Monday, 22 February 2010

Times: Questions Labour must answer
Monday, 22nd February 2010 by Salvu Felice Pace

The stall set out by the Labour Party leader for his Movement of Progressives and Moderates at the end of the general conference demands a proper scrutiny. Joseph Muscat must be prepared to answer questions that are worrying many citizens. So far, he has done what his predecessor, Alfred Sant, did regarding the Partnership proposal. No details were even given as to how that proposal was going to work out in practice.

Dr Muscat's stall includes some moral issues. On abortion he was categorical enough. He had to be, considering that one of his deputies had made a pig's ear of the whole issue only a few days previously. Even so, Toni Abela's inconsistencies have not vanished because Dr Muscat has spoken from on high.

The stance about the introduction of divorce raises a lot of questions. Dr Muscat keeps repeating that, once elected, he will personally present a Bill in Parliament proposing divorce.

One is left wondering whether this is a personal crusade or a policy to be adopted by this nebulous movement that is supposed to be growing.

If Dr Muscat is so keen on having divorce as a civil right, there's nothing to stop him from presenting a private member's Bill now. Why not? Are his calculations predicting that the proposal would be a vote catcher? If so, then why not include it in the manifesto?

Dr Muscat spoke about giving people a second chance. Is he in favour only of restricting divorce as a one-time concession? We need to know. Previous experiences have shown that once the gene gets out of the bottle, no one can predict what happens. When abortion was introduced in the UK there were many caveats. Today there's abortion on demand.

Dr Muscat was clear enough in telling anyone who may be prejudiced against gays that there's no room for him in his new movement. But he wasn't so clear as to where his policy on gays' rights will take the country. Is he suggesting that gays will be given the right to marry and to adopt children by a future Labour government? There are people in the Labour Party and in the country who are not too keen to contemplate such developments. Civil partnerships are one thing, same sex marriages are another. Dr Muscat must spell it out.

For many citizens the whole business of having a movement within a political party or vice versa is becoming rather confusing. Dr Muscat spoke about the Movement of Progressives and Moderates' firm belief in a sustainable policy of cuts in taxation. And, yet, the Labour Party, even under Dr Muscat's leadership, has been crying buckets every time subsidies are removed and the price of whatever is passed on to the user. As a government they would have carried on subsidising every lame duck outfit.

These inconsistencies must be explained by Dr Muscat. One can't have it both ways. You subsidise and you create inefficiencies and you have less leverage for cutting taxation.

Health was also an issue tackled by Dr Muscat. He was quoted as having said that "like the British Labour government has done, we will make our service one of the best in the world".

First of all, the myth of a national health service in the UK is just that. There has been, for a long time, a postcode lottery. The service you get depends on where you live. This is a point made in the EU 2007 report about health services in the UK.

The same report also mentioned that, in the UK, there is the highest mortality rate of cardiac and cancer patients, the incidences of asthma are also the highest and MRSA infections in hospitals are also sky high. Why is Dr Muscat aiming so low for our health service?

Yes, the UK has the best patient's charters but what use are they in practice?

Of great interest was Dr Muscat's clarification that anyone joining this movement will not be joining the party but will joining an idea.

Meaningless words. Do I take it that when Labour Party members are knocking at doors to get us subscribed we are now being given a choice? The truth is that all this talk about a movement is nothing but a ploy to provide a veneer to hide the stark reality of what the Labour Party is in practice.

So if you are thinking of joining the Movement of Progressives and Moderates make a reality check. Demand clear-cut answers from Dr Muscat about these issues. And beware that this movement is being used by Dr Muscat to fulfil his ambition to become Prime Minister of Malta at 39 years of age and president of the EU for six months in 2017.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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