So Austin Gatt was in the news again and again. Before the girl from Uni called him a DIY guy he had looked straight into the future and told us what he saw. “There will be a true blue Prime Minister way down up to 2031,” said his crystal-clear ball.
His blue-tinged friends harrumphed and simply loved it. There might have been just a few but they sure felt fired by it. In one stroke, Dr Gatt managed to erase some of the blues the Nationalist supporters were feeling. Till his prophecy, everyone, including, I would say, the Prime Minister and his loving wife, was taking it for granted that the next election would be a walkover for the dreaded reds. Dr Gatt hardly pussyfooted away and his words galvanised even Lawrence Gonzi to believe in crystal balls and fairy tales: the Nationalist Party, it was now actually claimed, could win another election.
So let’s analyse the prophecy and the stark reality. Let’s look at the big picture and forget the details and the nitty-gritty of the situation.
Let me first be personal. My life is neatly, nicely, divided in two: red rule and blue rule. The greens or yellows hardly ever mattered. I don’t think I can really call it a proper game. Blues win by a landslide. If we weigh the historical facts together with our way of life, and, especially, the serenity we have enjoyed ever since the ship of state was entrusted to the PN, the blues win again. Hands down. No contest. They take first, second and third place.
Now I hear a red-eyed reader blurt angrily: Hey, but we are now new, we even have a new emblem. That’s all the Partit Laburista – oh, yes, to give them their full diabolical due they even changed their name – have come up with. They do keep calling for Dr Gatt’s head (well, to be even fairer, they keep asking for a number of heads. Robespierre and his gang would pale into insignificance if Joseph Muscat and his merry men had it their way with heads). Their reason for wanting Dr Gatt to resign is because he can’t drive a bus or get it to get anywhere on time.
The PL frontmen also seem to be screaming at the top of their voices because they were not invited to the Independence Day celebrations as if their life, or our future, depended on it. A bit rich and inane of them. History seems to tell us that when the reds ruled, the official date of reaching statehood was seemingly celebrated not with due fireworks or wreaths but with threats, stones and gas. And I imagine that independence is definitely more important than a few ships leaving Grand Harbour even if the day is somehow grandiloquently called Freedom Day. Maybe if we do give that day its so-called importance – as much as independence – the next time some Carnival cruise ships leave the port we should call that a great achievement and have it duly recorded and remembered with state banquets, anthem playing and a rigmarole of pretty petards and parades.
As far as new ideas go, the party dying to take over the reins of power seems as bereft and hollow as ever. I wish I could be more objective or more red-eyed and forgiving but every time I feel slightly tempted to see what Dr Muscat and his amazing rainbow troupe have lined up for us I am stumped. Not just because I’m hardly sure what they have on offer – please tell me, so that I can wake up to the possibility of a Labour victory without trepidation – but because every time I sit down to hear what the leader or his quasi-silent vices say, I go into a fearful, tearful frenzy.
The last thing I, or anyone who thinks the Mintoffian era was more of a dark age that engulfed our shores and souls than a golden age, want to ever hear is the clarion call of “Malta l-ewwel u qabel kollox” (Malta first and foremost). Even writing it grates. Dr Muscat actually said this, or words which, he diligently and vigorously explained, meant the same as those words uttered a few years back by Dom Mintoff to the reds’ delight. Every time I hear those words my heart misses a beat – or, rather, I hear the beating of the truncheons and the disgusting TV fare we had to endure back in that most golden of ages.
I’m not even sure I agree with the slogan anyway: it’s so xenophobic it makes my blood boil. Seeing our angelic Leader of the Opposition uttering it with an EU flag behind him drove home the irony rather too richly. And, even if not xenophobic, quoting a dinosaur who ravaged the country (even bringing down Dr Muscat’s predecessor’s government) is hardly good news to any blue-, yellow- or just bleary-eyed observer.
Unlike unelectable Alfred Sant, the young, energetic Dr Muscat seems to love getting into his fold anyone who was part of the Mintoff/Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici bandwagon. And Dr Muscat does not seem to be able to dissociate himself from the shameful time for democracy when his red idols ruled over us.
It might be cruel to harp on the past but while I will always think redemption is possible in anything I can’t ever think of employing a serial thief as a security officer with the gold held at the Central Bank – or whatever that august body has in its vaults. Even if the thief in question has spent a few long years behind bars or at Mount Carmel Hospital feeling sorry for himself and asking for forgiveness I still wouldn’t recommend him as a guardian of treasures. And I certainly wouldn’t employ, when their term of imprisonment is over, the defrocked, molester priests, as janitors at a school.
So the last thing that should be done by the PL is to get people like Alex Sceberras Trigona, Joe Grima and Karmenu Vella into the fold. They reek too much of the bad, red times. So, please, keep them as cosily wrapped in old, mothballed, Labour flags for as long as you possibly can. Otherwise, what is new Labour but old Labour in a suit instead of a big-buckled denim jacket. Even if Dr Sceberras Trigona is an affable nobleman, his policies, views and ways when the PL was in power were terrible. So, yes, I do forgive but I can hardly forget. And I do judge by the friends my future Prime Minister keeps.
So, I’m afraid the new Labour chant has hardly been a siren call to me. In fact, it’s more like a wake-up call to take stock and go with Dr Gatt’s silly prophecy and say that if one weighs things out properly the Nats with their vision and way of life – even if sometimes they sound and act like rats – deserve to be there till beyond 2031.
This article first appeared in The Times 30 October 2011