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I swear there are certain tasks which one must do as a journalist which ought to grant you a VIP pass to heaven if such a place exists.

In 2022, I was the only journalist who bothered with writing a comprehensive, data-driven analysis piece about the Labour Party’s manifesto for the general elections. The Labour Party had made a huge fuss out of the “1,000” proposals in their manifesto, a silly marketing gimmick that prime minister Robert Abela mentions to this day whenever he needs to tell us just how ambitious they are.

Of course, they would never admit that the manifesto contained no more than what turned out to be just 550 tangible proposals, which is why I had to go through the trouble of ripping it to shreds. It took three very long days to wade through the dross, and one may be tempted to argue that it was a waste of time given that the Labour Party won the election anyway. Looking back on it now, I can see that argument is wrong, because corruption is a slow, patient killer and one must wait to witness its handiwork.

One of the key pledges made by the government at the time was the fabled €700 million budget for urban greening projects. Reading the manifesto, one would have though Malta would be steadily on its way to becoming a lush, green paradise by now. Two years later, that pledge is as laughable now as it was back then. Satirical posts about the projects they are building make headline news more often than the projects themselves do.

We’d also gotten a plethora of healthcare pledges. While some of the promised investment in new community healthcare clinics did materialise earlier this year, along with last year’s new collective agreement for nurses after months of tense negotiations with their union, other promised investment pledges like a new outpatients block at Mater Dei Hospital never materialised. Conspicuously, the 2022 manifesto hadn’t even acknowledged the hospitals concession scandal. Now, that scandal has morphed into a full-blown noose around the country’s neck.

For my sins, here I am two years later, reading through yet another Labour Party manifesto for yet another election. This time, the most Eurosceptic party that our country has ever seen is attempting to convince us that its bland assortment of candidates is the right set of individuals to represent us in European Parliament.

Spare me any lecturing about European politics from anyone who signs up for a reality show and still expects me to take them seriously as a candidate for one of the most influential Parliamentary bodies in the world. Choosing to become an MEP candidate for the Labour Party should already be an immediate red flag in the eyes of anyone who cares about the integrity of the democratic structures which shape our lives. Choosing to do that and sign up for a reality show ought to get you kicked out of any conversation about politics ever, simply because it demonstrates a lack of sound judgement and any real understanding of just how serious this election is.

Of course, this begs the question – what was the Labour Party thinking here exactly? Well, from where I’m standing, it seems a whole lot like a desperate attempt at humanising their candidates and endearing them to their audience on a personal level. The underlying assumption is that these candidates are inherently interesting enough to generate watchable, fun content, even though the humour in the trailer for this reality show is as dry and uninspiring as an aging raisin. One can safely assume that the “funny bits” that went into the trailer were selected specifically to highlight the quality banter we will get to see. If that’s the best they could do, then I’m guessing the rest of it will be as fun as scraping a wall with a piece of cardboard.

The fact that they are desperate enough to commit to a reality show chimes in well with how evident it is that they couldn’t even be arsed to try and write up proposals. How can you produce a credible set of proposals when you stand for nothing? The manifesto reads like what I would expect from a teenager who spent the night downing energy drinks and racing to meet a deadline for an assignment they forgot about, except the teenager has hundreds of thousands of euros at their disposal to convince their lecturer they know what they’re talking about.

Well, unfortunately for the Labour Party, I happen to be able to sit here with just one laptop and no actual budget and still dismantle their efforts to give the impression that they are a serious outfit, campaign budgets be damned.

Briefly explained, the manifesto is vague, lacking in any kind of factual context or specific references, and downright false in several instances. The first four pages consist of one, gigantic close-up of the prime minister (hence the supersized featured photo) and a three-page spread dedicated to the prime minister’s foreword. Abela speaks of “Team Malta” and how it was only thanks to the unity of this team that “we’ve managed to overcome various challenges together” while “transforming” them into opportunities.

“Malta First”, the slogan goes, an inch shy of “Make Malta Great Again”. In bold, a block quote: “We are deeply committed to our values. We believe that promoting peace through dialogue and diplomacy is key to ensure prosperity, security, and the stability of our people.”

The manifesto itself is split into ten vague policy promises along the lines of the prime minister’s foreword.

In it, the Labour Party waxes lyrical about protectionism, pays more lip-service to peace and diplomacy, flexes a non-existent commitment to adequate climate change policy, outright lies about the government’s horrifying track record with migration, and makes lofty claims about how its MEPs would protect Malta’s economic competitiveness (with its whole, entire army of three to four MEP seats).

It also contains a bizarre, error-riddled section about Gozo, some petty boasting about a seven year, €2.25 billion EU funding allocation plan, plenty of hypocrisy about protecting farmers and fishermen while gutting the former’s land for development and letting organised crime flourish among the latter, and a completely nonsensical section about “the future of the European Union”.

They speak about how they will put Malta’s interests first, as if joining the European Union was simply about gaming the system to extract funding out of it while offering the absolute barest minimum in return. In the eyes of the Labour Party, the EU is a forum for transactions. It is the same logic they deployed when they decided to sell passports. The men in Plato’s cave sound omniscient in comparison.

They claim to advocate for peace and diplomacy on the international stage, as if Russian or Israeli aggression will come grinding to a halt when their MEPs say: “hey, you shouldn’t do that!” They try to smear smarter European leaders who understand that Europe must pivot to a war footing or otherwise face aggression without preparation by arguing that whoever wants increased defence spending is a warmonger. They fail to understand that nobody believes the Labour Party advocates for peace and diplomacy when we bear witness to how they handle domestic opposition everyday.

Like crass merchants of sleaze, they bandy about promises like seriously addressing climate change and the humanitarian fallout from the migration crisis while knowing full well they don’t intend to do any of that. To them, the great challenges of our time are mere talking points, keywords for the algorithms to feast on.

The spirit of what they propose captures the essence of what they are: an electoral machine that churns out empty promises and manipulates people by giving them just enough to think they’re doing better individually while making everything much worse collectively. You really should read the manifesto yourself to fully appreciate what I mean here. It will take you less than ten minutes to go through the whole thing.

This time round, the Labour Party’s paltry manifesto didn’t even merit a proper analysis, because you cannot talk about policy when there is nothing of substance to dissect. This time round, the prime minister isn’t trying his hardest to impress us with ‘the most ambitious manifesto ever.’

All we’re getting is a bland line-up of candidates desperately trying to look hip by participating in a reality show, a crusade against every democratic pillar that the government cannot control, and a disgraced former prime minister embarrassing himself in front of the entire country.

When you’re this detached from reality, the stitching of everything holding the racket together starts to come apart at the seams. You can see it happening when they start missing obvious details; choosing a slogan that refers to the Maltese word for health during the peak of the hospitals concession scandal, embarrassing public spats between the party leader and his former deputy, and now, half-assing an electoral manifesto nobody really asked for to begin with.

With so much empty space in the place where the details of the Labour Party’s ideology should be, the devil must have built himself a maisonette by now.


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