Sunday, 14 June 2009

First Signs of Crumbling

14th June 2009
The Malta Independent on Sunday

Discussing the MEP election results with an experienced journalist and mature political commentator, we touched on the obvious argument regarding the extent to which this result could possibly be reflective of a general election result due in 2013.

I was taken aback when my colleague said he would not be surprised if the general election came much earlier than that as, he said, the government is crumbling with an evident revolt amongst backbenchers who are speaking openly in disapproval of Gonzi’s way of governing.

When I argued that a Labour 1998 fracas is unthinkable in the PN stables, my colleague said nothing is unthinkable these days and we sort of left it at that, moving on to other arguments.

However when I read DCG’s page in last Thursday’s sister edition of this newspaper, my colleague’s views started to look a bit more credible. Entitled Bring back the real Lawrence Gonzi, her main argument was that Dr Gonzi has lost his exuding confidence which was so visible before the general election because he has to deal with rebellious MPs on “government benches (who) appear to be going out of their way to undermine their boss. Indeed, they appear to have forgotten that yes, he is their boss. They are throwing their weight around and behaving in the most appalling fashion.”

There was another very interesting comment in DCG’s page. Read this:

“By not pulling the same rope as Lawrence Gonzi, by failing to cooperate with him because you’re ‘hurt’ or because your colleague got something that you didn’t, you are undermining the government.

In undermining the government, you are betraying your constituents, who elected you because they expressly do NOT want Labour in government.

If you don’t wish to carry on representing your constituents – who didn’t elect you personally but as a representative of the Nationalist Party – then do the decent and honourable thing and leave. Make way for somebody who is capable of putting the interests of the government, and of the constituents who voted him in to work for that government, before his own egocentric concerns.”

I must say I have great sympathy with this reasoning. What I found interesting, however, is that when Mintoff brought down a democratically elected Labour government that had a majority much more substantial than the one-seat majority that it had in parliament, these arguments found no favour in PN circles. Supportive PN columnists then opined that it was Mintoff’s democratic right to bring down his government if it no longer commanded his confidence.

My suspicion that this government is showing curious signs of crumbling were strengthened when I visited DCG’s blog and found her reply to a blogger’s comment about an MP who sulks all the time and is doing his best to undermine the Prime Minister:

“The trouble with these people is that they think their votes are personally theirs. Somebody should remind them that people were voting for the Nationalist Party and not for, say, Robert Arrigo. They chose him over somebody else because they liked him or he worked hard, but if he hadn’t been there, they would have voted for another PN candidate, and not for Labour. One of his advisers should tell him that if he carries on this way, he’s not exactly going to have a rush of votes in 2013 – people don’t like trouble-makers who are more interested in a cabinet position than in doing what they were elected to do: look after their constituents and be loyal political party on whose ticket they stood. If they think their votes are personal they should try standing as independents and see how far it gets them.”

You can see that things have been aggravated to the extent that pro-PN columnists like DCG feel compelled to pass from the generic to the specific. At least one MP has been identified and “shamed” even if his name is guardedly conditioned by “say” as if this were an example purely for argument’s sake.

Exploring DCG’s blog really added flesh to the bones of the argument that the Nationalist government’s structure has started to crumble A certain lawyer, traditionally a staunch Nationalist and partner in a leading firm of advocates that benefits from substantial government custom, openly campaigned for Labour in the MEP elections.

For DCG this is an unforgivable sin. Read what a direct appeal she addressed to him in her blog:

“Be a man and if you wish to carry on campaigning for Labour, then have the decency to sever your connections with the government and take your money from Joseph Muscat. If you don’t sever those connections, then I trust the government has the good sense to sever them itself. You deserve no more. If you receive because of your connections, then you also lose because of your connections. That’s the way it goes. To continue feeding at the government trough while undermining the government is so far beyond the pale that I cannot even find the words to describe it.”

DCG is usually well on the inside about these matters and therefore we now have authoritative confirmation of what was well suspected but hard to prove, ie that government feeds through its contracts only those who sustain the PN to retain power.

Small wonder that I have always had to work hard for my money.

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