When Robin Cook, then leader of the House of Commons and a former UK foreign secretary, stepped down 20 years ago in protest against the invasion of Iraq, Harold Pinter made a powerful observation.
Resigning “over a matter of principle is not a very fashionable thing in our society”, the Nobel prize-winning playwright had said.
More recently – last year – former UK prime minister Boris Johnson faced internal turmoil over his mishandling of a scandal involving an MP investigated in connection with “actions causing significant damage to the reputation of the House as a whole, or of its members generally”.
Rishi Sunak, the present prime minister, had resigned as chancellor, saying “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, also stepped down, arguing that the people “rightly expect integrity from their government. The tone you set as a leader and the values you represent reflect on your colleagues, your party and, ultimately, the country”.
A month ago, the Belgian justice minister resigned when it became known that an Islamic extremist who killed two Swedes in Brussels had been denied asylum and was sought for extradition by Tunisia.
And, in March, the Greek transport minister declared he felt it was his “duty” to resign “as a basic indication of respect for the memory of the people who died so unfairly” in a train crash that claimed over 50 lives and left many injured.
Just days ago, the prime minister of Portugal surprisingly handed in his resignation amid a corruption investigation into mining concessions and contracts related to hydrogen production.
“The dignity of the functions of prime minister is not compatible with any suspicion about his integrity, his good conduct and even less with the suspicion of the practice of any criminal act,” António Costa told the nation, insisting he was clean.
The scenario prevailing in Portugal can be compared to what has been happening on this tiny island.
The Portuguese investigation is into allegations of “misuse of funds, active and passive corruption by political figures and influence peddling”, public prosecutors said. Costa will also be investigated for allegedly intervening personally to speed up the issue of certain permits.
On his watch, the economy performed strongly, however, a number of scandals and the government’s promotion of cheap service sector jobs led his popularity to wane.
Malta is not immune to political scandals and serious accidents but it is very different, certainly in the manner its politicians react.
Resignations on matters of principle and/or assuming political responsibility in Malta are very few and far between.
The late Nationalist MP Lino Gauci Borda resigned almost 30 years ago over an investment account in the UK which had not been declared for tax purposes.
In 1998, then Labour justice minister Charles Mangion stepped down when he inadvertently failed to inform cabinet prior to recommending a presidential pardon in a drug possession case. Such examples are few and far between.
Politicians in Malta, even prominent ones, have unashamedly remained in office after flagrantly found lying even in court, abusing office, caught in corrupt practices, violating human rights, and failing to do their duty, among others.
Sadly, when the first commissioner for standards in public life tried his best to raise the bar, the government kicked him upstairs to the European Court of Auditors. There can hardly be a clearer sign of the kind of politics this government prefers.