I'm writing this not many minutes after the news that Mintoff had died spread across the blogosphere. I have not bothered to read the pre-prepared obits, or watch the telly, because it's all so predictable. I had thought to ignore the event, but like the man or not, and no prizes for guessing where I sit, he is part of the country's political history, and I have pretensions of being a political commentator, so ignore it I can't really.

There will, of course, be paeans of praise for the man, for the way he brought in umpteen social services (they were going to come in anyway, history demonstrates), the way he turned Malta into a republic (not a great feat, considering we were already independent and in charge of our own destiny) and rid us of the British military (the lease ran out, they weren't about to squat here)

From my point of view, I have to damn by faint praise, however. As a result of his vindictiveness and spiteful way of doing politics, Mintoff rid us of Sant's 1996-98 Government, allowing the Nationalists to regain power and guide us into the EU, which I suspect from Mintoff's point of view was a perfect proof of the "be careful what you wish for" adage. From my point of view, for this, and this alone, much thanks.

As to the rest, there's not much - if anything - to recommend Mintoff to me for any sort of praise. The image of him scuttling cravenly up the stairs to Castille while my friends from the Medical School were chained to the railings in protest against his dismemberment of their profession lives with me, as it does with those of my generation not blinded by their new-found distaste for the Nationalist Party.

He ran the country with a combination of bluster, blind-eyes (to be charitable) obdurateness and parsimony that turned us into a sorry excuse for a democracy, a Third World pit where if you were with the regime, you were OK, if you were not, you were not, not by a long shot, even assuming you weren't beaten up for your pains.

Make no mistake about it, those of you who bitch and moan and whine about oligarchies and cliques and the rest of the parrot-phrases vomited by the Franco Debonos and Pullicino Orlandos of this world, who simply have no idea what we went through, when Mintoff ruled the country, violence, corruption and graft, to say nothing of control-freakery and North Korean style government, were par for the course, and much more besides.

So, I hope he finally rests in peace, a peace he denied many while he was boss.

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