So there

Published: May 26, 2008 at 4:35pm

At the risk of being on the receiving end of a wedgie in the school lavatories, like DoctorJosephMuscat, I have to say that my sole reaction on reading the Labour Party’s ‘why we lost’ report was ‘I told you so.’

The report contained nothing that I hadn’t already written about in great detail in a whole series of newspaper columns, and on this blog, during the last campaign and on and off since 1996. But here’s the thing: when I spelled out in excruciating detail – far more detail, in fact, than the ‘why we lost’ report – what Labour was doing wrong, I was called an evil witch who hates Laburisti and who wants to see the Nationalists re-elected so that I may continue to sit in my cosy little coven. (As an aside, it’s fascinating to see the expression on the faces of the little weasels who meet me for the first time after describing me as a witch, only to discover that I am a great deal better-looking than they are – and taller.) None of these paranoid people bothered to take note of the fact that in this sector at least, mine is a professional opinion and not just the opinion of yet another newspaper columnist.

During the election campaign, I had an instant verdict on how each of Labour’s tactics would affect its fortunes at the polls. There isn’t much I can say I am good at, but this is one of the few things for which I appear to have an unerring instinct. Throughout the campaign I sat glued to the various broadcast, print and electronic media and watched the ebb of Labour’s votes and the flow of Lawrence Gonzi’s fortune. It was really quite extraordinary. Before the campaign, Labour’s star was in the ascendant – an important point that the report failed to make – but as soon as the campaign began, the Nationalist Party started to close the gap.

I’m not going through all the incidents that I saw at the time as decisive moments that would contribute to Labour’s defeat. It is a mistake to imagine that it was only the big things and the major issues that contributed to the party’s failure at the polls, like the Nationalists’ successful tactic of harping on for weeks about the so-called repeater class. For example, I have no doubt that thousands of people made their final decision on how to vote when they watched the television footage of Sant cowering beneath the Crosscraft set in the PBS studios, arms folded defensively, calling for the police to protect him against an MP (whatever the MP may have done). For voters, it was a decisive moment. There was another such decisive moment when Sant addressed a mass meeting in windy conditions, with his wig standing on end like a cock’s-comb, shouting out a nonsensical speech with a furious expression. If you make the mistake of thinking that was just something minor, then your grasp of these matters is about as strong as the Labour Party’s.

The political leaders’ debate at the university marked another electoral point-of-no-return for Labour. Sant’s performance, greeted by booing and heckling, was bad enough, but in its attempts at turning this to its advantage by attacking students, the party actually dug itself in so deep that it couldn’t climb back out. Super One went mad. George Vella became abusive. And I don’t know what political marketing guru thought that he could win votes from dithering Nationalists by using the Labour Party’s massive media machine to attack and intimidate a 19-year-old private citizen so as to get at his mother, the Public Enemy No. 1 author of this blog. It backfired massively. Many of those dithering Nationalists were so disgusted – not at the expression ‘Fuck off’, which is normal usage in these circles, but at the bullying and harassment – that it helped them make up their minds. The communications gurus at the Labour Party didn’t even have the nous to realise that the most effective way to scare people off is by attacking one of their own. This, too, was obvious to me when it happened, but the Labour Party had to wait for the ‘why we lost’ report to find out. I remember telling my son at the time not to worry about it, and though he hated seeing himself exposed and bullied on Super One in that manner, he should take pride in the fact that every time Super One played that clip, Alfred Sant’s party lost more votes.

It is astonishing that all these things, which were immediately obvious to the people working on the Nationalist Party’s campaign, were not also obvious to the movers and shakers in the Labour Party. They were not even obvious after the election was lost. The party had to commission a report by specialists to tell it where it went wrong, when the people tracking things on the PN side knew exactly where the Labour Party was going wrong every minute of every day of the campaign, and tailoring their tactics accordingly. That is the most shocking aspect of the Labour Party’s failure: that the report which they have now received, and which was prepared after research and investigation, could have been written in a single sitting by any one of the more senior people working on the PN campaign – during the campaign itself, and not with the benefit of hindsight.

In battle, and political battles are no exception, it is crucial to know your enemy. Yet the ‘why we lost’ report tackles Labour’s electoral loss in a vacuum, instead of placing it in the context of a battle against a tactically well-prepared adversary. There is virtually no reference in this report to the tactics and methods employed by the Nationalist Party, yet it seems obvious to me that Labour’s failure has to be measured against the Nationalists’ success, because general elections are a zero-sum game. When studying the way your party failed, you must also study the way the other party won. Taking the easy way out by blaming it on the power of incumbency is just another way of saying that you’re not interested in understanding how things are done.

28 Comments Comment

  1. Herbie says:

    Yeah and the doom and gloom on Super One persists.
    When I come to watch the 19.30 news on Super One TV we have a game at home anticipating what is about to be said and we almost always get it spot right.

