The armchair critic | Sunday afternoon tea

On a Sunday morning, some of us go out to recharge our lungs in the great outdoors or head to Mass to attend to our pious obligations. Then, there are others who enjoy nothing more than indulging in a traditional ‘te fit-tazza u pastizz’ and opening a freshly printed newspaper and discussing the week’s events with our family members, or maybe even to ourselves- this is one of those times.

What are we criticising?

I think we’re more on the edge of contemplation with a hint of constructive criticism for this type of edition. In this case, we are reflecting on this week’s events and the feelings we experienced as we watched. Oh, and we’ll later criticise the key points of today’s respective political rallies. 

What do we know so far?

Ukraine continues to fight off Russian invasion and defend its sovereignty, as the geopolitics of Europe remains uncertain. Grech and Abela continue the campaign trail and speak at their respective first mass rallies.  

“You gave up being good when you declared a state of war”

If you follow current affairs, you may know that on the 7th of February, French President Emanuel Macron and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin had a long discussion on common ground on Ukraine, held in Moscow. Putin, who is no stranger to unprecedented moves, gave no indication of the current invasion happening in Ukraine. Some however, questioned Macron’s presence, we might even consider him as a ‘mediator’ in this case for he managed to negotiate a meeting between the controversial Russian Leader and U.S. President Joe Biden, on the grounds that there is no invasion on Ukrainian sovereign grounds. Currently, it is France’s turn at holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union, with Macron being a de facto leader of Europe.

Fast forward a few days, we open our feeds, or the news and we find out that Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. Reading and registering this statement was spine-chilling to say the least. As the events of this tribulation and onslaught unfolded and progressed, so many other things did. Ukraine tore all diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation and an EU Member State leader meeting of urgency, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told leaders that that may have very well be the last thing they communicated. Zelensky proved to be defiant, come hell or high water. He advised spectators on social media platforms to be cautious of misinformation.  Authorities of the United States Government offered the leader assistance to be escorted out of Ukrainian territorial soils and offered protection and yet, after another sleepless night in Kyiv, prepared for whatever was to come, the leader rejected this and called on all friends of Ukraine in helping to fight off Russian invasion.

This should be a basic summary of the details. Zelensky stayed strong despite calls for exiting Ukraine, he remains defiant and shows no intention of going anywhere if it means leaving his country behind, despite Putin’s consistent provocations. Watching these events unfold, made us realise and feel a few things. As we saw people leave their homes, with their children, pets and members as they were escorted to safety, we could not help but feel helpless. For this, as California Governor Gavin Newsom would say, ‘We welcome you’. It takes a different, more harrowing fear than we may experience on a daily basis, to leave the space you have built so hard to call home with everything you love and not be able to look back and wander off into an uncertain future.

‘L’amour toujours’ will have to wait

While we love nothing more than watching an election unfold from our home,  going to rallies, immaterial of the party you support, takes a special kind of dedication, which we probably can never fathom. Maybe our criticism is  unorthodox when compared to others? Or maybe we just like to mind our own business? Who knows?

I guess if we cannot have standing events for anything, doing them for political events should not even be a question, so it looks like a mass rally is the vanguard and middle ground for both parties- and the most COVID compliant way of doing it. Those going, will sit down, whether behind the leader or in the audience and observe and clap. Maybe an asset for us, where we sit down, but we also have a mind of our own and we like nothing more than to criticise openly. 

Grech goes to Żurrieq

Today the Nationalist Party took us to Żurrieq for their mass rally. Well- or so we think? A cramped stage, once again, and a live commentary by two, lively, souls asking people to chant ‘Nazzjonalisti, Nazzjonalisti’. When the presenters cannot even agree on what to say, a facepalm is the only option left from where we are standing. 

Maybe a mass rally is the COVID-Friendly and nouvelle riche way of doing things. Maybe watching from home is not such a bad idea. Oh and, no masks? A young adult starts by giving credit to adolescents and Nationalist MEP David Casa  speaks on his work in Brussels. So far, both spoke relatively well. Opposition Leader Bernard Grech takes on the stage and graces the audience with his presence. And…a glitch? Let’s hope that’s not intentional. Grech starts his speech by thanking everyone for their role and participation in the first week of the Nationalist party’s electoral campaign. Oh, well Grech fully intends to continue with the jibes, now that the Labour Party campaign is a negative one and that the Labour Party in government will be nothing more but theft and waste- we guess charisma wasn’t on today’s menu. And, another glitch- Error404- P.N. Not Found? 

Grech shows off the Nationalist Party manifesto, this will definitely be an interesting one to delve into. Grech is on a ride today, with the jibes, with the u-turns and that the Nationalist Party wishes nothing more than to restore Malta’s reputation and economy. And the fireworks come off at the sound of Grech saying that he will raise salaries. Grech once again glorifies the youth division of the Nationalist Party and exemplifies the importance of the youth by speaking about an encounter with a potential voter- whereby he said that with a Nationalist Government, young adults will have a ‘palace’ of opportunities. Sounds majestic when you put it that way. 

