Labour in labour

Re-inventing the Malta Labour Party (and Maltese politics): an unauthorised tazebao.

Archive for May, 2008

Books you are reading: The Flavour of the Gonzi Era?

Posted by fcb on May 29, 2008


A number of you are contemplating the possibility of buying John Manduca’s The Flavour of the Mintoff Era: Secret Negotiations Made Public, 2008. Manduca was Malta’s High Commissioner to London in 1987-1990. The book (334 pp) is privately published by the author. At Euro 25 for the paperback edition, it does not come cheap, especially not in these times when most of us common mortals have to tighten our belt. Well, has any of you out there read it? If yes, write in and post a comment on our Voulez vous lire avec moi? page.
To stimulate you here are conflicting views from two of you :

“Manduca must be commended for making no pretence of objective impartiality. His is the testimony of a frankly partisan observer. He speaks of an era that we have not yet seriously attempted to understand. Perhaps because we have not yet managed to put it behind us, to rise above it and to move on beyond it. The tortuosness and disjointed character of the ‘era’ Manduca seeks to report from is reflected in the very way the book is constructed. Yes, ‘report from’ is more appropriate than ‘report about’, because Manduca – who belongs to the era he writes about – writes to us from that period.” J.F

“The book is an amateurish mess and does not contribute one cent of an Euro to serious scholarship. With no clear references to the sources cited, the book ‘meanders’ through a complex period of post-colonial history…the choice of verb is not mine, Dr. Albert Ganado in his very generous Foreword admits that he enjoyed “weaving” his “way through the meanderings of Maltese politics it brings to life” (my emphasis, p.7). Manduca’s musings tell us more of the cultural flavour of the Gonzi era than about a past that every now and then prods us with a walking stick and reminds us that it is still not quite past…Qormi a couple of weeks ago is a case in point.” D.A.


Posted in Editorial | 7 Comments »

Wanted: someone who can reach out to those who care about the value of truth.

Posted by fcb on May 27, 2008

It is not enough for the new leader to be a smart political tactician. Sure, we all dream of someone with the reflexes of a fourteen year-old master of the joystick in front of a video-game, ducking just in time to avoid being disintegrated by a dematerialisator ray from an enemy starship whilst simultaneously taking out a dozen android gonzians even before the Old Man – brooding in the Ille of Cast – thinks of instructing them to capture on a chip images of our smart-ass lasciviously abusing a half-liter tub of ice-cream – the sort of images that would destroy the electoral  prospects of any would-be first minister of the intergalactic federation. It is necessary but not sufficient.

It is not enough for the new leader to be a consumate international networker with strategically placed friends in the capitals of the Continent, which friends will fly in to bear witness to their friend’s competence and, more importantly, intercede on our behalf with the chieftains of Europe when and as required. It is necessary but not sufficient.

What we need is someone who is smart and streetwise but who can also understand what makes women and men of good will in this Country of ours look towards the future with growing apprehension. They may not all use these words but what is bothering them is that truth is in scarce supply and that they see no sign that there will be more of it in the foreseeable future, on the contrary. The better read amongst you will grin and point out that the crisis of truth, itself just one element of a broader crisis of values, is not just our local problem but a worldwide one, certainly a European one. This is no consolation. 

Our new leader must be someone who is bothered by this and who strives to reach out to those – and there are more of them than we seem to think – who are not ready to sacrifice certain fundamental values, truth first and foremost, to tactical exigencies, to political opportunism. We have said this before on this site, and we will say it again. We take it for granted that Gonzi, his government, his party, are strenghtened by the implicit support of various lay religious groups and of countless individuals for whom religious values are fundamental. This is not untrue but it presumes that these groups and individuals are necessarily subordinate to the political needs and aims of Gonzi, his government, his party and the social and economic interest groups they represent.

