Alfred Sant’s Patrons and Clients

When I wrote the blog about the close friendship between Mario de Marco and Adrian Hillman, I was expecting a negative reaction from Nationalist supporters, but I did not expect that even a strong section of Labourite bloggers would come to the defence of de Marco and the Times.

If I were editor of L-Orizzont, I would be seriously concerned with such a reaction. This newspaper has been publishing one editorial after another against the Times and those bloggers whom L-Orizzont considers NP pundits.  Now that I have published a blog, which should please the Labourites, the opposite has happened. At least, my blog shows that I am not in anyone’s pocket. I discussed Mario de Marco with the same strong and direct language that I spoke of Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil in previous blogs.

I was mulling over whether to reply to Mario de Marco’s accusation but the reply came, strangely enough, from a source that I never expected: Alfred Sant. His blog about friends of friends is food for thought for those who follow local politics. Alfred Sant did not specify to whom he was referring but the Malta Independent has rightly interpreted this blog as a sign of tension within Labour. I am sure that this tension is partly being caused by genuine Labourites who are angry that their party has been hijacked by former Nationalists.

Jeremy Boissevin did not speak only about friends of friends. Analyzing Maltese politics, he also spoke about patrons and clients and factions and brokers. I think that these new patrons and clients are the real worry for Alfred Sant. Undoubtedly, he does not see eye to eye with the neo-liberals.

We ought to bear in mind that in three years, Muscat’s grand majority has fizzled to nothing. Even his parliamentary majority is starting to feel the strain. Perhaps, the most obvious case is that of Marlene Farrugia. But she is not alone. It is clear that Joseph Muscat has a group of MPs who are challenging him. He is no longer the mighty leader of three years ago.  Muscat is slowly getting himself into the situation, which Mario de Marco, has described the Nationalist Party was in before the 2013 election. The NP needed 20 years to reach such a situation. Labour has achieved this in just three years.

Nor is Alfred Sant alone in his criticism. The Times and the Malta Independent published a number of articles and stories concerning Evarist Bartolo, who is also showing unease with the current Labour movement. Bartolo was one of the closest aides of Alfred Sant to the extent that Sant confronted Mintoff in Parliament on Bartolo’s encouragement and after losing the election in 1998, he went to Bartolo’s house for consolation.

I don’t think that it was a mere coincidence, that the Prime Minister asked Evarist Bartolo to represent him at Mgr. Mercieca’s funeral when Bartolo is not the second in command, but is preceded by two deputy prime ministers. Muscat sent somebody who used to pride himself that he does not even step on the threshold of a Catholic Church. When Albert Mizzi died, Muscat found time to change his schedule and attended Mizzi’s funeral despite his commitments abroad. This speaks volume about the present day workers’ party. Meeting one of Malta’s disgraced Nationalist politicians at Dubai is more important for our Prime Minister than attending Mgr. Mercieca’s funeral.

But there is more to Sant’s article than it states on the surface about friends of friends. It was the Labour newspaper, Il-Kullħadd that wrote a front page article accusing Mario de Marco with an intimate friendship with Adrian Hillman. This article was published as a reaction to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s accusation that Hillman is more than a friend with Keith Schembri. Strangely enough, this story of Il-Kullhadd was not uploaded on the Kullhadd portal. As the Kullhadd is the official newspaper of Labour, I think that there should be an explanation for such type of behaviour, which goes beyond friends of friends dichotomy.

After writing my article, Glenn Bedingfield wrote a blog in support of Mario de Marco and chose to ridicule me with a photo, which was a snap shot from my appearance on TV. I didn’t feel demeaned by the image but honoured, as that sort of image reminded me about how Dom Mintoff was portrayed during my childhood, banging his closed fist on the table. It is an open secret, that Bedingfield writes his articles with the full blessing of Muscat and that he is Keith Schembri’s puppet.

Two of the colourful personages who attacked me for criticizing de Marco were Franco Debono and Robert Musumeci, two ex-PN who are now with Labour. Incidentally, these individuals are the ones who are also vociferous critics of Simon Busuttil. I think that I would be doing a correct analysis in saying that their criticism of Dr. Busuttil derives from the fact that until Simon Busuttil is at the helm of the Nationalist Party, they do not have any chance to return back into the PN folds. For sure, one cannot use Bossevain’s equation of patron and clients for Simon Busuttil and Franco Debono and the latter’s friends.

At least, I can note with pleasure, that after the writing of that famous or infamous blog, it is going to be even more difficult for these individuals to find brokers within the PN to support their faction, as those who support them will risk bruising themselves with the PN rank and file. Jason Azzopardi is a case in point to the extent that he had to qualify what he had said about Franco Debono, which was intended by a particular faction (the same one to which now Azzopardi belongs) as an open invitation for the possible return of Debono within the PN folds. My suggestion to Franco Debono and his friends is to take Sandro Chetcuti’s advice and make hay while the sun shines and continue enjoying their state funded salaries for having been rascals against Lawrence Gonzi.

But the cherry on the cake should be the failed promise of having a monument for Dom Mintoff in Valletta. While Mario de Marco’s father ended up with a monument by Muscat’s Government in the most important street of Valletta, the Mintoff monument failed to materialize. Labourites should not feel offended any longer when Dom Mintoff is demeaned by the Opposition, as even the Prime Minister has degraded him when he found money for a monument for Guido de Marco but has no money for Dom Mintoff’s monument in Valletta. Charity, an old English saying goes, begins at home.