The Policy Dept has failed, but the Buzzwords Dept is kicking

Published: November 11, 2011 at 11:38pm

This was my column in The Malta Independent, yesterday.

If only Labour’s Department of Policy Development worked as well as its Buzzwords Department, it would be in electoral clover.

But its policy development appears to consist of little more than hope that Karmenu Vella will lay a couple of eggs in due course so that somebody else might be persuaded to hatch them.

And I must say that there’s not an awful lot of squawking and clucking going on in the henhouse.

Buzzwords and stock themes, however – now Labour has certainly cornered the market in those, carrying on where Joseph Muscat’s erstwhile boss left off.

Since 1995 or thereabouts, it’s been wall-to-wall buzzwords and the repetition of stock themes and phrases. Clearly, they haven’t yet twigged why the definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

The Labour internet elves are currently in a sort of hibernation, or perhaps it’s just that they’ve transferred their efforts to Facebook, where anonymity is a bit of an issue.

This makes it more difficult to pretend that they’re disgruntled Nationalists, floating voters or ‘ex PN’. But in their last coordinated assault on the comments-boards, the running theme among those posing as irascible members of the middle class, housewives, employers and such-like was that “our party” (meaning the Nationalist Party) has been taken over by a “clique” led by Gonzi.

You know, because John and Mary Middle Class go about talking about ‘our party’ and feeling excluded because ‘Gonzi’s clique’ has taken over, as a natural consequence of which they will vote Labour.

It’s obvious that the Elves Management Department tries hard to work out how its target market thinks, but it’s also obvious that they’re talking to the wrong people.

When they speak to Marisa Micallef, Cyrus Engerer, Manuel Mallia, John Dalli, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Robert Arrigo, Jesmond Mugliett and Franco Debono – plus other more shadowy figures in the background – they make the cardinal error of believing that these individuals are representative of a general trend, instead of seeing them for they are: people with expectations and a grudge because they didn’t get what they want.

Hence the accusations about cliquey behaviour – and those accusations are ridiculous, because by definition a prime minister must always have only a few trusted individuals around him.

Especially, a prime minister does not need persons of weak character in his immediate surroundings, still less those with a propensity to bear grudges and back-stab. The real clique here is the clique of disgruntled people who overestimate their talents and abilities.

A prime minister, his aides and his cabinet are not a clique. They are the prime minister, his aides and his cabinet. The cliquey behaviour lies elsewhere, but we have seen that more than amply demonstrated. The clique, in fact, includes members of both parties.

Those of us who watch most of the political discussion shows, read the relevant newspaper articles and internet comments, and listen to the general bleating on radio quickly see patterns emerging.

The latest buzzword is ‘maggoranza difettuza’ (a defective majority), which was wheeled out a few days ago. Representatives of the Labour Party have clearly been instructed to use it at least once when making television appearances, and Joseph Muscat gave it a good airing two nights ago in parliament.

Meanwhile, unable to deny any longer that Malta is in pretty good shape, freeing us up to turn a bus service into a national drama, Labour has made a tactical shift. It has begun to break away from the mantra that our streets are full of roaming hordes of starving beggars – though Deputy Leader Anglu went off-message on Bondi+ last Tuesday.

He told us that there are 35,000 households of hungry people on this island (and yet also the fattest people in the world).

The new message is that Malta survived the financial crisis, and we all still have our jobs and our homes, not because of the government, but despite the government.

Which of course begs the question – why have a government at all?

This same daft refrain had been used a day earlier by Labour politicians Gavin Gulia and Simon Micallef Stafrace on Joe Grima’s Super One show. They were immediately undermined by former union leader Gejtu Vella, another guest, who said that he is far better placed to know just how hard the government worked to save jobs, because he was part and parcel of meetings to hammer out rescue packages with investors.

Unfortunately for the Labour Party, most of what its various exponents said in parliament was eclipsed by its leader’s spectacular inability to pronounce ‘task force’ while doggedly using the words several times over: tucks force.

Eventually the prime minister could stand it no longer and set him straight live on air, in parliament, with half the country listening in.

It made no difference, because Anglu Farrugia dashed straight to Bondi+ to talk about the tucks force, again to be set straight.

Even if he gets the order of the consonants right, it’s bound to be a tusk force, rather than a task force, and given that this brings to mind a herd of angry elephants, that’s unfortunate.

2 Comments Comment

  1. Min Weber says:

    But it could very well be that he is really saying what he means.

    And it’s just a Freudian slip giving away the Technical Plans devised by the Elves but the details of which are not known to Anglu, who is not technical.

    TAX Force = Unita’ Gdida ghal Taxxi Godda.

  2. ciccio2011 says:

    It has been 30 years that the majority of the Maltese public has trusted the policy making of Malta in the hands of the PN.

    It has been 30 years that the policy making of Labour has not rendered one useful policy to the country.

    For a period of 22 months, they had an opportunity to try, but they messed it up big time, withdrawing Malta’s application for the EU, and replacing John Dalli’s VAT with CET.

    It does not appear that Labour is in a better shape now to develop useful policies relevant for the 21st century.

    Recent appearances by Anglu Farrugia and Karmenu Vella have revealed a big gaping hole in Labour’s ability to offer solutions. They do not know where to start.

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