Saturday 16 February 2019

The gatecrasher

From the comments I’m reading I still cannot work out whether last night’s stunt by the Labour party caused it more harm than good.

In one corner, of course, you have the party faithful who will cheer whatever the PL decide to do, no matter how bizarre it might seem. They were the ones egging Franco Debono on, enjoying his rants as he crossed his arms defiantly while glaring at Simon Busuttil who was whisked away behind a glass partition.

In the other corner, you have PN supporters who, with one voice, repeated last night’s chorus that “the Labour party was scared to send Anglu Farrugia because they know he’s no match for Simon”.

Then you had that part of the population which perks up anytime there is a chance of a fight and who got a vicarious thrill out of seeing Peppi and Simon with their backs to the wall and who openly admire maverick, unpredictable Franco because he’s got “balls” (even though they might not necessarily vote Labour).

Meanwhile, bemused, bewildered and often disgusted, are those who watch all these shenanigans and yearn to just get away for the next few months until it’s all over.

Personally, I think not sending the Deputy Leader and giving the airtime over to Franco Debono instead was a bad move. The party should have kept to what was agreed and if they really felt so sorry for Franco because he was not being allowed a voice on the national station, the rebel backbencher could have accompanied Anglu to the studio – the same thing would have probably have happened, but at least Anglu would not have come across as wanting to avoid the debate, and the point would still have been made.

But on a national scale and as a barometer of what undecided voters are feeling, the outcome of the gatecrashing which, for the first time I can remember, meant that Xarabank had to be cancelled, is not so clear-cut.

From what I read last night online, many viewers were itching to see Franco because his volatile personality and quirky turns of phrase make for great television, for those who like that kind of thing. In fact, Franco and his relentless, booming voice, is the ideal Xarabank guest, so Where’s Everybody lost the perfect opportunity to have its ratings shoot through the roof.

Irrelevant? History? Many viewers at home don’t seem to think so, judging from their comments. No matter what happens, Franco is not going away, mark my words.

Watching Peppi as he poured his heart out to Ruth Amaira last night, going on (and on and on) about what happened, I got the niggling feeling that he would have relished a Franco/Simon showdown purely for the ratings. In fact, he actually said he would have not had a problem with both Anglu and Franco turning up – but PBS pulled the plug.

The Labour party then challenged PBS to hold the debate anyway, providing that Peppi is not the presenter, but this was turned down. Now, it seems the programme is going ahead this evening with Peppi after all. The point is, if they have such a problem with Peppi because they feel he is incapable of being impartial, why didn’t they just say so?

Well, because they wanted to do something to actually prove it. Hence the JPO style ambush, which was mimicked right down to the last detail.

Karma? Divine justice? Or an attempt at beating the PN at its own game?

As I said, I have my doubts as to what the Labour party has actually achieved by doing this. The only thing I can think of is that they succeeded in pulling a fast one on Where’s Everybody, as a kind of payback.  After all, what happened last night has to be considered within the context of Peppi Azzopardi coaching JPO on how to confront Alfred Sant in 2008. And the PL now have the refrain of  “Simon is afraid of someone in his own party” to use ad nausaeum.

Meanwhile, for those who want to hear the political parties discuss the real issues in the country, it’s a lost cause. We had the pathetic spectacle of three different stations last night giving their own version of what unfolded. With each station saddled with its own agenda, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the theatrics from actual meaningful debate.



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