The ‘private’ lives of politicians: a lesson from history for Saviour Balzan and the rest

Published: November 9, 2014 at 12:03pm

While he was prime minister, Borg Olivier conducted a very public affair with a heavy-drinking English actress living in tax exile in Malta, while his wife simultaneously conducted another public affair with a priest by whom she became pregnant and had a child in 1970. The following year, Borg Olivier had to fight a general election which he lost, with fatal consequences for Malta.

While he was prime minister, Borg Olivier conducted a very public affair with a heavy-drinking English actress living in tax exile in Malta, while his wife simultaneously conducted another public affair with a priest by whom she became pregnant and had a child in 1970. The following year, Borg Olivier had to fight a general election which he lost, with fatal consequences for Malta.

The first time I saw a bull – lots of them, actually – was when I was six. The year was 1971 and they were being driven around in lorries all over our neighbourhood.

There wasn’t any particular reason why the people driving them couldn’t turn off Tower Road and straight up Victoria Avenue, but I suppose it was alien territory to them and they took a couple of wrong turnings and got lost.

Or maybe they just enjoyed driving the bulls around to provoke the class of people they’d been taught to hate.

The outgoing prime minister, George Borg Olivier, lived a couple of corners away, but I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t even know who he was, or that there was an election on, though I could pick up on the general sense of palaver.

I just wanted to know about those bulls, but the adults were not so forthcoming. They’re farmers, they told me. They’re taking the bulls to market. Through Sliema? When you are six, anything is possible.

Saviour Balzan wouldn’t have known anything of this, because his family were committed Mintoffians and they wouldn’t have told him. And he didn’t grow up a couple of corners away from that prime minister, so he wouldn’t have seen the bulls.

So now he is behaving as though the discussion of private lives of members of the cabinet is something new and horrid. It was always there, Saviour, but now people use rational discourse not bulls – unless they are a particular type of Labour supporter and use the equivalent of bulls on your Malta Today comments-board.

The reason people didn’t talk about Mintoff’s private life is because the most important information on that only came out in parliament – via a circuitous route – in late 1991 or 1992. But when his wife left him and went back home to England with her children, asking for a divorce, rest assured that it was widely discussed and even reported in the British press. And he wasn’t prime minister at the time, but Opposition leader. Then a reconciliation was engineered by British politicians and she returned, but their children stayed in England, and Mrs Mintoff – a wonderfully civilised lady – lived to regret her decision to return as her husband’s miserliness and abuse only got worse, to the point where her friends had to give her gifts of food and money to help her get by.

Gaetano Pace, a retired police officer, has just posted the following comment on this website:

Was it not Labour who encouraged bulls to be loaded onto trucks and paraded down Republic Street to commemorate the Labour electoral victory of 1971?

If anyone has any doubt about this, allow me to annihilate it.

I was the constable on duty on number 1 beat, that is at the junction where South Street crosses Republic Street (then Kingsway) in Valletta. My duty was to direct traffic.

I must admit that the Labour victory then looked more like a march to Buskett on Mnarja than the celebration of a political party victory.

The bulls, of course, were a reference to the fact that Mrs Borg Olivier had been having an affair with a priest, and just the preceding year had had a baby by this man, who then had to emigrate to Australia to flee the scandal.

In this you will see that the Labour Party’s inherent chauvinism and liberal progressive outlook are historic. It didn’t matter to them that Borg Olivier himself had been cheating on his wife with a married actress living in tax exile in Malta. It didn’t even matter to them that Mrs Borg Olivier’s lover was a man of the cloth. No, their sole focus was that Borg Olivier was a ‘kornut’ – hence the bulls, with horns.

In their primitive southern Mediterranean mindset, his male honour had been impugned because his woman had gone with another man, and therefore he had lost face irreparably.

And on writing this, the full extent of what was going on back then hits me with force. Those who think that standards have slipped and that things are worse now than they were then are really quite wrong. We had a prime minister who was running around openly with a heavy-drinking English actress renowned for a slew of love affairs and messy marriages, while his wife concurrently conducted an affair with a priest and had a baby by him, and a leader of the Opposition who had himself been embroiled in an affair with his brother’s wife, as a result of which – we later found out – he was being blackmailed by one of his own men.

