51 points – that should get him a free mug or tea-towel

Published: November 25, 2011 at 12:33am

What a shame - after Godfrey Grima went to all the trouble of having his people make this lovely logo, the Labour Party never uses it in public.

This was my column in The Malta Independent yesterday.

Joseph Muscat’s assistants have proved to us that they can count higher than 50, and have added on an extra point for that much-sought-after touch of panache.

I’m trying to work out what the strategy is here.

Do they want people to actually read their points which, with a touch of the Baron Munchausen, they call proposals?

If so, they should have gone with far fewer than 51 because attention spans are short, life is rushed, and saturation point is reached somewhere around 20 – hence Joseph Muscat’s 20-point ‘plen’ on immigration some time in 2009.

But I don’t think they want people to read them. I think they picked a magic number which they thought would stick in the mind and then worked towards it, getting a bunch of Forum Zghazagh Laburisti and Fondazzjoni Idejat activists round a table with a crate of soft drinks and some ‘biksits and krips’ and asking them to brainstorm.

“Isa, forza, Nakita, we’re at 31 already. Only another 20 to go. Retbull, Elix?”

So, because the Labour Party doesn’t really want me to read those ’51 proposals’ and find out that they are anything but, I made myself a hot cup of mint tea, sat down with them and tried my damnedest not to nod off.

Hmmmm. A Labour government will make the process of company mergers and acquisitions cheaper and easier. That’s nice for anyone planning on snapping up Simonds Farsons Cisk or merging with KPMG.

Self-employed people are going to ‘be allowed to work’ (I quote), which is also nice given that lots of us have memories which are not nice of 16 years of obstacles and aggression in which business was The Enemy.

When development projects are planned, a Labour government will make sure there is enough parking. Impressive, given that adequate parking has been one of the planning authority’s foremost requirements in project assessment for years already. So yawn to that.

Then in Proposta Numru Hamsa they reassure us, because Labour has a bit of history to the contrary, that they plan on being safe for business. And just in case you think I’m having you on, here it is in the original Maltese version: “Gvern li jkun safe ghall-business u negozji.”

Indeed. Thank you for putting my mind at rest. I am sure many others feel the same.

The Labour Party also proposes ‘giving rights’ to cohabiting couples. You know, because rights are there to be given out by governments. Oh, isn’t that in the pipeline already? So no effort required then. Same-sex couples will have civil unions. That’s nice too. And there’ll be a law on IVF. That’s….nice as well, and what’s even nicer is that no effort is required here either, because the bulk of it has been done already.

Once you’ve had your baby by IVF or other means, Labour will make sure you get an extra four weeks of maternity leave, but they won’t tell you whether it’s going to be the state or the employer who’s going to carry the cost, even though both the proposal and the argument are out of date already because the government and the Malta Employers Association are fighting about it even as we speak.

Like you care, you know? As long as you get paid, why should you bother where the money comes from, even if it means that employers are going to give women of child-bearing age the brush-off. U ijja, l-aqwa li xi hadd hallas u jien niehu.

And where’s the progressive liberalism? It should be paternity leave too, unless Labour thinks that post il-mara huwa d-dar. It might be more convenient, career-wise, for daddy to stay home instead.

Proposal number 11 tells us that Labour will develop a plan of incentives (that’s nice too – a proposal about a plan) to get women out to work. My attention has begun to wander already because I’ve had two decades of discussing how to get women out to work when they really, really don’t want to, but please stick with me.

Umpteen things have been done to get women to the water, but nothing will get them to drink once there, so unless Labour plans to introduce a hefty luxury tax on non-working wives, then simple observation should tell them there’s no solution to this one except natural attrition.

You’re not going to get middle-aged women back to work – most of them have been out of the workforce for two or three decades and counting and are unemployable anyway – but younger women won’t even want to stop working, and are in fact having no children or just one so that they don’t have to. So time will solve the numbers problem, though it will do the opposite with the birth-rate problem.