  2. Mario Debono says:

    daphne, what the hell is a wedgie?

    [Moderator – Oh, come on!]

  3. Lino Cert says:

    @ Daphne,
    you are right, I work abroad and wasn’t going to vote until I saw that 19 year old University student being harrassed on Super 1 news (it was broadcast on di-ve) , and imagined how I would feel if it was my own son, this made me buy a ticket and come back to vote against MLP, till then I was indifferent to the elections. Another turning point that you forgot to mention was Dr Mangion’s “different DNA” slant, a racist remark that couldnt be ignored. For me these two events convinced me that the MLP should not be elected at any cost (for me the cost of an airticket and a week’s unpaid leave).

  4. Certainly NOT La Benoit says:

    Daphne – You said “There isn’t much that I can say that I’m good at”.

    There’s really no reason to say that! Anyone who knows you knows how talented you are – At the very least, your lovely magazines speak volumes about your creativeness and flair.

    I can imagine a couple of people coming up with nasty comments about other things you are purportedly good at, not realising that they are worse than what they call you themselves … Well, maybe they just need a wedgie (or a little something to relieve their frustration!)

  5. Fleur Hili says:

    How sweet Mario, you managed to brighten my dreary day!

    Let me put it this way, DoctorAlfredSant is going to be a tight wedgie in DoctorJosephMuscat`s backside “IF” he is to be the MLP leader.

  6. P Portelli says:

    They took 99 pages to say what could be said in one paragraph.

    Alfred Sant betrayed the party when he sought re-election in 2003. He put his personal interest before the interest of the party he was supposed to lead by example. And the troops followed his example and cliques formed protecting their own patch whilst the leader was sleeping hoping that the election victory would fall in his lap. So Labour lost an election that was easier to win than to lose, period.

  7. Grand Parade says:

    @Certainly NOT La Benoit

    please add me to Daphne’s fan club,
    Daphne has a strong following by us medics,
    even when she rightly criticised us doctors in the wake of a strike in the late 90s, her criticism was taken on the chin and it was hard to find a single medic who took it personally, sometimes the truth hurts, but there’s no point in shooting the messenger, as Labour seem to be doing,
    keep it up Daphne, you have done more for Malta than the whole lot of MPs in parliament,
    if only there were more journalists as courageous, talented and outspoken as yourself!

  8. Amanda Mallia says:

    P Portelli – They can never get it right. Why a full report when just two words (“Alred” and “Sant”) would suffice?

  9. Certainly NOT La Benoit says:

    Grand Parade – There is also a very caring side to DCG which she herself does not make a show of (and rightly so, because that’s the way it should be). Those at the receiving end would know what I mean.

    Those spouting venom unnecessarily, on the other hand, would do well to emulate her.

  10. andrew borg-cardona says:

    Daphne, admit it, these are all you….. >:

  11. Amanda Mallia says:

    That should have read “Alfred”

  12. Mario Debono says:

    Oh I see what a wedgie is now………hahaha. You live and learn. Must be quite painful though. If JoesphMuscat gets elected we will all have a jolly old time giving him wedgies!!! Seriously now, his underhand, backhand and overhand parading of that little schickelgruber of his, oh sorry, i meant Schultzie, must rank as one of the dirtiest trick in the book. Straight out of “snakes and ladders… AS was elected” by Lino Spiteri

  13. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Did you notice his tie, Daphne? What’s this thing about chunky square knots among Maltese politicians?

    [Moderator – It’s metrosexual, apparently. Jason the Peacock knotted his up in the same way.]

  14. edgar rossignaud says:

    One of the biggest failures of the MLP campaign was that they didn’t react to the Presidential style election which the PN had chosen. Either they were so naive that they thought they could match the PN’s electoral team with their constant boring negativism, or they realised that Sant could never be on a level with Gonzi. The PN rode the Gonzi wave all the way into harbour and managed to avoid all the real and imaginery obstacles that the weakly managed MLP came up with.

  15. Certainly NOT La Benoit says:

    ABC – I’m flattered that you think I’m DCG, but no, I’m not. (And I’ve got no idea who “Grand Parade” is, either … Maybe it’s somebody called Marie (tongue-very-much-in-cheek.))

  16. P Portelli says:

    @edgar rossignaud
    How can Alfred Sant ever be made to look presidential style?

    In 2003 when AS recontested for leadership the analysis report was never published. It was not even strated when AS was reconfirmed on 15.05.2003!!!! Now that AS is gone (hopefully) they publish a damning report when they could easily simply said that the leader accepted all responsibility for defeat , period.

    Always doing the right thing at the wrong time just like VAT and the EU!