 Looks like even Grech jumped on the stipend and maintenance increase bandwagon: but there’s a twist, 5% more than that proposed by the Labour Party- and with the condition that one volunteers with a registered Voluntary Organisation- a noble cause. And more jibes, now at the Labour Party’s take on the environment. Oh, I guess the proposal of a voucher for the youth to travel to a foreign country has not been forgotten after all. This is interesting, after all, wanderlust is something which every young adult has but- if Grech wishes to truly invest in economic growth for Malta, why is he pushing for this in foreign countries instead? Anyways, more of the same, let’s get ranking. 

Today’s ranking

Well, the comparison in preparation, detail and attendance of the Nationalist Party’s Mass Rally to that of the Labour Party needs no explanation. It would appear that Grech is trying to have a steel-sharp-personality and attempting to make light jokes, which- either no one is getting or no one finds them funny. Oh well, at least in another universe, maybe Grech is actually in a machine demolishing the Labour Party Headquarters.

Oh well, at least in another universe, maybe Grech is actually in a machine demolishing the Labour Party Headquarters.

With regards to Grech’s conduct this week, there were times where he impressed us, but there were other times like today, that he proved to be quite the contrarian. Below, we mentioned the Government’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis and while we do look up to the Opposition to provide an alternative, Grech did not give much of an action plan in that regard. There are things which we agree with, such as the incentive to do voluntary work- a noble idea from Grech’s end. However the Nationalist Party’s general presentation and handling of the electoral campaign does not add up to the much discussed rebrand which was promised. We should cut Grech some slack, for he had a lot to clean up in such a short period of time. However, if you give an impression that you are not prepared for a campaign, are you really ready to lead? 

Oh well, at least in another universe, maybe Grech is actually in a machine demolishing the Labour Party Headquarters.

Policy Mentions

Most interesting: The ‘new’ economic sectors which the 1 billion euro investment will create. 

On everyone’s minds: Skimming through the Nationalist Party’s electoral programme.

Needs further explanation: Why most of the ‘new’ economic sectors already exist.

Verdict

Ambition: 9

Optimism: 6.5

Energy: 7

Style and Delivery: 5

Pragmatic: 6

Abela does Naxxar

The Labour Party took us to Naxxar today. A rally may not be a mass meeting, but the Labour Party clearly understood the assignment. Even the audience behind the leader has colour-coded and matching face masks, and the stage speaks for itself. After Labour Party Deputy Leader for Party Affairs Daniel Micallef makes his speech, Prime Minister Abela heads to the podium to deliver his message. Well, in the Labour Party’s case, the audience did not need a cue to chant the usual ‘Viva l-Labour’ praise. 

Abela did not hesitate to start comparing the Labour Party’s electoral campaign to that of the Nationalist Party’s. Abela is not wrong in saying that he has a plan. So far, every press conference done by the Labour Party was not a play on words or proposals made out of nowhere, but a full concrete plan, architected with intricate detail that touches upon most sectors. Oh, and an unemployment statistic- possibly to show that the Abela’s administration is a doer. Ah, Abela is not shying away from jibes it seems. But at least Abela is less on the offensive, this time about the Nationalist Party’s preparation, or lack thereof for this election by saying that if Grech could not have a solid plan in his tenure as Leader of the Opposition, how can he be trusted to be prepared for 5 years as the country’s leader? 

Every press conference done by the Labour Party was not a play on words or proposals made out of nowhere, but a full concrete plan.

And he proves us right, the Labour administration’s conduct and handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic will definitely not fall on deaf ears during this election- clearly an asset for the Prime Minister. Well, here we have it, a self-imposed project- people’s interests at heart. Oh, another blow- this time the resignation of Nationalist MPs from the house- an ingredient keeping the cake together, the Party, and if elected, the country. I guess the Labour Party is marketing itself as a ‘team’, Team Malta to be more precise- so, Robert Abela is the coach, and we are the players? That’s a charismatic way of marketing it. 

Today’s Ranking 

Compared to last week, Abela has definitely improved on many accounts. His speech addressed paradoxes between the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party, however it was not crude. If anything, it was empathetic and yet very much steel-knife-sharp. Abela ticked all the boxes in his speech, maintained that the Labour Party was always ready and that the plan which the Labour Party has under wraps is a solid one, which leaves no stone unturned. Abela also branded himself as a promise-keeper and meritocratic leader. So far, this has proven to be the case. The Labour Party seems ready for virtually everything, be it a major political rally, to the tiniest soapbox in the street. 

What we however believe he lacked was addressing the Ukrainian crisis, and what Malta’s future plans to maintain peacekeeping and offer aid are. The current war could potentially affect the geopolitics of Europe is currently ongoing, there is surely more our tiny islands can do. But maybe there is a lot happening behind the scenes that we do not know about, in this regard, let’s hope we’ll know more in the days to come. 

Policy Mentions 

Most interesting: Labour’s 1000 proposals.

On everyone’s minds: The 700 million euro proposal for green and open spaces- read this piece for more.

Needs further explanation: The action plan for the Ukrainian Crisis. 

Verdict

Ambition: 9

Optimism: 10

Energy: 9

Style and Delivery: 7

Pragmatic: 8

4.9 15 votes
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