Utility rates – no thank you, move on, next please. I’m sick to death of those. Oh but they’re going to have a new gas-fired power station, without telling us more, or who is selling the technology they’re so keen on. If we ring Brussels, will John Dalli tell us, do you think?

And they’re going to have a Minister for Utilities. Possibly, it will be Marlene ‘Heidi Plaits’ Farrugia, who is the Labour spokesman on the subject. Imagine that – a minister for water and electricity, in a state the size of a British town.

Now look at this: police officers and soldiers are going to be allowed to join trade unions. Isn’t that…..progressive? Ours may yet become the world’s first army to go on strike or work to rule. Private Zammit, Private Borg and Captain Camilleri will link arms outside the detention camps, singing ‘We shall overcome’ and ‘We shall not be moved’ while their wives bring them sandwiches and bottles of beer or Koka.

Our policemen might be the first ever to be locked out of their place of work. But who by – if even the soldiers are on strike that day?

The first thing a Labour government will do, proposal number 18 says, is reverse this government’s decision to pay ministers their salary as a member of parliament as well. That’s tempting to electors, though only to those who are inclined to vote Labour so that others earn less, rather than so that they might earn more.

This is called, in the trade, the ‘lanzit vote’, though it should never be under-estimated.

Of course, this leaves Muscat’s cabinet, including his new Minister of Utilities, in the unenviable position of earning less than their MP colleagues who are not ministers. If you are an MP who is not a minister, you can keep your day job as a doctor, lawyer or architect (or whatever) but if you are a minister you are not allowed to do so.

That should go down well with Marlene Farrugia, Minister of Utilities, who will have to give up her dental practice and her property wheeling and dealing for a basic minister’s salary. And what about, say, deputy prime minister Anglu Farrugia, unless he plans on keeping his law practice going on the side?

I’m still at proposal number 18, and but have run out of space and patience. I did think of saying ‘to be continued’, but I don’t know whether I’ll bother if something more fascinating or credible pops up before Sunday.

If you’re going to plough your way through those magic ’51 proposti’, plan a treat for afterwards. You’ll need it.

31 Comments Comment

  1. Grezz says:

    I think it’s also ironic that they chose to list 51 points. Remember when Mintoff remained in power in 1981, despite the 51% vote the Nationalists had got?

    Their marketing tactics are wonderful.

    • Anthony Briffa says:

      You might also remember the famous ’51 elf suldat’ ta’ l-azzar. They can only produce fables and gimmicks from their glass house in Hamrun and the garage in Bugibba..

  2. Min Weber says:

    Re: “Self-employed people are going to ‘be allowed to work’ (I quote), which is also nice given that lots of us have memories which are not nice of 16 years of obstacles and aggression in which business was The Enemy.”

    I don’t agree with you. This point is very important. The subtext runs this:

    (i) We have Varist Commie Bartolo with us.
    (ii) As a Committed Commie, Bartolo thinks business makes money at the expense of workers and society at large.
    (iii) Despite Bartolo’s Committed Commie-ism, we shall allow businesses to work.

    It’s that simple, Daph. These are internal strifes, not skirmishes with the PN.

    Labour’s biggest opponent lies within, not without. It’s the fragmentation in the party, a cauldron of diehard lefties / commies, diehard extreme right-wingers, diehard opportunists, and outright idiots. The magnetism of Mintoff cemented many of these loonies into a compact squadron. Post-Mintoff, Labour saw crack after crack. KMB was overwhelmed by the diversity of views inspiring Labour’s frontmen. Dokteralfredsant just evicted those he couldn’t tolerate from CNL. Joey invited all of them back – and now they’re enjoying the party … sorry for the pun.

    • el bandido guapo says:

      Well said Min.

      To rephrase – People supporting, and who make up Labour as it is today – and has been for as long as I recall, with as open a mind as possible – have some deficit in reasoning skills or some other character deficiency.

      Hence, the situation is self-perpetuating, as only the like-minded are attracted to Labour, and eventually end up representing it.

      And choosing the wrong leaders, because they are incapable of doing any better.

