The Ottomans came over the sea. The Axis rained down from the skies. Our back is against the walls again desperately defending the values we recognise as our own. The chances of success are slim. The prospects are grim. Betrayal within the ranks is far from unheard of and the resources of the enemy appear limitless.

Defeatism is dangerous, disheartening, and throws the troops in disarray. Mindless optimism, refusal to acknowledge facts, and a distracting blind faith in final victory are no moral boosters either. It doesn’t fill soldiers with courage to see their generals behave with complete detachment from reality.

This Third Siege of Malta has been going on for a number of years. Embezzlers, tax evaders, identity buyers, traffickers and their money launderers have been sniffing around for some time, squeezing through the gaps in our national security burrowed by their collaborators on the inside.

Our financial services used to be a business we operated for our profit. ‘Our’ goes beyond the service-providers. ‘Our’ is the national good, a growing and sustainable economy, a good name for the country, taxes, jobs and a system of solidarity.

Some of us got greedy. They opened doors to organised criminals and let them use our name to further their business. The reward for the quislings was money. Money alone is not enough. To be thus, after all, is nothing; but to be safely thus. The perfect crime requires the perfect impunity. To capture the country was one thing. They needed to keep it.

They’re keeping it. The distinctive success of the Labour Party’s transition to power in 2013 is its lasting power. Objectively, it is surprising.

If political success is achieved on the back of “the economy, stupid”, by rights Labour should be doomed to electoral disaster. Its novel economic ideas either never took off or are in freefall. There was a time when this would be a blockchain island. They could just as well have called it blocked drain island. And we’ll only be able to sell passports until we’re slapped with a law suit in Luxembourg that will put us in our place.

If political success is achieved for reasons of competence, if not excellence, Labour’s success is inexplicable. Some things they get right, and in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out they got it very right.

We do not expect perfection from our leaders. But we expect from them to aspire to more than win- Manuel Delia

Some things they don’t get right. There are over-running roadworks behind every corner. Law enforcement ranges from the inept to the positively fascist management of our prison. The only initiative in public education has been an aborted revision of the school PE curriculum by an untrained footballer. We have wilfully collaborated, if not taken a leading role, in the abandonment of lost souls to the bottom of our seas.

The government’s ideas of public parks mostly involve tarmac on which last season’s spring flower seeds mailed to each household are unlikely to grow. Concrete towers of infamy tear through the landscape like vicious old gods winning a Titanomachy.

There’s a minister to plan the strategy to recover from COVID-19 but whatever he’s thought of he keeps close to his chest. Another minister has no portfolio. He lost it after he found nothing substantial to say for himself in self-promoting full-page adverts on all newspapers.

If political success is achieved by spending the people’s money responsibly, Labour could kiss the next election goodbye. Electrogas, three hospitals, Montenegro windfarm, St Vincent de Paul extension: all these are the top of a long list of keywords that translate as waste, embezzlement, bribery, and a higher cost to taxpayers and users. And yet Labour’s grip on power as we go to another election remains unassailable.

On the other side of this siege is a loose and half-hearted alliance of opponents, unsure how or even whether to continue to resist or whether to open the gates and embrace a one-party hegemony.

The parliamentary opposition is nostalgic for the days of exclusivity in the political landscape, when things were either black or white and where any misgivings about one party were suppressed in aid of the cause of defeating the other.

The germ of independent thinking has taken root in this country and it will not weed itself out of existence. No doubt there’s a desire to win. But there’s a greater desire to remain honest with oneself. Politics may be the art of the possible. But for some of us on the inside of these walls, the battle we are fighting is not for a flag, or a party, or bragging rights. For some of us this is a battle for truth and justice and we’d rather lose than give that up.

We do not expect perfection from our leaders. But we expect from them to aspire to more than win. From an alternative government we look for the determination to defeat crime, the imagi­nation to renew our economy, the expert competence and the basic decency and honesty that the incumbent government deprives us of.

We’re in a fine fix then. We’re pushing back on a siege without the comfort of having something to look forward to follow it.

Every incursion we have repelled over the last four years, every onslaught we have resisted has allowed us to stay on our feet but we are far from the liberty we are entitled to.

On June 6, 2021, Midsea Books is publishing The Third Siege of Malta, a book I wrote to recall the highlights of this battle we have been fighting. But the book has no ending. The siege is still on.

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