Interesting body language as the PM congratulates Simon Busuttil (photo taken from official Facebook page)
I’m not one to believe in conspiracy theories, because my mind really doesn’t work that way: I’m just too straightforward.
Unfortunately, on more than one occasion, I have been proved wrong, sometimes to my own detriment.
When it comes to political machinations and what goes on behind-the-scenes, however, it is true that nothing is ever as it seems. We are an audience, watching dumbly as orchestrated events fall into place.
Take the smiling photo I have before me, for example from the front page of The Times, of Lawrence Gonzi holding high Simon Busuttil and Tonio Fenech’s arms in triumph after the deputy leadership contest. The message being conveyed is that “there are no losers here, because Simon’s victory is for the good of the party”.
And yet, Tonio’s forced smile does not carry through to his eyes, while Simon, with that butter-wouldn’t melt-in-his-mouth face, has a look in his eyes which conveys more than a glint of raw ambition. If I had to describe the Prime Minister’s expression it would be that of grin and bear it resignation – he knows his days as party leader are numbered. After all, the way Simon’s victory was received with such jubilation was nothing more than a slap in the face. All over the Internet I was reading comments describing Simon as The Great White Hope who will save the day (in other words, you, Lawrence Gonzi, had your chance and blew it).
But it is from this photo published on the MaltaToday website that everyone’s true emotoions can be clearly seen:
At first, judging from all the MPs who reportedly backed Tonio Fenech, I actually thought he was going to be chosen because he represents the kind of solid, reliable family man with which the conservative right-wing faction within the party can easily identify. But, foolish me, I should have realized, it is not the loyal diehard core which is giving the Nationalist Party jitters and sleepless nights because it is flatly refusing to vote. It’s those others: the loose cannons, those who perhaps lead a less than conventional lifestyle, those who refuse to toe the line just because the party says so; those who have no qualms about going against the establishment.
As voting started it was soon clear that the “word on the ground” was that “Tonio is good, but the more liberal Simon will win us the election”. That message was quickly transmitted through to the councillors, who knew what they had to do. This means either one of two things:
a) the MPs who were backing Tonio because they did not want Simon waltzing in from Brussels and basically taking over, are now very unhappy
b) it was all a mise en scene and the MPs who endorsed him were simply doing it to make it look like a real contest (which, if true, speaks volumes in itself)
Those who revel in conspiracy have pointed out that this recent game of musical chairs (John Dalli > Tonio Borg> Simon Busuttil) is simply too pat and too convenient not to have been part of a wider strategic plan. For let’s face it, how else could Simon have been planted in such a coveted and crucial second-in-command position without getting Tonio Borg out of the way? And what possible juicy appointment could be given to Tonio B. to make him relinquish the deputy post? It sounds so very far-fetched; the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of. There are those who will downplay all this with a sneer and a scoff, saying it is the result of people who have nothing better to do than to let their imagination run wild.
But this type of intrigue in politics is commonplace, as past manoeuvres whenever there was a deputy or leadership post up for grabs, have shown us. And let us not forget that this is the same party which gave us the JPO-Mistra –Alfred Sant drama, complete with (free?) ghostwritten articles planted in newspapers and (free?) coaching tips on how to dramatically confront your adversary on TV.
The bottom line is that Simon needed to be put in place now (not afterwards, if the PN lose the elections and Gonzi is made to step down). That would have been much too late. The final, desperate trump card needed to be played immediately.
Because the PN cannot lose; it must never lose.