      How will Labour get out of this rut, when the best people stay away from it?

      I don’t have the answer to that, but I honestly wish I did, because the only “democratic deficit” that Labour refers to (?) concerns the fact that the thinking voter does not really have much of a choice.

  3. H.P. Baxxter says:

    In the AFM, it’s Gunner, not Private. You slipped up. That’ll cost you 51 laps of the portakabin.

    [Daphne – Kemm ahna special.]

  4. sherpa says:

    The number 51 = 50% + 1.

  5. Toni says:

    Labour are delving through the PN’s past thirty years’ campaigning history and taking ownership of all that is perceived, by them, as having carried the PN into government.

    They are currently picking up all the ‘numbers’ used by the PN. We had the ’20 punt’ rebranded by Joseph Muscat, we are now at the magical ’51’ (maggoranza). What next ?

    • La Redoute says:

      Shame they don’t pick up the one thing they don’t have and really need: stoffa and competence.

    • Jozef says:

      It’s an admission of the past thirty years of the PN’s relevance regarding this country’s aspirations.

      The ‘movement’ they propose encompasses the PN itself, which is why they try to isolate the real PN, the one headed by Lawrence Gonzi, by calling it ‘il-partit tal-prim ministru.’

      PN in their vocabulary signifies victory, common sense, moderation, citizenship. In other words they’re trying to appeal to voters via a sense of continuation of electoral successes each of which confirmed our judgement.

      What they ignore are our reasons for the PN’s success; policies which appeal to self respecting individuals leading to reciprocal respect.

      If anyone thinks they can use the divorce issue they’re mistaken.Just comparing Lawrence Gonzi’s pledge to respect the result to Alfred Sant’s (Joseph was his media editor) defiant reaction to that other result, is enough.

  6. Richard Borg says:

    Daphne, what do you think on Sargas’ proposal for the building of a power plant, financed by themselves?

    I agree that they would want a return on their capital. However this would, maybe, eliminate the status quo where certain revisions in electricity tariffs are clearly being done to compensate for the gross inefficiencies at enemalta.

    [Daphne – 1. Never trust people who come bearing free gifts. 2. There is nt such thing as a free lunch. 3. If it is too good to be true, then it isn’t. 3. Who said anything about closing down Enemalta? 4. This would be an additional power station, not a substitute power station. 5. Where do you propose burying the byproducts?]

    • Richard Borg says:

      Never trust people who come bearing free gifts – Like I said, I am sure they are expecting a return on their investment.

      [Daphne – Exactly.]

      There is such a thing as a free lunch, you just have to reciprocate.

      [Daphne -Yes, Richard, which is exactly why it is not free.]

      With regards to something being too good to be true; I believe that the step towards a more sustainable energy policy (i used the word policy) shouldn’t be treated as something which is “too good to be true”.

      [Daphne – It is not more sustainable. You have to look at the system from A to Z, including the disposal of by-products.]

      I never said anything about closing down enemalta.

      [Daphne – In that case, the overheads will remain, and we will have additional, unnecessary costs rather than fewer ones.]

      Im sure that the benefits of such a plant overweigh the problems (if there are) of burying the byproducts.

      [Daphne – That is the attitude displayed by our plunder-and-pillage Victorian ancestors. There are always problems disposing of the by-products. You don’t choose a system that is more efficient at producing cheap power but which generates a worse byproduct disposal problem.]

      I believe I heard something about adding them to cement for the strengthening of the base course of roads.

      [Daphne – If I were you, I would not make decisions based on something you heard, but on reading as much as you can about the subject. With the internet, there is no excuse not to do so. Exactly how much cement do we need for roads and what happens when we have run out of roads? Even if this were true? It is precisely this kind of ‘childish’ ‘Astridish’ attitude which drives me up the wall.]

      Oh, and they’re Norwegian.

      [Daphne – That has nothing to do with the price of eggs. ]

      • Richard Borg says:

        Interesting how you managed an adjective out of Astrid’s name.