  17. Zizzu says:

    Someone, somewhere constructed a “typical labour delegate” profile. 2 characteristics spring out:
    a) male aged over 50
    b) medium to low level of education

    One of the benefits of “higher” education is that it teaches the person how to handle information. I am pointing this out because to many “an education” means fact-hoarding – which it is, mind you, but only as a by-product.

    Anyway, my point is that the typical “mover and shaker” in the MLP probably does not have the “wherewithal” to collect and process data and/or info well.

    And I don’t think that this shortcoming stops with the delegates. The Why We Lost (WWL) report says that somebody had incorrect data in his database and did not even know it was incorrect. Who was validating the data? Did anyone know that data should be validated at all?

    Just a few ramblings …

    [Moderator – Yes, I’m sure that Michael Falzon knew, and it’s not as though he was slacking, but rather that he was isolated by the Jason-Alfred-Charles love triangle. Alfred Sant wouldn’t even allow him access to the party’s survey results – how is anyone supposed to build up a marketing database under those conditions?]

  18. Peter Muscat says:

    Daphne once wrote that she is different from other columnists! I am sure she is!

    This site is a very good example that she’ll never accept different opinions. The reason why 2 post of mine were censored is pathetic and infantile.

    Indeed she has been running with a wedgie long time ago and she can’t get rid off.

    [Moderator – Peter, we do accept different opinions. The problem is that your posts rarely contain any.]

  19. Alex says:


    You can find the profile of the average delegate here –

    When you read that you will understand why MLP is in this sad position and how easily manipulated the average delegate can be.

  20. Philip Grima says:

    Spot on.

  21. Peter Muscat says:

    @ Alex Please do not jump to any conclusions yet. I saw such proflies myself. What I find interesting is the fact that 75% of the ‘elder delegates’ are retired and had a very high position in our society.

    Also it is untrue ( as some one said in this forum)that the majority of the Gozitan delegates are backing JM. Gozo , with the highest number of delegates is to play a very important part in the choice of the new MLP Leader. The 5 contenders who are much aware of this fact, have been paying weekly visits to this Wonderful Island.

    I can assure you Alex and the rest that the Gozitan delegates behaviour has been excellent.The strong feeling in Gozo is that it is 3 horse race, even though the other 2 horses managed to gain some ground with their visits.

    I can also add that ONLY TWO Gozitan delegates have behaved in a silly way. However, now, both realised that they have been ignored by the rest of the delegates.Not only the Gozitan delegates are wise and intelligent but above all they are shrewed.I may dare to add that the ‘Gozo mirror’is to have a strong effect on the national one.

  22. David S says:

    omg the link to Maltatoday reveals that there are 25 delegates from the Brigata Laburista….hehehehe what a funny bunch Lejber is. Funny in opposition, scary in government – so let them stay there.

  23. David S says:

    I concur with Peter Muscats comment about Gozitans being shrewd . They gave the PN Victory (PN got less votes than labour in Malta in the last election)
    Also generally Gozo witnesses larger swings than the Maltese electorate , even in the 1996 election.
    ..and of course Giovanna is the shrewdest of them (us) all !

  24. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    @Peter Muscat – I don’t have access to any comments before they go on line. I read them when you do.

  25. Mario P says:

    what changed my mind was the ‘bidu gdid’ thingie – i’ve had enough of ‘bidu gdid’ thank you v. much. I used to admire DCG but now she’s way over the top although in her more sober moments she shines through again. Keep off the sarcasm dear -it’s not healthy.

  26. Peter Muscat says:

    @ Daphne If things are as you said then you can ask your moderator why he chose to censor my posts.

    Anyway I forwarded the censored post to another Maltese Forum. I’ll forward the site tomorrow.

    @ David : Didn’t you know that Giovanna ‘ lost’ some 1000 votes at last GE? I am sorry but your comment shows you do not have an idea about ‘ the Gozitan situation’!

    [Moderator – Peter, the word censorship is too good for you. I discarded your posts because I had had enough of your smoke and mirrors, multiple identities and vague accusations.]

  27. amrio says:

    So, if Michael, Zrinzo and Mangion are all saying they were not part of a clique in the MLP, who was part of the clique(s) that the WWL report is mentioning?

    Is it therefore a case of a clique headed by Jason and/or Alfred Sant, which excluded everyone else in the party? And if JM is/was part of this same clique, if JM is elected leader, will this clique remain and become stronger, to the detriment of either MLP high-profile members?

    If all this were so, the only way forward for a real reform of the Labour Party is for non-members of this clique (there must be quite a lot) to simply resign from the MLP and form another party.

    It is now becoming more obvious that lots of MLP officials did not and still do not agree with the way things have been going on in the MLP, and that they have shut up due to their ‘love of the party’

    Guys, you can’t go on like this; if you truly love what the party used to stand for, and if you think that by JM’s election there’ll be ‘more of the same’, now is the time to show what you are made of and act!

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