Politics, Policies, and Parties

Most teachers of languages have a stock set of essay titles for their classes – some of which are specifically worded so as to discover details of their students’ family life.

A title for First Formers of English and Maltese language lessons – teachers of other languages balk at doing this, because the pupils’ command of the language is none too hot at that stage – would be “If I Were King /President /Prime Minister For a Day”. Memories of this task must have haunted the Charles Mangion as he was sworn in as Leader of the Opposition lately.

But of course, he is not one to sit down and jot 500 words on his aspirations and expectations. Most probably he already knows that people do not expect him to go around saying “Love me” or even “Call me Charles” because it is just not his style: and anyway, until Joseph Muscat was elected Leader of the Labour Party (a.k.a. Mexxej) – most of us thought that the incumbent of one position would automatically serve in the other. So now, our eyes have been opened.

But it must have given Dr Mangion a kick that he was appointed to the post, having been the Acting leader of the MLP.… Ah! But most of us had our own ideas about who ought to have been elected to either, or both, coveted positions. In fact, given the aforementioned fact that we (read I) thought the positions were concomitant, I came up with my own list of people who could have occupied both, simultaneously.

In fact, my obvious choice was Marie Louise Coleiro, and not for gender-related reasons. She was the only politician who turned up, after the General Elections, to thank us, the residents in her electoral area, for our support. We did not hear a whimper from all those who had promised the earth and a bag to put it in – as well as voting-day transport for the invalids, a street surface worthy of Le Mans, shielded street lights, no skip at the end of the street (people who have pigs’ trotters, building and carpenters’ debris, IT hardware and broken furniture find it too handy)… you get the gist of what I am trying to say, surely. Because to me, being a Leader of the Party, and/or Leader of the Opposition, means being down there, on the shop floor with the Great Unwashed. In other words, not up on a podium from where you cannot smell their sweat.

With this in mind, I drew up a list of possible candidates for the jobs. Unfortunately, when I showed it to my consultants, they shot it down. The told me that “the people” had spoken; I said they had not, by a long chalk.

Here is my roll, anyway.

Is it not a waste of human resources (fashionable phrase!) to have two different people in two different jobs, the functions of which often overlap? My argument cut no ice with them. Joe Saliba: It is a pity to waste the talents of this guy, when he is relieved of his job as Secretary General of the Nationalist Party. He can talk the hind legs off a donkey, even if he did not answer a couple of e-mails about two very important incidents, which I sent him. There are some things you just don’t want to say to a secretary of a Secretary General.

The word diplomatic was invented with Mr Saliba in mind…. and what he says can be misconstrued by Labour and Nationalist and Alternattiva supporters to mean anything he wants them to think it means. The next day, when his words appear under Second Coming headlines, he can argue, hand on heart, “But that’s not what I said!”

Robert Abela: This person still has his day job. Yet, having already given one interview to this sister paper to this, he might find it helps him negotiate the media even better. He cannot always avoid us, because these onerous jobs mean he will actually have to face cameras whenever he makes a public appearance, rather than exit stage left. Apart from that, it would be an opportunity to heal rifts between people who think Malta must be solely represented by the Maltese, and those who think differently. This would be the ideal job for Mr Abela because he could stonewall people and get credit for it, for a change. He could hire a (local) PR firm if he thinks the situation warrants it.

Chris Cardona: This very intelligent person once actually believed that the Government ought to have told the public that there were ‘alternatives to full membership’ in the EU. He has come a long way since then; and in fact, some time ago people from his office ran a telephone campaign to tell us he was too busy to come and visit us, but that we must feel free to tell him our niggles. This was a botched wannabe PR coup, wasted on those who appreciate the niceties of proverbs such as “if you want something done, give it to a busy person…”

But it indicates that he knows how to delegate, an essential knack for any politician. To be fair, when this person did have time for home visits – and the electoral boundaries were somewhat different – he had impressed me with his calm demeanour and intelligence.

Reuben Sciberras: Of course, some people will promptly ask “Which one?”, but others will know, instinctively, that I mean the Mr Sciberras who made history when he was not chosen for a post to which he was eminently suited. Oh, how the wheels of gossip ground. In spite of the fact that he only part-times in journalism, it does not change the fact that he is one of the few Maltese journalists who has something between the ears. More importantly, he does not use it to denigrate others, even when he spices up his work with political references.

His students, I am told, think he is a brilliant teacher as well as a fantastic friend. These qualities would have morphed this young chap into one of the best leaders any political party, and any opposition, which after all is a government-in-waiting, has ever had.

Marie Benoit: This is definitely not about token gender equality issues, either. This is a personal opinion about a lady who is one of my mentors; one who does not even bat an eyelid when one spoils her new yellow top with scalding coffee…. and will have nothing to do with having her dry-cleaning paid for. She is generous to a fault. Ms Benoit is a sangfroid lady with a delicious turn of phrase. The fact that she works for the opposition, makes her, well, ideal to be a candidate for my list of contenders for the post of Leaders of the Opposition. The Leader of the Labour Party tag would be a deserved bonus, because she looks like everyone’s favourite aunty. She can sell fridges to Eskimos by telling them that it will stop their meat from freezing. She can write a thesis about selling skis to Arabs. And with her at the helm, the Labour Party could have well won the last elections.


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