        Completely off tangent: You seem to enjoy writing exhaustive articles about the PL, their inability to govern and the opposition leader’s hair follicles. Yet, you have failed to mention, even once, the ‘updated’ manifesto for the NP. The reaction of EFA regarding gay rights, eksetera eksetera…

      • A.Attard says:

        There is a solution to cheap electricity and it is a tried and tested technology. It is called nuclear energy.

      • xmun says:

        Why is nobody mentioning the tendering process a government needs to go through. Just imagine if this idea had been blindly accepted by this government (as is being suggested). Corruption would have been pasted all over the place.

        Can anyone tell me what’s in it for LP for such a political party to come out in full force all in favour for such a proposal without any technical studies, again no tender process etc.

        If I come up with an idea, can I simply expect the government to stop in its track to listen to me and implement my idea, whatever rubbish it may contain. I don’t think so.

        Interesting times ahead under a LP government, Back to the golden years where ministers ruled supreme. Bring shivers down my spine

    • R Camilleri says:

      Such systems can easily produce up to 20% ash as waste. Where will this ash be stored and at what cost?

      Labour made all that fuss about a few tons per year of ash that will produced by the new plant in Dellimara running of fuel oil. I don’t know if Sargas told them the amount of ash produced when burning a bio-paste of coal and biomass.

      Such systems tend to be cheap in the short term but can become quite expensive. In fact, Sargas did not commit on the long term low price of electricity.

      Anyway such systems may be feasible for a country with a cheap coal supply which may be interested in using this resource in a relatively low polluting manner when compared to previous coal burning techniques.

      @A. Attard
      Please note that nuclear (fission) energy is not clean energy. You must always take into consideration the cost and storage of radioactive spent fuel which takes tens of thousand of years to decay to safe levels!

  7. Paul says:

    Joesph is always complaining about hela here and hela there under a PN Government, and about how many expensive consultants it pays.

    Then they go on to pay Godfrey Grima for a silly logo God knows how much, a logo which no one gets to use.

    Isn’t that hela too?

    Oh bil-haqq, they got it covered by making a stupid competition where one had to send in a rather very expensive sms to take part in choosing said logo. Makes me think. Do you think they will start asking us to vote by sms to chose a project over another when they are in Government soon, and save on the consultants?

  8. Joe Micallef says:

    “Gvern li jkun safe ghall-business u negozji.”

    Meaning that he hears someone speaking of a medieval concept, is intrigued by it and cold showers all business people below freezing point calling it a novel concept – the Living Wage (although on this far reaching proposta he may be completing the umpteenth U-turn)

  9. Giovanni says:

    What about in-nutar Charles Mangion ? Earning less?

  10. ciccio2011 says:

    100. Eccellenti.
    51. Medjokri. Appena sufficjenti.

  11. cat says:

    Nispera li ma joqghodx jitfa fuq l-employers aktar milli jifilhu ghax dak ikun verament disastru.

    The same happened in Italy. Employers had no other choice. They simply shut up shop. They couldn’t cope anymore with taxes and that was the only solution for plenty of businesses. The rate of unemployment is increasing by the minute.

  12. SC says:

    I really hate this argument over ministers’ pay.

    How can you attract the best people into politics with paltry salaries?

    Anybody with any sense goes into business and makes real money.

    The same argument applies to the UK. Ministers in the UK did ‘abuse’ the system on one level but that was because it was well known that the benefits were to ‘top-up’ their low salaries. If people in politics were paid a competitive salary better people would be attracted and there would be much less scope for corruption.

  13. Lomax says:

    Andrew Borg Cardona’s blog just reminded me of something which this so-called economist said on TV: that when you raise VAT, those who spend least are hit most. I’m sorry?? Indirect taxes are thought to be progressive because the more you consume (and hence spend) the more you pay in VAT. Hence, those with the lowest disposable incomes are those who are least effected.

    This is one of the most basic tenets of indirect taxation – and JM calls himself an economist.

