Everybody is so keen to see the good side of the government’s behaviour. There are many reasons to hope things are better now and the government is being entirely truthful when they say they’re nothing like the dark days of Joseph Muscat and now the law rules ok.

Here are some reasons why this hope is conditioning the behaviour of people who should know better.

Political elites have a stake in convincing themselves and everyone else that the situation has improved and this is no longer a den of thieves but a modern country. Their motivation is perhaps the most obvious. Towards the end of 2019, Malta’s political class came close to a precipice. After years of applauding Muscat, the Labour Party realised that the calculus had shifted and their chances of survival improved considerably if they removed him.

For a while there, they seriously feared that the scandals exposed by Daphne and the public’s understanding of just how dependant political parties were on the Yorgen Fenechs of this world might lead the public to pursue their anger to its logical conclusion: the collapse of our old political infrastructure, Tangentopoli style. For a moment, they feared being chased out like Bettino Craxi under a shower of coins, and – have no illusion – both parties perceived this end of the road rushing up to them fast.

They were saved, by Muscat’s departure, by rebellion in the PN and, perhaps most importantly, by COVID-19 that gave people enough unfamiliar things to deal with to stifle any excitement about changing all they knew about the governance of their country.

Business elites were saved by the same bell. The vulnerability of our political system, politicians’ dependence on their charity, their grip on the entire chain of power needed preservation. They would have survived even the grandest revolution somehow but change is expensive. They’re keen to go back to a time when ministers would clear their decks to give them a meeting and no one would find that untoward in any way.

In a way, even the angry protesters out on the street at the end of 2019 looked forward to normality. That, after all, was what made most of them angry: abnormality, the uncomfortable discoveries they made when they finally saw that Daphne hadn’t been writing metaphorically or euphemistically and that the horror was darker than probably even she realised, lurking there in Fenech’s phone.

Before Daphne was killed, we had normality, or so we felt we could afford to believe. Daphne was a vague warning in the distance, like a monthly doctor’s appointment warning us about diabetes or another UN report about the devastation of climate change. We know the truth is out there but it is also true that we could ignore it.

Political elites have a stake in convincing themselves and everyone else that the situation has improved- Manuel Delia

We never admitted it but we became nostalgic for a time when the worst we could feel was a nagging annoyance with otherwise sensible people being impressed by Muscat code switching in conversation and his naff wife’s naff couture. That was normal as it was normal to amass wealth without asking too much about where it was coming from until we were forced to ask by a world pointing the ugly answer out to us so forcefully.

You know, the world looks forward to our normality as well. All those international organisations coming to Malta after Daphne was killed and listing all the things they barely noticed when she was still alive, urging us to fix them. They too have a stake in our rapid return to normality. They need to be able to say they saved us from ourselves, that their recommendations cured Malta of its illnesses.

Now they fly here to write their update reports, looking desperate to close the file on us and congratulate themselves like lifeguards at the end of summer. They cling to every half-arsed ‘reform’ by the government as the hallmark of transformation, confusing, apparently intentionally, any walk around the park with the Exodus from Egypt and our relative quiet as the sullen march of the Hebrew slaves.

Some international agencies are keener than others. In a few days, it seems near certain now, the FATF will promote us back into the white list, reopening the doors to our rehabilitation in the global financial world. Their stake is even more obvious because those great economies that want to harmonise tax systems still want their businesses to be more competitive than the businesses operating in other countries. They will always need apparently legitimate lower tax (if no longer zero tax or low tax) havens for their money.

The enthusiasm to endorse the government’s undoubted ability to tick boxes on long checklists, without making any material difference to anything, is both embarrassing and contagious.

Consider how PN spokesman Joe Giglio rushed to congratulate the government for setting up “an inquiry” into whether the police had helped Muscat’s buddy Iosif Galea escape justice in Germany.

When he first called for the inquiry, Giglio sounded like a lion, roaring at the government, insisting things are done properly.

His satisfaction when the government gave the job to conduct the “inquiry” to the police board that is prevented by the law that sets it up from doing anything meaningful at all, turned the lion into a wet kitten.

Like those international organisations keen to prove the effectiveness of the pressure they publicly applied on the government, Giglio rushed to congratulate himself for having forced an inquiry on the government.

Instead, he had only forced on them just the way out they needed, the whitewash that would reverse the findings of the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry, that we have a police force that works for Muscat not for the people of Malta.

This is just how they like it. It’s how they want it. And you’ve got to hand it to them. It’s just how they get it.

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