'Direzzjoni success' – ghall-partit, mhux il-pajjiz

Published: February 2, 2009 at 3:32pm

Yesterday, Joseph Muscat squawked rather a lot while sandwiched between two banners proclaiming ‘Direzzjoni success’. Clearly, the Labour Party’s new director of communications, Kurt Farrugia, fresh out of that inept medium maltastar.com, believes that if you don’t repeat a slogan twice, people might miss it, even if it’s in large red letters.

Muscat dramatically demanded the resignation of Tonio Fenech, the finance minister, who told the English-language newspapers some days ago that in all the talks he’d had with ST Microelectronics, he had not been told that there would be mass lay-offs. Obviously, Joseph Muscat’s ability to read English correctly is quite weak, because he read this as the finance minister’s assertion that there would be no mass lay-offs.

It should occur to Muscat, despite having been raised a socialist and with socialist attitudes towards business which he cannot seem to shake off, that Tonio Fenech does not own ST Microelectronics, and so is in no position to reassure the country that there will be no lay-offs at ST. Fenech himself knows this, which is why he was careful in choosing his words.

Quite apart from the foolishness of Muscat expecting the finance minister to have control over or knowledge of what goes on in a business he doesn’t own, we have to look at his demand for Fenech’s resignation in the light of his own track record. Let’s see, now. This is the very man who, when his political master stood on a parked lorry after apparently having had far too much to drink (he was swaying, talking in the deliberate way of drunks, and with his tie knotted somewhere beneath his ear) announcing that partnership had won the referendum after the Yes vote emerged as the clear winner, stuck by him and parroted the same rubbish. Then, only a few weeks ago, this man who is now demanding the finance minister’s resignation announced that ‘with hindsight’ – a full five years of it – he had come to the conclusion that the Yes vote had won the referendum. And nobody demanded his resignation because we’re accustomed by now to having the Labour Party run by a Barnum’s Circus of freaks and fools and one more isn’t going to make much difference.

Muscat also criticised the Nationalist Party for not being liberal. That just goes to show how much the man knows about politics. He knows as little as the hare-brained elves who are forever posting comments on those internet sites where the ill-educated convene to give each other succour. European liberalism deals in the economy, not in private lives or sexuality, nor in manners and mores. It’s American liberalism they’re thinking about, and that’s quite different. European liberalism was born in free trade and the liberalisation of markets, and that remains largely what it is concerned with. But when I say this, the ill-educated elves jump down my throat. In the context of European liberalism, it is the Malta Labour Party that was and is wholly illiberal, as are its supporters, many of whom cannot understand the workings of a market in which there are no price controls or attempts at restraining people who – how dare they – make a profit.

While I was the first to be scathing about Tonio Borg’s ill-advised and tactless way of responding to criticism about how the rent laws are being tackled – he didn’t have to drag his personal prejudices into it – I cannot fault his logic or his reasoning, which are identical to my own on this matter and perfectly correct. I appreciate clear thinking wherever I find it, even if it is in Tonio Borg on this matter at least. It is Muscat whose thinking is completely muddled on this one. You can tell that nothing in his education has subjected him to the discipline of rigorous thought. Nor does he have the natural intelligence to work it out for himself.

So let me spell it out for him, as I have spelled it out for others. Marriage is not essentially religious. It is essentially civil. It is a contract between two parties by which rights and obligations are transferred between them, rights and obligations which are then recognised by the state. The act of marriage is a deliberate act, freely entered into, by which both parties signify their willingness to take on those rights and obligations. If they do not enter into that contract, even if they live together, then that too is a deliberate act: they do not want those rights and obligations. Therefore the state cannot impose those rights and obligations on them against their will, when they have been quite clear – through the avoidance of marriage – that they do not want them.

What Muscat is saying here is that he wants a sort of police state in which two people, if they live together without getting married, are treated as though they are married, even if they have pointedly not married. This is not only wholly muddled, given that the state already has a mechanism which distinguishes between those who want rights and those who don’t – it’s called marriage – but it also tramples on basic rights and freedoms. If I move in with somebody and don’t want to marry him, how dare Joseph Muscat come along and tell me that he is regulating my relationship against my will? What will happen in that situation is that we will suddenly have a whole load of people who are really living together but who then will pretend not to be, to avoid being policed.

Let’s say a woman who owns her own home allows her boyfriend to move in with her. According to the crazy logic of Muscat and his camp-followers, the boyfriend gets rights over the house and she can’t throw him out, even if she has pointedly not married him. This is not liberal, even by the USA definition of liberalism. This is illiberal. This is authoritarian imposition of the worst kind. But Joseph Muscat and his camp-followers just don’t get it. Why? Because essentially, they are left-wing, and not liberal at all. They have scant respect for personal freedoms, for civil liberties and for property rights. Yes, Tonio Borg was 100% correct when he spoke from the landlord’s perspective and expressed shock that Joseph Muscat wishes to make an already abusive and exploitative situation more abusive and exploitative still by granting protected tenant statuys to boyfriends and girlfriends of sitting tenants. As he said, it’s bad enough that adult offspring have those rights – even, he might have added, when they can afford to get a loan to buy their own place and instead choose to benefit parasitically from property owned by someone else.

