Much to the disappointment of my (many) detractors, this column sees the light of day again. I’m not sure what said detractors expected, maybe that a new Labour Government would issue an edict, saying that anyone who holds, and expresses, an opinion that is different from its own, or who had the temerity to write that Joseph Muscat isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, would henceforth be banned from writing?
Those days are long gone. It’s no longer the case that your publishing house would be burned to the ground or your newspaper would be prevented from entering the country.
So hard cheese, chaps, Beck is among you still, albeit suitably chastened by the thought that he didn’t see that one coming, not by a long shot. Thankfully, for it spares my blushes somewhat, I never made any prediction as to who would win; I merely gave some guidance to my fellow great unwashed as to who I thought should do that little thing.
I was told to shove my guidance, in no uncertain terms, that being the beauty of democracy. Just to confirm to all and sundry, especially the ones who keep calling for my decapitation in the comments below this and my blog, that I think my opinion remains valid (why else does anyone write an opinion column, pray tell) muse on this: if popular acclaim were such a sure-fire guide to quality, how come Big Brother and Eurovision are among the most popular forms of mass entertainment?
For the record, I remain of the opinion that Lawrence Gonzi guided the country to a good place, over all, and that he didn’t deserve the treatment the electorate, or some people around him, handed out to him. That said, Gonzi was out-manoeuvred and outplayed by Muscat. Why this is so is a question the Nationalist Party has to answer with some urgency since they have the small task of rebuilding the party from top to bottom.
The way I see it, in the nature of things, it’s a combination of factors.
Gonzi was perhaps too busy running the country to take care of the political angles, while being distracted in whatever free time he had by some snapping whelps who will now fade gracefully, or not, into the sunset of their political careers.
This latter function is one that is anyway - in our sort of democracy - supposed to be taken care of the by the party.
An astute reader will notice the use of the word ‘supposed’ just then. The extent to which there was a party machine in place at any point prior to (and even after) the campaign started is, by all accounts, debatable.
Then you had the issues created by the way the Government did its thing.
In Gonzi’s own phrase, they did the good things well but the small things badly, annoying great chunks of people more by the way things were done than by what was actually done.
The word ‘perceptions’ keeps springing to mind, which, when coupled with the concept ‘people’s expectations’ (reasonable or otherwise), tend to give birth to monsters that drag Prime Ministers and their parties down to Hades with no return ticket.
When it comes to perceptions, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty amazing how the PN in Government allowed so many issues, big and small, to be hijacked, from the debate about the ‘roofless theatre’ (actually, open-air performance space) to ‘desecration of trees’ (proper management of spaces) to ‘economic disaster’ (properly speaking, flipping miracle) and so many other things.
Of course, the recurring mantra of many of the thousands who voted against the PN was that they were arrogant and deserved to be changed.
Speaking for myself, perhaps I should have seen this and done something about it but, hey, I’m now being told, though not by anyone whose opinion deserves respect, that I and people like me were instrumental in the PN being seen as arrogant, so what was I supposed to do, shout at myself? And I have this strange notion that I have the right to have an opinion, even if it is only evidence that I am a moron.
For the record, incidentally, I dispute that. Not that I am a moron, I’ve been called it so often, it’s sticking. Nor do I necessarily dispute that I’m arrogant (though I’m not, merely intolerant of idiots). What I do dispute is that what I write actually influences people, at least in the thousands, or even that it should influence them, given that my opinion is mine alone and all I’m doing with it is what columnists and bloggers do the world over. I am slightly more realistic than that, anyway, I only wish I could change the course of history by what I write.
All of the above, and plenty more besides, contributed to the PN’s biggest electoral defeat in living memory, one from which a fight-back will be darn hard (how’s that for an understatement) if they don’t get the right ducks in a row pretty quickly. It’s up to them now, unless they want Muscat to have a free ride into another five years after these.
And just to reassure the detractors to whom I referred in the opening line, please note I won’t be giving Muscat much of a honeymoon, as I wouldn’t like to disappoint him and them (the detractors). The clock is already running on his many, many promises.
Let’s end on a normal note, the sort that doesn’t influence people and how they vote, though it gives people who want to call me names a handy peg on which to hang their hats. We had dinner at Omertà in Old Bakery Street, Valletta (bottom end) on Silent Friday evening and it was a darn good meal. I will be returning in the none-too-distant future.