There is an old Spike Milligan joke where Paddy and Sean happen to meet each other on the road to Dublin. Sean asks Paddy what’s in his sack and Paddy replies, “If you can guess how many rabbits I have in my sack, here I’ll give you the both of them.”

It is a comic reminder of the lower levels of human intelligence upon which democracies are dependent. But I digress.

The recent ruling of the Standards Commissioner criticised the practice adopted by a group of Labour ministers whereby public funds were covertly used in the creation of propaganda clips solely to be funnelled into their personal Facebook pages armed with personal email addresses.

The public was shocked to hear this and some called upon the ministers to correct themselves and even make good by refunding this expenditure, which is alleged to have totalled no less than €1.2 million over four years.

Within days, these ministers superficially honoured the ruling by smugly opening up “official departmental” Facebook pages which will do the same job and same damage to the public purse as before. But now, they will do it legally and everyone is serene. Well, not everyone.  

Robert Abela had a lucrative professional relationship with Joseph Muscat- Eddie Aquilina

Individual backbenchers of the government side of the House have started to complain of the unfair electoral advantage allowed to the 26 members of the Abela cabinet, and are insisting that they too should enjoy the same divine privilege of Snout in the Trough and obtain similar funding for their own personal electoral campaigns.

It seems that helping yourself to the people’s money is not a crime so long as you have a healthy majority and you do it properly. In a word, it’s not what you do but how you do it.

It is similar to the 2013 poster that broadcast the movement’s mantra – not who you know but what you know – which brings me to the next amazing example of tomfoolery.

Today’s prime minister, before taking the top job, was a member of parliament elected by his constituents primarily to represent them. Before being elected, he was engaged as legal counsel to his immediate predecessor and received over €580,000 in direct orders.

After entering parliament, he continued to act in the same role but, he states, without receiving further monetary compensation. We do not know about any ongoing payments made to his old legal firm.

The overriding concern is that Robert Abela, for years up to last January, had a lucrative professional relationship with then prime minister Joseph Muscat, which was close and will remain covered by an impervious lawyer-to-client confidentiality obligation. During these years, as has now been revealed by the public inquiry dealing with the October 2017 assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, public servants employed in the Office of the Prime Minister and their close contacts were directly involved in spying, interfering and sabotaging the police murder investigation.

Even the usual state-sponsored frame-up attempts, so popular in the early 1980s, came into play. 

It is not very often that a prime minister resigning in disgrace, in the shadow of never-seen-before levels of rampant corruption under his watch, which included a political assassination, has the opportunity to make sure that his successor’s hands, mouth and feet are tied by such confidentiality. No wonder Chris Fearne lost the race.

More amazing was the news that the said outgoing disgraced premier was welcomed back in glory, after his luxurious private visits to the financial capitals of the world, to deliver his unique economic know-how to and for the benefit of the lesser minds in Castille.

One further question troubles me. Is the so-called “office” of the Artful Dodger of Europe and the 2019 World Prize Winner for Corruption soon to appear as an official government Facebook page carrying propaganda material produced and funded exclusively by the taxpayer? 

The best in Europe. 

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