We think this is an unwarranted assumption. We are convinced that many who give so much of their lives to these groups and many individuals for who the spiritual dimension of existence is of vital importance, are not unconditionally tied to Gonzi and all he stands for. They will take us seriously when and to the extent that we take their concerns seriously. Their main current concern is the crisis of values, especially the crisis of truth. They will take us seriously when and to the extent that we take the crisis of values, especially the crisis of truth, seriously. Our new leader must be someone who understands them and who is understood by them. This may not be sufficient but is necessary.



Posted in Editorial | 18 Comments »

Rodent truth: How will the old man divert attention from the big trouble once young Labour gets going?

Posted by fcb on May 23, 2008


Within days the Labour Party will have a chosen a new Leader. Every decent woman and man in this Country is looking forward to seeing this done. Labourites, Nationalists, Greens as well as those that have lost faith in the existing political parties or have, quite frankly, never had any faith in any of them, all want Labour to make its choice without further ado and then do what an Opposition is meant to do. Never more than today did Malta need an Opposition.

Gonzi’s cabinet may have a number of (fast-ageing) young elements in it but it is the latest edition of an old and decrepit government, heir to two decades of incestuous political trading and unable to do much more than to churn out tired old ideas in ill-fitting new garments bought on the cheap in the great liquidation sales of twentieth century ideologies and end-of-the-century fads. It’s an old government, one condemned to become older by the minute.

With Labour busy squeezing its own blackheads (rarely an appetising sight), the old man at the head of the old government has had it easy since the Elections. With big trouble moving fast towards him from the four corners of the horizon, not less menacing than the horsemen of the Apocalypse, he must be very grateful for the way that national attention has being diverted from the tidal waves threatening our minute vessel (and from the aight of his own utter helplessness in the face of danger) to Labour’s quest for a new Leader.

What will the old man do once Labour has chosen and, rejuvenated by a new determination and an innovative vision for the second decade of the 21st century, shows him and his government to be what they are? There is no doubt that this prospect is gnawing its way through the brains of the PN’s strategists…truth, the venerable Maw-Zu says, is a rodent.

Posted in Editorial | 37 Comments »

The statesperson and the rabble rouser: waiting for the report.

Posted by fcb on May 21, 2008

The National Executive’s decision to publish the report purporting to analyse Labour’s defeat was an inevitable one. It would have been leaked anyway. This way, at least, it gets released as a whole as opposed to allowing only the publication of whichever bits and pieces best suit the Party’s enemies.

It would be stupid, however, if the report were to be reduced to a footbal in the feet of the leadership contestants. Some contestants will, no doubt, be tempted to direct their guns at other contestants who were members of the Party Administration during the election. This would be tantamount to inviting delegates to a lynching.

Let’s not beat about the bush: anyone stooping so low as to use the report in this way, does not  deserve the delegates’ vote. The report should be used as a springboard for a constructive debate on why the Labour Party failed  – throughout the five years of opposition if not since 1998 – to organise a sufficiently broad social consensus that it was the best possible political force to govern the Country. Not only during the last few weeks before the elections. Even less on the day of the election.

To reduce the issue of victory or defeat to the conduct of the campaign or the party’s electoral organisation, and to seek a handful of sacrificial victims, is not the best way of beginning afresh. It will simply mean that we have learnt nothing. On the other hand, the manner in which the contestants will use the report, will afford us an insight into their respective suitability for office…it will distinguish  the statesperson from the vindictive rabble rouser.   

Posted in Editorial | 4 Comments »

Evarist Bartolo denies rumours that he is quitting.

Posted by fcb on May 21, 2008

Evarist Bartolo has flatly denied rumours that he will not be contesting the election for Party Leader.
We are publishing his media release in the STATEMENTS BY CONTESTANTS page.

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Only three stand a sporting chance: focus groups exercise confirms

Posted by fcb on May 19, 2008

We have been busy. Over the past ten days, ten groups of ten persons each, one hundred persons in all, stratified by age, gender, occupation, education, political affiliation (including 0-political affiliation) and region (South, Centre, North and Gozo) were invited to attend a two hour focus session to discuss the relative merits/demerits of the five potential candidates for the position of Leader of the Labour Party.  The focus group sessions were held in private residences and run by skilled and experienced moderators and observed by equally skilled and experienced observers and analysts.


