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Time for wrapping it all up

Christmas came unexpectedly and almost too quickly this year, or at least that is how it seemed to me. I wasn’t able to really soak up and revel in the Christmas spirit and cheer as I normally do. Perhaps it had something to do with politics, political antics and other news items which found their way into December and even into my inbox and just wouldn’t let up, despite numerous promises to the contrary. It was a particularly eventful and action-packed month and I can safely say I am still reeling and hungover from the incessant developments.

Grech is Labour’s lucky break
- Michela Spiteri

Every year leaves its mark for one reason or another. The UK might remember 2012 for their Summer Olympic celebrations. For the US, 2012 will be best remembered for the close-to-call presidential election and Barack Obama’s re-election or perhaps for the December Connecticut shooting, which will undeniably leave more than just a mark. Others, like the BBC for instance, may recall 2012 as ‘the year of touchscreen’. For others, it will be inextricably linked to Fifty Shades of Grey, the book about erotic mummy porn which took the world by storm and outsold The Da Vinci Code and even Harry Potter. And others still may associate it with the Mayan prediction and more significantly, with the year the world didn’t end after all.

On this side of the Atlantic, 2012 may well come to symbolise the fall of the PN, and in a sense, the end of Maltese politics as we once knew it. It was a year marked by continued political instability, where our Prime Minister lost the confidence and control of the House of Representatives and persisted in leading a party which no longer commanded a majority.

It was a year which will undoubtedly be remembered for the Prime Minister’s – and a number of his ministers’ – abject refusal to take responsibility for a growing number of serious blunders which ought to have led to immediate, self-proclaimed resignation; and this in Malta, a supposed paragon of democracy.

Compare this to events in communist undemocratic China earlier this year, which saw the Beijing mayor and deputy mayor resign in the aftermath of deluges which led to scores of fatalities and extensive damage to the city of Beijing.

While some questioned the motives behind these resignations – few cities anywhere in the world would have been able to protect their citizens from the amount of rainfall which flooded the Chinese capital – others saw the resignations as politically necessary, if nothing else, out of a sense of symbolic purpose.

Taking responsibility for the disaster was none other than an act of appeasement – a sop to public outrage at how a city lauded for modernisation and shiny infrastructure could fail so tragically and hopelessly, proving above all that the city was anything but foolproof and certainly not waterproof.

So yes, sometimes scapegoats are necessary and sometimes people have to go, whether the Prime Minister or his ministers like it or not. You see, a resignation’s value or worth if you like, lies more in the message it conveys to the public at large and not so much in whatever it is that directly provokes the resignation.

People need to know that when things go wrong or when they mess up, someone is going to be held accountable, whether he or she deserves it entirely or not.

The message has got to resound loud and clear. And when it doesn’t, the message ultimately transmitted is worrying to say the least. It suggests too many other things that are all more dangerous and far worse than the original reason for the resignation.

This was probably Lawrence Gonzi’s biggest downfall. He increasingly reminded us of a leader of a playground squad-team who obviously struggled desperately when letting down his closest friends but had no qualms disappointing the newbies who weren’t in his school year or class. And that sort of political incest or nepotism has to go.

This is definitely an area where Joseph Muscat has proved a much worthier opponent. When it comes to resignations, Muscat certainly does deliver. Yes, I suppose Anġlu Farrugia’s resignation could have been avoided, just as Austin Gatt’s and others were.

But that doesn’t make the resignation trumped up or Farrugia a convenient scapegoat. Lou Bondì was among the first to question how the deputy leader of the opposition party could spew similar contempt at a member of the judiciary and get away with it, or words to that effect at any rate. He probably expected Manwel Mallia to protest or advocate in Farrugia’s defence, but Mallia did not bite. He acknowledged that Farrugia had overstepped. And a couple of days later, Farrugia was out.

To say that I knew Louis Grech would take over the deputy leadership wouldn’t be entirely true. I must have written two or three articles this year where I juxtaposed Busuttil and Grech and compared the euro-charm and EU style of doing politics with the way it is done locally. So perhaps I unconsciously willed the two current deputy leaders to take over.

Grech is Labour’s lucky break. His appeal and prowess are equal if not greater than his direct nemesis and rival Busutil because he represents many things to many people and appeals directly to that very peculiar and critical slice of the electorate – the growing number of true middle-of-the-roaders who are very hard to please and who don’t feel politically ‘at home’ with either party.

Grech’s an effectual debater who can out-talk the best of them. He’s at once a rogue and a guru, an idol and a friend, a confidant and a therapist. He’s intelligent without being patronising. He’s no yes man, nor is he a hypocrite or who imagines his values are somehow superior to yours or the only values worth embracing.

Ultimately, the deputy leadership choices starkly underline where both parties are heading – towards a new way of doing politics in the New Year.

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