Dom Mintoff has lately gone to his reward, aged 96. He dominated Maltese politics for decades. But most people who had ever heard of him probably assumed that he had died years ago.
Mintoff first fell out with the bishops by advocating integration into the United Kingdom, which the bishops ought to have supported. It would have secured for Malta that very Rerum Novarum thing, post-War British social democracy. A generation later, it would have contributed, through the Maltese MPs at Westminster, to sparing Britain abortion and the divorce free-for-all. It would also have prevented Mintoff from turning violently anti-British, though never sufficiently anti-British as to preclude the sending of his daughters to Cheltenham Ladies' College.
The same goes for Ireland, the whole of which should have stayed in the United Kingdom to those happy effects. Imagine 100 Irish MPs at Westminster in the late 1960s. Irish Nationalists deprived most of Ireland of that social democracy which has always so benefited the Irish Catholics in the United Kingdom. They also made possible abortion and easy divorce east of the Irish Sea, to avail themselves of which people routinely cross that waterway. Scots, take note.
Within the United Kingdom, Malta's drydocks, which the dispute over integration was very largely about, would have been a prime example of the infrastructure projects defended by the Old Labour Unionism of Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin. There were several in Northern Ireland. There are still a few. But, like so many such things in the 26 Counties, the Maltese drydocks are gone.
Mintoff was very much the proof of my position by its reversal: an enemy both of Britain and of the Church, cavorting instead with Gaddafi, with Castro, and even with Pol Pot. Britain's, and before that England's, continuous involvement in the Mediterranean goes back a very long way indeed. Today, the staunchly Catholic, staunchly British, and therefore doubly social democratic tradition in which Mintoff originally stood is alive and well as the norm in Gibraltar, where it is the misnamed right-wing Social Democrats who are vaguely amenable to a deal with Spain, whereas the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party was founded by the old Transport and General Workers Union, grew out of the old Integration with Britain Party, and remains as true as ever to its own old slogan: "Give Spain No Hope". (The dispossessed Britons of the Chagos Islands are also Catholics, whom we have exiled to Hindu-Muslim Mauritius.)
Let us never make the same mistake in Gibraltar as we made in Malta, and most especially in relation to the person of Dom Mintoff: spurning that integral part of the Mediterranean milieu, a doubly social democratic commitment to the Catholic Faith and to full British citizenship, so as to alienate it from Throne and Altar alike, pushing it instead into the arms of the Gaddafis, the Castros and the Pol Pots of the future.