We are organizing ourselves to be able to run such focus groups regularly and well beyond 5th June. In fact, sufficient funds permitting, we are aiming to to keep the exercise going at least up to the end of 2008. Seriously implemented focus groups, if complemented by serious surveys – and we mean S-E-R-I-O-U-S surveys – can help us keep in touch with the people (A-L-L the people).  The methodology used corresponds to international best practice in this field and was audited by qualified foreign specialists. Participants were encouraged to express themselves about a number of themes and then quizzed regarding how they felt each of the five candidates would fair with respect to each theme. Here are some of the results:






George Abela: Excellent credentials from Meusac days but has problems with Labour grassroots because of the same

Evarist Bartolo: Moderate stand but the Kenneth Wain soundbite undoes him.

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: No track record on the subject.

Michael Falzon: No track record on the subject but his hunting connections do nothing to increase his credentials.

Joseph Muscat: Campaigned against membership but proved his worth in the European Parliament where he outperformed even the Nationalists.



George Abela: No track record on the subject.

Evarist Bartolo: No track record on the subject.

Marie Louise Colerio Preca: No track record on the subject.

Michael Falzon: Lawyer by training, banker by profession.  Has insight of finance.

Joseph Muscat: The only candidate who studied economics, worked in the sector and seems to know what he is talking about.



George Abela: Good credentials, especially on workers’ rights.

Evarist Bartolo: Good credentials, especially on education.

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Excellent credentials.  Nobody can top her.

Michael Falzon: Good credentials, comes across as someone who emphatises  (‘feels for and with’) a lot.

Joseph Muscat: Good credentials, campaigned on improved workers’ rights in the European Parliament.



George Abela: Non-committal.

Evarist Bartolo:  Expressed himself in favour.

Marie Louis Colerio Preca: Non-commital but can be expected to be in favour because of her awareness about the what is going on in our society.

Michael Falzon: Non-committal. His religious roots might make it difficult for him to tackle the subject.

Joseph Muscat: In favour and already committed to presenting legislation and allowing a free vote in Parliament.



George Abela: Goes down well with NGOs but his role as MEPA legal consultant might prove a very difficult problem.

Evarist B artolo: Excellent credentials, campaigned on many environmental issues.

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Good credentials.

Michael Falzon: Hunting lobby is a hindrance to his otherwise good credentials.

Joseph Muscat: Excellent credentials, has been continuously referring to the need of an “environmentalist” Labour Party, and campaigned with many environment NGOs.





George Abela: Moderate appeal

Evarist Bartolo: High appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Low appeal

Michael Falzon: Moderate appeal

Joseph Muscat: High appeal



George Abela: High appeal

Evarist Bartolo:  Moderate appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: High appeal

Michael Falzon: Moderate appeal

Joseph Muscat:  Moderate appeal



George Abela: Moderate appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Low appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: High appeal

Michael Falzon: High appeal

Joseph Muscat: High appeal


2.4 GOZO:

George Abela: High appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Mode rate appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca:  Moderate appeal

Michael Falzon: High appeal

Joseph Muscat: High appeal



George Abela: Moderate appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Moderate appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Low appeal

Michael Falzon: Low appeal

Joseph Muscat: High appeal


2.6 WOMEN:

George Abela: Moderate appeal

Evarist Bartolo: High appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: High appeal

Michael Falzon: Low appeal

Joseph Muscat: Moderate appeal



George Abela: High appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Moderate appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Low appeal

Michael Falzon: Low appeal

Joseph Muscat: Moderate appeal



George Abela: Low appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Moderate appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: High appeal

Michael Falzon: Moderate appeal

Joseph Muscat: High appeal



George Abela: High appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Low appeal

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Low appeal

Michael Falzon: Moderate appeal

Joseph Muscat: Low appeal



George Abela: Most appealing to voters with low and medium education  but tending to homogeneous appeal

Evarist Bartolo: Most appealing to voters with medium and higher education

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: Most appealing to voters with low and medium education

Michael Falzon: Most appealing to voters with low and medium education

Joseph Muscat: Most appealing to voters with medium and higher education but tending to homogeneous appeal

Note on education: (1) Low: Primary, (2) Medium: Secondary, (3) Higher: Higher, (4) Homogeneous: even distribution between 1, 2 and 3.


