Saturday 23 March 2019

Why scaremongering, class hatred and dirty tricks did not win

So, in the end, the vibe many of us had been feeling throughout this campaign was not wrong.

A clear, comfortable majority has spoken, and what it is saying is that it is completely fed up of the scaremongering tactics which attempt to put the fear of God into voters every five years, pounding it into their heads that a Labour government will plunge us all into the Dark Ages.

The majority has put paid to the kind of divisive hate speech which attacks people because of who they vote for, lumping them into one huge, stereotypical basket after rifling through personal photos of private citizens and exposing them to public ridicule.

In a democracy, no matter what we may look like or how we choose to speak, behave, dress (or undress for that matter), everyone’s vote is valid and equal to everyone else’s. Unless that is, we are advocating that only “certain” people should be allowed to vote.

In a democracy, no one should be humiliated, bullied, harassed, mocked or vilified because they support a certain political party.  Out and proud? That should have been the slogan for Labour voters who for the first time in MANY years stepped forward from their ‘political closet’ and confidently stated their political allegiance.

Many turned their back in disgust at the cheap last minute publicity stunts (a President Emeritus addressing a rowdy mass meeting, really?), while the fake, manipulated news stories and pathetic attempts to play the victim only pointed to a party which was desperate.

When people were constantly telling the PN administration and its hangers-on that they had become too arrogant, Lawrence Gonzi and his crew acted hurt and surprised, and they appeared to find it difficult to understand what they were on about.

But, as things worked out, it had to be none other than Lou Bondi to crystallise the whole problem for many voters at the very last minute. (Of course, Lou does not represent the PN, but try telling that to the average man-in-the-street.) I am convinced that the image of Bondi barging into a police investigation as if it were some kind of Cops reality show and high-handedly demanding to know what was going on, shocked people to the core because of the sheer arrogance in his demeanour.  Those two policemen need to be commended for how calmly and professionally they handled the entire episode.

Yes, the archaic law on the day of silence needs to be seriously amended because it is patently clear that you cannot control the Internet. On the other hand, no one should be above the law. That stunt on the eve of the election was simply the last straw for many who interpreted it as a repeat of the 2008 JPO  mise-en-scène when he ambushed Alfred Sant during the Broadcasting Authority debate. In light of all the revelations which have since come to light about who prepped and coached Jeffrey, can you blame them?

It is clear that the Nationalist party had become so completely alienated from the electorate that it just could not fathom why people simply did not re-elect it out of sheer ‘gratitude’.  This complacency could be seen in its marketing.

What with the mudslinging, negative campaigning, ridiculous Smurf billboard, a string of unforgiveable gaffes and the lengthy print adverts (that no one was reading) which conjured up all sorts of scary scenarios, I’m not surprised that the Labour party won, but I am astounded at the magnitude of the victory.

The huge landslide has shown that not only were the much-maligned Malta Today surveys completely vindicated but it also explains why other media houses did not publish theirs.

Time and again, while speaking to fellow journalists and political commentators, we would shake our heads and wonder who the heck was running the chaotic PN electoral campaign, with the most repeated phrase being ‘what on earth were they thinking?’ It was a campaign which was, to put it mildly, all over the place, stopping and starting, changing direction mid-way, reversing and backtracking only to go back to the beginning. There did not seem to be any cohesive, well-thought out strategy; instead it seemed to be a haphazard trial and error affair of someone waking up each  morning and saying: ‘OK, let’s try it this way, no let’s do it the other way’.

In retrospect, not only did the Nationalist party completely underestimate Joseph Muscat’s political savvy and his ability to find the right people to come up with a brilliant marketing strategy, the PN also completely underestimated the Maltese people.  It took it for granted that voters would re-elect the PN just because electing Labour was ‘unthinkable’.

But in spending so much time denigrating Labour, it utterly failed to notice how it had dragged itself down into the muck instead.


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