No, no confidence at all
There are very few people on either side of the House of Representatives, it seems, who have absolute confidence in Minister Konrad Mizzi. But, strangely, that does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that Parliament will pass a no confidence motion in Mizzi when push comes to shove.
Now if the Prime Minister were to grant his MPs a free vote on the issue, that would be a different story altogether. The last time around, in the 2016 no confidence motion against the same Mizzi, the Prime Minister had refused to grant that free vote to his MPs.
Back then, the Prime Minister had tied his MPs hands. In Malta’s parliamentary democracy, MPs are obliged to toe the party line in each and every vote taken in Parliament. The only exceptions are when they are given a free vote by their party leader, through the party’s parliamentary Whip.
Labour MPs were given no such free vote when it came to the no confidence motion against Mizzi the last time around, and there appears to be little reason, apart from simple logic and reason itself of course, that would have him change his stance: that MPs are allowed free votes only when the subject at hand is a matter of conscience.
Now if the revelations and the very serious charges that Mizzi is facing are not a matter of conscience for the Labour Party’s parliamentary group, and for the country at large, then we do not know what a matter of conscience would be.
The Prime Minister is known to have an iron fist when it comes to dealing with his parliamentary group, but does he have the iron proverbials to allow a free vote on Mizzi? If he did, the results of that vote would be very interesting indeed.
This newspaper had recently reported how the Prime Minister has faced extreme pressure from leading exponents of his parliamentary group – from senior ministers, Labour Members of Parliament and close friends – to finally take action against Mizzi, and his chief of staff Keith Schembri, in the wake of the latest 17 Black graft allegations - to simply cut the pair loose like so much dead wood.
They insisted that Prime Minister takes urgent action on Mizzi and Schembri – to have them suspend themselves, or possibly even step down, from their duties until ongoing inquiries and investigations are concluded. That did not happen.
It would appear, from those who had spoken to this newspaper at the time, that the numbers would not favour Mizzi should a free vote be given this time around, if the Labour MPs who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity were to express those same views with their parliamentary vote.
Although the subject matter is definitely linked, these are now different times from that first no confidence motion against Mizzi back in 2016. The case against Mizzi has now solidified and has become indisputable after the latest 17 Black revelations, after the once-secret company was named in leaked e-mails as one of two companies that would pay at least $2 million to Mizzi and Schembri’s Panamanian companies and after the owner of that company was named as a party involved in the power station.
Things really could not be much clearer. The 2016 motion had been filed by then independent MP Marlene Farrugia; this latest one was filed by her and Godfrey Farrugia, with the latter having drastically changed his stance from supporting Mizzi, when he was a Labour MP and minister, to filing the motion along with Marlene Farrugia.
Godfrey Farrugia, now the leader of Partit Demokratiku after he famously crossed the floor before the last election, said this week that what had started as doubts at the beginning of energy supply and power station debacle of corruption had now grown into an ‘extremely suspicious’ question-raising series of events.
He could not be more right and while we still begrudge him – as we never harboured any such doubts – for not having stood up and done the right thing back in the 2016 vote, now on the other side of the aisle, he has seen the error of his previous ways.
Confidence in Mizzi, and Schembri, was lost a long time ago in actual fact. Now is a chance for any real Socialists left in the House to take a stand and show that they indeed have a conscience, through a vote of conscience, whether their Whip allows it or not.