No true (European) liberal would ever work for such a state of affairs, and in this Tonio Borg was wrong in saying that the Nationalist Party is not liberal. It is precisely because it IS liberal that it wants to avoid extending protected tenant status to boyfriends and girlfriends and to cut down on the existing protected tenant mess that skews the market and is punitive to landlords.

The solution to the current morass is not to give rights to those who have entered into a contractual relationship, but to ensure that they are able to enter into such a contractual relationship if they want to. Hence, the solution is divorce and civil partnership for homosexual couples. Only a muddled thinker like Muscat would imagine that conferring legal status on couples who just live together – the Romany gypsies do that, I believe – would be a solution, rather than throwing up an even greater welter of difficulties than we have already.

The Labour Party is not a liberal party by any means. It’s thinking on matters such as these is authoritarian and left wing, as are its views on the market and on business (the belief that a finance minister can interfere in the workings of a company like ST), and its views on foreign policy verge are very much to the right.

8 Comments Comment

  1. ASP says:

    and as everyone is predicting (including you) he’ll be our prime minister in four years time.

    [Daphne – Fortunately, it won’t make any difference to my life. Others are not quite as lucky.]

  2. Lino Cert says:

    “But Joseph Muscat and his camp-followers just don’t get it. Why? Because essentially, they are left-wing, and not liberal at all”. In what way is Joseph Muscat left-wing? Did you mean to say “right wing” instead of “left wing”?

    [Daphne – Left wing in that he has little respect for property rights, hence his insistence that boyfriends and girlfriends of sitting tenants be given protected tenancy status in blatant infringement of the rights of property owners to the enjoyment of their own property. Left wing in that he thinks a finance minister can actually interfere in the workings of a business like ST Microelectronics, as say, Mintoff would have done. Right wing in that he was anti-EU to the point that he needed five years of hindsight, four of them as an MEP, to convince himself that maybe freedom of movement is not so terrible after all, but you can tell he’s still not 100% about it.]

  3. F Chircop says:

    I may not be an expert in politics, but if Tonio Borg in his role as deputy leader of the Nationalist Party says that the PN is based on Christian Democrat principles, I take his word for it. Ir-rota ddur, and the Conservative/Christian Democrat ideologies are becoming more and more irrelevant especially after the Lehman brothers collapse. I don’t blame you for being afraid to admit that the PN is NOT a liberal party. The place for liberals/progressives/leftists is in the PL now.

    [Daphne – The PN is liberal insofar as economic policy is concerned, and that’s what European liberalism is all about. Unfortunately, in Malta people appear unable to distinguish between the meaning of liberal and libertine.]

  4. Antoine Vella says:


    How can anyone predict what will happen in 4 years time? Since the last election, nothing has happened to make the PL more electable than it has been these past years. Do you know any PN voters who have warmed up to Joseph Muscat?

  5. Gerald says:

    So are you implying that the American economy is based on conservative principles? Go tell that to the marines!

    [Daphne – ‘Tell that to the marines’ is a very outdated exclamation, much used by people who encourage others to smell the coffee.]

  6. Albert Farrugia says:

    @Antoine Vella

  7. Antoine Vella says:

    Albert Farrugia

    I ask ASP a question and get an answer from you instead. Are you the same person using two names or a spokesman for ASP?

  8. Ronnie says:

    Tonio Borg was quoted as saying the following:

    “So first you say you are against gay marriage, and then you say that the land owners should not only have to deal with married tenants but even those who went abroad, to Holland, to marry someone of the same sex and then returned to Malta expecting to be recognised by the landowner…” (my italics)

    So I can’t understand how come you say that the basis of Tonio’s argument about the PN not being liberal is economic and has nothing to do with his well-known extreme social conservatism. If Tonio had it his own way, all the piccaninies would be shipped back to where they come from and the queers made to wear armbands and declare their orientation. Tonio feels comfortable making such declarations only because his feelings are in synch with the majority of the Maltese population, both labour and nationalist.

    I guess liberals and libertarians in this country never really felt comfortable voting PN but felt compelled to do so only because the alternative was so scary (think Mintoff, KMB and Alfred Sant). Let’s face it a party with a fascist past who was previously headed by a leader who insisted that Malta was holier than the Vatican, only to be replaced by an conservative leader (of Azzjoni Kattolika fame) and which boasts the likes of Tonio Borg and Jason Azzopardi within their ranks, is no natural home for liberals or libertarians. When I listen to the likes of Tonio speak, not sure if Joseph Muscat is such a scary option after all.

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