    So if this so-called economist drew up these so-called (again) 51 proposals, I wonder what lies at the basis of them, what erudite and meticulous research lies at the basis of them.

    You know, I imagine these “proposals” to have been cooked up one rainy Sunday afternoon with the Li’l Elves sitting around a fire. I can just imagine the procedure: they wrote the first things that came to mind on slips of paper, they put the slips of paper in an elfish hat and drew lots and stopped at number 51, just when the fire died down. That must have been the way in which these so-called proposals were cooked up because there does not seem to be any pattern or relationship between the proposals. They do not form part of any particular vision.Still, JM has to tell us: what is PL’s vision for Malta for the coming decade?

    Oh God, how I wish we could approach general elections without fear and anxiety.

    • Jozef says:

      He hasn’t grasped the notion of taxing consumption which doesn’t take into account a wasteful use of resources.

      That is why he kept his cards to his chest, knowing that as soon as the underlying philosophy behind his policies came to the surface, this serious anachronism would have been blatant enough to scare off the younger vote.

      It is a fact that class division is incompatible with organic policy. Tough times ahead for Labour’s propaganda machine: Expect contradictory statements directed to contrasting sectors of the electorate, the contrast of their own making. The divide will remain the language used, betraying their inverted snobbery.

  14. R Camilleri says:

    The reduction of water and electricity tarrifs is just a myth. A househould of 4, typically consumes around 800-1000 Euros a year on water and electricity but if both adults drive to work they probably consume around 2500 Euros on fuel (25 Euros per week each).

    Based on this estimate, reducing the cost of electricity would not significatly make an impact on the energy and transportation costs of a family. Josef Muscat is saying that we will not be dependant on the cost of oil to produce electricity, not realising that the highest burden of a family is the cost of fuel which is still dependent on oil prices. Unless, of course he is suggesting that we change our vehicles to run on electricity. I do not think the latter was one of the 51 proposals.

  15. Rover says:

    A few years back we had Karmenu Zero, now we have to make do with Joseph il-Fifty One.

    Is this the little twerp’s facetious way of referring to a 51% majority in the next general election? Cocky twit.

  16. Pat Zahra says:

    19. Nikkumsissjonaw lil-Ombudsman, l-Awditur Ġenerali u l-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni biex b’ mod indipendenti joħorġu b’ mekkaniżmu u livelli ta’ remunerazzjoni tal-President, Prim Ministru, Kap tal-Oppożizzjoni, Ministri, Segretarji Parlamentari,
    Membri Parlamentari u political office holders relatati.

    Ah, but look at point number 19. They’ll be getting back their five hundred euro per week and more besides, never fear. I believe Sir Humphrey Appleby came up with this particular cunning plan.

  17. Delacroixet says:

    There is more to the number fifty-one than meets the eye. The particular number tickled my memory.

    Joseph Muscat likes to act like an up and coming, ‘charismatic’ young leader, who tries to take the “common people” by storm. He is promising heaven on Earth. He is into florid speeches, without recognising that the arsenal he’s borrowing from makes him come across like a pompous little sod whenever he tries to act like a statesman. And with they wifely appendage, all decked out and acting first-lady like…three thoughts: Camelot, Jackie Kennedy, and JFK’s fifty-one proposals of 1962.

    Just read Savage’s “JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party,” and you’re bound to hit stuff Joey’s PL is trying to imitate, plagiarise and project.

    JFK’s fifty-one proposals are listed in Lawrence O’Brien’s “No Final Victories,” 1974. I think Labour’s elves had more trouble in reaching that particular number than JFK’s staff… but it’s just my partisan and rather irrational impression.

    • Delacroixet says:

      PS. The whole set of JFK’s proposals was called the New Frontier. And forty out of fifty-four bills, stemming from the fifty-one proposals, were passed by Congress.

      Could it be that this is what Karmenu Vella has been hatching, for all these months?

  18. C Falzon says:


    Actually Luciano did put the logo in his advert for the Bingo Party (or whatever that was), though it must be said it was small and inconspicuous enough to be considered ‘small print’.

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