OPINION: What Makes It Derogatory?

“Politicking”, defined in most dictionaries as the action or practice of engaging in political activity, and often also now having tagged on to it that it is a derogatory aura and with smell all around it, well this is what politicians and their hangers-on are engaged in for most of their working time in their lives.

It is done in different ways, at different times and, when general elections start getting ever nearer, it is always fascinating to look at what tools are made use of in its practice.

Such tools of course will depend on the status of the practitioner. A prime minister will use incumbency powers, grip on the exchequer, and ability to use and abuse persons as they pursue their own ambitions and positions and needs. Ministers in office will use also not only use their positions, but will also do it with an eye on colleague-rivals running in their own electoral districts.  New candidates, alas, are always starting on a difficult footing with limited experience, funds, and reputations still to be built.

The range of tools put into use will be a very wide one.  There has been very sparse creativity to speak of put into use in Malta’s recent three or four general elections. Printed materials, appearances on TV and radio shows, billboards, and such like are usual tools amongst others which are made use of. And then there are of course house visits.

House visits are a knife with “several” edges: a politicking tool that can often make or break a running politician, because there are so many variables involved in its use. Factors such as timing, personality, credibility, how visitor and visited actually “click”, or “end up on a good footing”. There is nothing worse than a prospective candidate visiting, or even only promising to visit, a household, and then either not actually effecting such visit, or, if this is actually done, then no follow-up action is done or produced to the visited household that their qualms, sufferings, suggestions, discriminations, and whatever else, have been actually acted upon.  A candidate will be doing damage to his own cause if he either fails to produce the goods, or, worse, simply fails to communicate after a visit, i.e. will simply do the political vanishing trick.

As said printed materials are another tool of politicking. So many are both poorly designed  and badly written, especially where use of the Maltese language is concerned.  Some would hold that on top of all of these and other politicking tools there would be the parties’ electoral manifestoes.

But what should one say when one gets, albeit on a lagged basis, actions such as that of the now European Commissioner Dalli’s, who had once boasted that by managing to leave out of her party’s manifesto a measure that she had in mind to enact after a won election, she had managed to see enacted into law something which she knew the majority of the voters would be against?

Who dares say that “politicking” does not merit its factual derogatory condemnation?