Tis the Season to be Merry. It is also the season where a waning year makes way to a brand new one and where we all start pondering on New Year Resolutions which will hopefully make the incoming new grouping of 52 weeks better than the ones we lived through during 2021.
Even leaders of their countries and leaders of their parties have a go at New Year’s resolutions. Or, at least, they should.
Which brings me to a lovely idiom which has graced the English language since the last years of the eighteenth century. This popular idiom is an allusion to English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” which was published in 1798. In this beautiful piece of work, there is reference to an albatross which is shot by the eponymous mariner, bringing feelings of insurmountable guilt upon him and disaster upon his crew:
‘Ah! Well-a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung’
Nowadays, these words – or better still the phrase of having an albatross tied around one’s neck -have been repurposed as an accusatory phrase, often used to describe an unfortunate mishap or mistake. It causes you great problems from which you cannot escape, or it prevents you from doing what you want to do.
So the million dollar question would be precisely this: what does the Prime Minister’s New Year resolutions have to do with this Coleridge-induced British idiom.
Everyone knows that, contrary to what the prophets and seers from the opposition had announced, the New Year 2022 will inevitably herald a general election. A general election which every sane person and/or political commentator knows that it will be again won by the Labour Party. And when I say everyone, I really mean everyone, including the blue-eyed boys brought in by the leader of the opposition party who are being given handsome monthly salaries for the opposition to lose badly at the polls. It is not a question of if, but a question of by how much.
At face value, this should be a blessing to the Labour Party and its leader. Robert Abela will be one of the few Maltese Prime Ministers who will have succeeded in giving three straight electoral wins to his Party in a row. But is this indeed a blessing or is this an inbuilt curse for the Labour Party?
History shows us that when both major political parties overshot the accepted timeframe of pendulum politics, the ruling government nosedived to quasi-oblivion in the aftermath. Politicians became more complacent and arrogant. Their minions became even worse. The will of the party in government took second place to the whims of sycophants, ass-lickers and mercenaries. Shady deals and outright mismanagement spiralled out of all proportions. And the winning political manifesto which was the bedrock of such electoral wins would be conveniently thrown into the proverbial well to make space for unelected egocentric opportunists who would hijack the various ministries – with or without the minister’s benediction – for selfish and tainted reasons.
But Prime Minister Robert Abela has one very important ace up his sleeve which needs to be thrown in with his 2022 New Year resolutions. Although he would be leading the Labour Party to its third electoral victory, he has led his party and his government for a mere two years. In these two years, he has cleverly managed to juggle the need for continuity with the urgent necessity of overseeing change. Quite a challenging balancing act, if you tell me.
In these two years, the PM has cleverly managed to juggle the need for continuity with the urgent necessity of overseeing change.
But, hopefully, all this juggling will end next year, with the ushering in of a new Labour government. Robert Abela’s first elected Labour government. That will be the time when Robert Abela, as Prime Minister of Malta, but more importantly as leader of the Labour Party, needs to get rid of the albatross tied around his metaphorical head and create a government which is his, and not handed down to him by his predecessor. He will have to start with a clean slate, because that is what general elections do. It creates a scenario in which not only Cabinet resigns for the election but every single person put in charge of any form of entity directly related to the running of the country by the government.
His choices after such a clean slate will be the making or breaking of the Labour Party for the next decade and more. His choices need to be executed in order to mirror collegiality, team work, belief in principles and ideals. Moreover, they need to be implemented with the utmost discipline, with no quarter given to any Bonnie and Clyde who do not have the national interest at heart. To appointed personnel who are not tainted with murky stories from the not-so-distant past and whose loyalty to the ideals and targets of government – Robert Abela’s government – supersedes the personal and egotistical cravings that such positions inevitably bring forth.
His choices after the election will be the making or breaking of the Labour Party for the next decade and more.
His choices will span from the choice of MPs filling out his cabinet down to the last appointed government or agency representative. He must be able to ensure that previous fuckups at cabinet and ministerial level are things of the past. And he must be able to ensure that no opportunist and smooth talking sycophant takes over complete ministries due to the lack of balls of the appointed minister and drown the works of said ministries in ridicule, sleaze and unashamed personal fiefdoms. This happened in the past under both Labour and Nationalist thrice elected governments. It must not happen again.
Do I think that this is a tall bill for our Prime Minister and his New Year resolutions? It is indeed a tall and difficult order. He has to look at the integrity and performance of each and every colleague when it comes to appointments. Running a country is a bit different than counting how many likes one has on a Facebook page. Or how many presents and freebies are distributed in any given electoral district.
I am convinced that our Prime Minister will rise to the occasion when the time comes. And I am convinced that he will choose wisely, for the good of the country and for the good of his party.