Konrad Mizzi, Owen Bonnici and the rest (there are more) just look like amateurs next to the scale of that.

Dom Mintoff had an affair with his brother's wife, as a result of which he was blackmailed throughout his premiership by his most notorious minister, Lorry Sant (pictured here with him) who was forever at his side and more powerful than the prime minister himself. Mrs Mintoff, who was English, had left her husband when their children were little and returned home to England to file for divorce, but was persuaded to reconcile with her husband during a meeting engineered by British politicians seeking to avoid a scandal.

Dom Mintoff had an affair with his brother’s wife, as a result of which he was blackmailed throughout his premiership by his most notorious minister, Lorry Sant (pictured here with him) who was forever at his side and more powerful than the prime minister himself. Mrs Mintoff, who was English, had left her husband when their children were little and returned home to England to file for divorce, but was persuaded to reconcile with her husband during a meeting engineered by British politicians seeking to avoid a scandal.




20 Comments Comment

    • Mad as a hatter says:

      Wouldn’t paying a victim for her silence actually be a bribe?

      If the condition was the withdrawal of the case, would that not mean that more potential victims are put at risk?

      Would any campaigner for the weak and marginalized be a part of that?

      • mf says:

        Change of name for his organization.

        From ‘Mid-dlam ghad-dawl’ to ‘Mid-dawl ghad-dlam’.

        The new ‘order of corrupt merit’.

      • Jozef says:

        Yes, yes and if anything, he campaigns to keep them weak and marginalized.

        What’s scary is how this individual thinks his statement could actually legitimise his actions.

        L-eroj ta’ Malta socjalista.

      • Madoff says:

        Montebello ma tistax tafdah. Moralment imhawwad.

  1. Gaetano Pace says:

    Besides, Daphne, Labour went even further than that in the 1960s.

    When George Borg Olivier went to London to negotiate Malta’s independence with the British government, he used to visit the Maltese “club”. Lots of Maltese who worked in London, of all sorts, used to turn up to meet him.

    One of them was Barbara Dyer, a prostitute who later returned to Malta and spent her days sitting in a chair outside her Testaferrata Street flat. She was married to a Maltese, Frankie Dyer, whose father Wenzu Dyer was one of those shot in the Sette Giugnio uprising.

    Every time Borg Olivier used to visit the Maltese club and they would ask to have their photo taken with him, Barbara Dyer would insert herself into the group, alone and not accompanied by her pimp, and would make a point of standing right next to him.

    In those days, there wasn’t much media and the means to transmit news were not efficient at all. So the photos took time to travel toward us. But word of mouth was much faster by telephone and it sparked an explosion.

    The Labour Party went to town, claiming that the prime minister was having a relationship with the prostitute Barbara Dyer (back then, the name Wenzu Dyer was not yet sacred in Maltese politics and the post-colonial myths had not yet been constructed).

    I remember certain things being quoted in the Labour press and public debates, even if only through innuendo.

    Decent working-class people who heard these words were a bit shocked to say the least, but they were being systematically and deliberately poisoned with totalitarian-style false propaganda.

    If our working class was shocked because they expected their Prime Minister to be an immaculate person, I, who at the time was a student, was even more shocked to see that our working class, illiterate as most were, the class that bought the paper to ask someone to read to them what the words under a photo said, were being so badly lied to.

    Poisoned is the Marxist word I prefer to use for the abuse of news and media perpetrated by the Labour press of those days.

    Then, as now, when Labour could not stand as tall as the PN they hit back with terrible lies, whip-lashing a campaign of populist hatred aimed at denigrating their opponent, destroying the opponent`s reputation and bringing his actions into disrepute.

    Cowards at their worst do these sorts of things. Men stand on their own two feet, walk tall and straight.

