So... this is Christmas?

Anyone who blinked probably missed the respite from politics in the build-up to Christmas. Showing little sign of festive spirit, the parties have been at each others’ throats and Labour threw in some extra spice into the mix last Thursday by announcing that Anġlu Farrugia would be departing from his deputy leader’s post.

The reason provided by Joseph Muscat at a press conference was that he deemed the accusations of political bias against a sitting magistrate made by Dr Farrugia to be sackable. Given that the comments were neither substantiated nor retracted, there is little doubt that they were.

The Nationalist Party has insisted this was a convenient excuse, and that the real reason for the deputy leader’s departure was Dr Farrugia’s poor performance in his debate with Simon Busuttil eight days ago. That is a logical accusation as far as it goes and there may well be some truth in it.

However, the manner in which Lawrence Gonzi and his party have appeared to dismiss Dr Farrugia’s comments about a magistrate the Prime Minister himself had appointed – saying Labour was using this as a banal excuse – is highly inappropriate.

Moreover, it is strange that given the justified disgust at Mr Justice Lino Farrugia’s comments that the Prime Minister was trying to be funny when calling for the judge’s resignation, the Nationalist Party and its leader were wholly reluctant to hold Dr Farrugia to account for his comments. Is this because they feared that by doing so he would actually be sacked – which was an eventuality they clearly did not want?

Worse still has been a whispering campaign by senior PN officials that The Times ran an editorial last Thursday – which criticised Dr Farrugia for his comments and for not apologising, but not calling for his resignation – because doing so suited Labour’s desire to get rid of him.

This is not just scraping the barrel even in the political world of dirty smears, but it is as laughable as the past week’s end of the world predictions.

The Times was doing its duty to question such a remark about a member of the judiciary – especially in the current climate – and other people were not doing theirs by remaining silent. Our agenda is one: to be credible and honest with our readers. If only all people in politics could say the same.

Has removing Dr Farrugia been a good move for Labour? Well, it is certainly brave. He clearly did not want to go and the acrimony in his letter of resignation to Joseph Muscat – “I have lost faith in you” – means signs of division have appeared in a party that was describing itself as united only a week or so ago.

This discontent could well come back to haunt the PL leader and the move was made dangerously close to an election. The rank-and-file of the party are probably feeling a little nervous at this point in time particularly as the Nationalist Party is showing signs of getting a second wind with Dr Busuttil’s overwhelming election as PN deputy leader.

However, it will be argued that Louis Grech is a safer pair of hands, a more acceptable face and a better opponent for Dr Busuttil than Dr Farrugia. The coming weeks will tell, though Labour’s haste and willingness to make its deputy leadership a coronation rather than a contest is likely to have upset a few people from within.

What most people hope in the meantime is that they can get a few days’ break from political goings-on before the storm resumes. It is certainly merited.

We wish readers a peaceful Christmas.


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