These are only preliminary results from the analysis of focus group materials. We are working to correlate them to current country-wide surveys and to aggregate delegate profiles.  What emerges is the near-certainty that only three, at best, of the five contestants for Labour’s top job stand a reasonable chance of success. More to come in the coming days.

Meanwhile, tell us what you think.


Posted in Editorial | 23 Comments »

Lessons for the young

Posted by fcb on May 17, 2008


These are great times for aspiring politicians. The past few weeks have been pregnant with lessons in practical politics. Young and ambitious and unscrupolous men and women thinking of a political career should thank their lucky stars for the privilege of being able to witness at first hand the brilliant maneuvres unfolding in the pitch darkness in front of their very eyes. Above is the first of a series of Mawzu vignettes (you will, of course, have heard of the venerable Maw-Zu…) intended for the delectation of the weary and for the instruction of the foolish.  


Posted in Editorial | 8 Comments »

And now, please, back to the future … (Part II)

Posted by fcb on May 10, 2008

The run-up to the Extraordinary General Conference of the Labour Party has not been a waste of time. It was a healthy exercise in internal party democracy. We are deeply moved by the ruling Nationalist Party’s concern for the way things are done inside the opposition Labour Party and for their support for those members of our Party who petitioned for amendments to the Statute to substitute the Delegates of the General Conference with all paid-up members of the Labour Party. Although we do not recall witnessing any support for amendments to the Statutes of the Nationalist Party to enable all paid-up members of the Nationalist Party to directly elect their ‘Kap’, we are nevertheless certain that the intense interest shown by Nationalist media and by the media aligned with them (this too is certainly a purely random occurrence) in the proposed changes to the Labour Party’s statute, were motivated by a pure love of democracy and in no way reflected a partisan agenda.

Meanwhile the Extraordinary General Conference met, deliberated and voted.  At thirty minutes past midnight of today, May 10, 2008, the MLP Electoral Commission, having completed the counting of the votes and duly reconciled the results, announced that an overwhelming majority of Delegates had chosen not to approve the motion.  ‘Labour in labour’ was the first to go online with the results!  Our reading is that the Delegates were principally concerned with the timing of the proposed changes to the Statute and not with the substance of the proposed amendment. We have no doubt that in different circumstances, the overwhelming majority of delegates would have been delighted to agree to the direct election of the Party Leader. We have also no doubt that, in different circumstances, all of the contestants of the coming election for the post of Leader, would have wholeheartedly agreed to the proposed changes. We do not exclude that the future Leader of the Labour Party will, in due course, herself or himself propose such a change. What greater sense of democratic committemnt could be expected from the ‘Kap’ of the Nationalist Party Lawrence Gonzi if, at that point, he were to propose the same changes to the Statute of the Nationalist Party?

Posted in Editorial | 43 Comments »

Voting in progress: MLP Extraordinary General Conference

Posted by fcb on May 9, 2008

water for the wheel of Party democracy.

General conferences bring water to  turn the mill-wheel of  democracy in the Party.

Voting is in progress at the Centru Nazzjonali Laburista, Hamrun, on a motion presented to the specially convened Extraordinary General Conference to amend Article 1 of Chapter 6 of the Party Statute. The proposed amendment, if approved by the Party Delegates, will mean that the Leader will henceforth be directly elected by all paid up members of the Party (presently around 19,000) rather than by the approximately 900 representatives of the Party membership elected by locality and district branches as well as Party organisations including MPs.

21:45 May 9, 2008

We have been reliably informed that all contestants except George Abela have already cast their vote. Dr Abela, not being a delegate, does not have a vote. We will publish the results as soon as we get them.

22:00 May 9, 2008

The results:




00.30 May 10, 2008

Posted in Editorial | 5 Comments »