Maltese recruits during the 1914-1918 war.
    Are you inferring that Maltese emigrants went to Australia to be slaughtered? Might be it was the reason the P.N. were sending fellow Maltese to Australia to get rid of them, as an alternative to sending them to a slaughter house?

    [Moderator – Chill out, it’s just a song.]

  28. @libertas.
    Referring to the P.N. past does not sound good to Libertas.
    However referring to MLP past is a tasteful honey for the P.N.
    it’s just an unsuited song if relevant to the subject.

  29. Alex says:

    @ Michael

    It is unbelievable how creative lejburisti are in twisting facts, no wonder you had a story writer as a leader for so long, but it doesn’t work michael you achieved nothing.

    I do not know if those who emigrated in the 60s were labourites or nationalists, I think it is a bit hard to call, like it is hard to cal those 4k who came to vote from abroad in this year’s election. (Besides my family used to vote labour at the time, and changed their choice in the golden mintoff years, like many others I guess)

    I am sure of one thing though, and any economist can confirm this without hesitation, that that mass emigration was the best economical policy ever adopted by this country. If it wasn’t for that move we would have never been able to change into an independent and developed economy so fast and would most probably be struggling to date. It was a hard decision and I am sure it created lots of hardships for many families but both the brave emigrants and the country gained drastically!!

  30. Alex
    please enumerate the facts that have been twisted so that I will correct my records. Unless this is done it only means that you have a blured vision or know nothing of the past except to read about it

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