  2. Alfred Testa says:

    What interest did “British politicians” have in Mintoff’s marriage?

    [Daphne – This might have slipped your mind, but Malta was a British colony at the time.]

    • If my memory serves me right, Ted Heath, who was the British prime minister at the time, felt that if Moira were to return to Dom Mintoff she would be a beneficial influence on him. He was wrong. Mintoff did not treat her any better, and she had no positive influence on him.

  3. Back to the 70s says:

    My father was a staunch Mintoffjan. After the 1971 Labour victory, I remember men chanting in the village square: “Le, le, le lil Gorg il-barri ma irriduhx, assassin tal-Maltin!” while carrying a coffin.

    I was still very young and from a village known as a Fortizza Laburista.

  4. Beingpressed says:

    I would be very surprised if this Patrick Spiteri is innocent how ever since when has the Times of Malta ever crossed country and searched for any form of fugitive.

    • Not Sandy:P says:

      They could have hunted down Michael Scholten in Mettlach to ask whether he visited Dalli in Brussels to diagnose Dalli’s psychology-social disorder.

      But they didn’t.

  5. anthony says:

    As far as I know Addams was married firstly for many, many years to Prince Massimo. The guy happened to be a Roman Patrician from one of the oldest and wealthiest aristocratic families in the capital. With him she had a son.

    Their sprawling palace near Piazza Navona is a Roman landmark.

    Subsequently she married Jimmy White , not the snooker champion. She died in her early fifties of cancer.

    I do not know her as a heavy drinker but a heavy smoker yes.

    In fact that is what killed her.

    Just for the record.

    [Daphne – She was married to the Italian for just four years, actually, and it was a ‘show’ marriage for publicity reasons: http://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/09/arts/dawn-addams-54-actress-is-dead.html ]

    • Erasmus says:

      No, Dawn Addams’ marriage to Don Vittorio Emanuele Massimo, Prince of Roccasecca was not merely for show. It produced one son, Stefano, who was at sixth form with me during the early 1970s.

      I remember him very clearly railing against the “ungrateful” Maltese who had ditched Borg Olivier and elected Mintoff instead.

      [Daphne – By a marriage for show, I did not mean a mariage blanc, but a show-business marriage for publicity reasons which would enhance her career. It was done all the time and is still done today. Whether such marriages produce children or not means nothing: you can have a child after a one-night stand.]

      • Cato says:

        Correct. I was there with you, Erasmus. But Stefano was not railing at the Maltese for being ungrateful towards Borg Olivier, but towards the behavior of the Maltese government during the negotiations with the British regarding the military base.

  6. disillusioned says:

    Oh Daphne, I remember the bulls so vividly.

    I also recall that at a time when kunserva and salted butter were rationed, you would have no problem finding cheap Spanish-souvenier type velvet bulls of varying sizes which were stuck on bonnets and huge from rear-view mirrors on the windscreen.

    [Daphne – So that’s why those velveteen matador bulls were everywhere when I was a child. It never occurred to me.]

    • thinking says:

      Oh gosh I didn’t know the reason why plastic bulls were stuck on bonnets most especially on trucks. Thanks for the insight, it makes perfect sense.

  7. ŻAREN says:

    Kont tifel, għadni niftakarhom, anzi nismagħhom ikantaw:

    LE LE LE GEORGE IL-BARRI MA RRIDUHX
    ASSASSIN TAL-MALTIN

    Niftakar partitarji bil-barrin tal-plastik jew materjal ieħor, jiġru bihom f’idejhom.

    Xi żminijiet dawk.

  8. bob-a-job says:

    According to Saviour Balzan the discussion of private lives of members of the cabinet is something new and horrid.

    But maybe lying about them is all right with him? Dr. Paul Boffa was slandered by Mintoff. He eventually lost the MLP leadership to Mintoff after a Party split.

    Now that was something malicious, Saviour.

    • Wigi says:

      To win the leadership of the MLP, Mintoff accused Dr Boffa of incest. This slander was made during a general conference of the party while Boffa was in London in discussions with the British gorenment.

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