I’m afraid that I may be a little late on this one since I was still lounging by the pool when this “initiative” made the headlines. To be quite honest when I first heard of it I thought it was a joke – a funny “tickle me under the arms” affair that goes by the name of satire these days. Could it be that the lads at Bis-Serjetà pulled off another “The Onion” inspired headline? Sadly my first hunch was wrong and the Partit Nazzjonalista was really offering its followers a chance to “become PM for a day” (and win an iPad 3 to boot). Here is how the Independent reported the possible winnings (PN launches “Be PM for a day”):
The winner of this contest will be handed the opportunity to propose one particular idea or project, as well as naming his or her own members of Cabinet and members of parliament from their acquaintances. The winner will spend a whole day with the Prime Minister on Tuesday, 19 June during which he or she will get to meet the press, tour the corridors of Castille, and discuss policy ideas with Dr Gonzi.
Now this idea of “reaching out” to the public by one of our two political parties smacks of “wrong” in so many ways that I risk missing out on some of them if I do not turn them into a “list”. In these days when marketing and snazzy websites might trump content many people might think that this move is actually “good”, we beg to differ and here is why:
1. PN (a party) – PM (a head of government)
The first and most obvious objection to this crass exercise of X Factor meets Castille is the fact that a party initiative, kicking off from a party website is auctioning off the role of a government position. Not just any government position but THE BIG KAHUNA. It’s the PM seat for chrissakes and they are not even playing make believe. For it would be one thing if the winner would “fake” being Prime Minister and play along in a sort of re-enactment with his friends and the press… you know a sort of King Carnival but for politics. But it’s another thing when our Prime Minister is actually part and parcel of the prize. Which brings me to point two…
2. Does not PM Gonzi have better things to do?
After all what with all these ridiculous motions by the opposition, an economy to hold steady and a government with that perilous one seat majority you would expect a Prime Minister to spend his time in better ways than prancing around with a make believe duplicate addressing press releases about fancy projects from the citizen. What does he expect them to come up with? Something fantastical? A tunnel to Gozo perhaps?
3. The Miseducation of Joe Citizen
Once we’re on this play acting business, even if we were prepared to play along with the party game then there is the not too irrelevant business of education. If we really are trying to get something out of this exercise how about not drumming home the idea that the PM is such a powerful man that he names ”his or her own members of Cabinet and members of parliament from their acquaintances”. I mean for crying out loud do they not even stop and read what they propose? A PM choosing members of parliament? From their acquaintances? What shall we call it? “Il-parlament tal-ħbieb (tal=ħbieb) tal-Prim Ministru”? A prime minister does not choose members of parliament – the people do. That’s lesson number one in basic democratic skills innit?
4. Tour the corridors of Castille and discuss policy
Seriously. I was under the impression that Castille had its open days during the nuits blanches that are thrown every now and then. Anybody could get to walk into Castille and shake Dr Gonzi’s hand. As for policy – this is running a bit thin isn’t it? I mean is this the best “listening” the PN can do?
The “Be a PM for a day” is an exercise that would be more fitting in Azerbaijan than in Malta. Yet it is happening and the danger is that it is actually being taken seriously by the fourth estate and the voters who are meant to be more demanding on our politicians and their parties. What next? Shall we bring Simon Cowell in to evaluate the contestants? After all guys like Christian Peregin might have a conflict of interest selecting the winner while also interviewing them on the day they got to play PM.
Strength and resilience. Lord knows that we’re going to need much of those till election time.