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Government's Speaker proposal 'insolent'

Former Labour deputy leader George Vella yesterday described the government's proposal to have as Speaker of the House of Representatives an MP from the opposition as "insolent".

Dr Vella was speaking at a meeting organised by Labour MEP Joseph Muscat who is contesting the post of leader of the Labour Party. The election will be held on June 5. The meeting which was attended by several hundred people was held at Villa Overhills in Birżebbuġa.

The Labour Party has not yet adopted a stand on who should be Speaker, but party insiders told The Times that the offer was largely received as an example of sleight of hand at the party's first meeting for the parliamentary group last Tuesday, seeing that the government would widen its one-seat majority in Parliament by making the opposition lose a vote.

Despite coming from the opposition, the Speaker would be obliged to use his casting vote in favour of the government, which means that while at face value the proposal seems a positive step for Labour, in reality it was designed to suit the government, the thinking goes.

Dr Vella said the country needed a strong opposition that would scrutinise the government and keep its "arrogance" in check, before going on to describe the government's offer as "insolent".

The comment was a passing reference in a brief speech that was designed as a testimonial for Dr Muscat.

Earlier on, veteran journalist Godfrey Grima also pledged publicly his support for Dr Muscat.

Dr Muscat kicked off his speech at the meeting - which is the first in a series his campaign team will be organising before the June 5 election - by thanking the other four candidates, saying he believed they all were valid candidates who had a lot to offer.

"Should anyone of them be elected instead of me, I ask you to work with them," he said, before promising that if he were elected, the other contestants would be key players in the party under his leadership.

The need for a united party after June, in effect, was a recurring feature in the speeches by Dr Muscat and Dr Vella.

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