On Thursday, July 31, 2014, at a very poorly-attended rally in Kingstown, following upon an even more-scantily supported protest march, the opposition New Democratic Party’s vice president, Mr St Clair Leacock, delivered himself of the following bit of nonsense:
“From hereon, with a one-seat majority, Ralph, the New Democratic Party is not cooperating with you on anything, save and except for the general elections.”
On a plain rendering of those words, I feel sure that the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) would be pleased with the promised NDP cooperation for the forthcoming general elections, thus facilitating a fourth term in office for the ULP. I take it, though, that what Leacock really wants is the holding of early general elections.
The simple fact is that since the NDP’s ejection from office on March 28, 2001, it has been calling repeatedly for general elections sooner rather than later. When the actual elections came in December 2005 and December 2010, the NDP lost.
Since the general elections of December 2010, the NDP has been predicting imminent elections. On the night after the elections of December 2010, the NDP’s leader Arnhim Eustace, predicted elections within six months. Two days, thereafter, he predicted that the ULP government would not last one year. After the passage of one year, Eustace predicted general elections before the end of 2012. When quizzed about his repeated false predictions by the media, Eustace lamely conceded the obvious: That his predictions thus far were wrong, but he persisted in averring that the government would not last beyond 2013.
Well, we are now in August 2014 and the ULP government is as entrenched as ever. The ULP’s five-year mandate expires in December 2015, less than sixteen months away. So, the NDP no longer makes any prediction; instead, its leaders, following upon a calypso by one of their activists, endearing request: “Ring the Bell, Comrade”. With under 300 persons in a “Ring the Bell” march and about 450 persons (including non-partisan onlookers) at the “protest” rally, the NDP was hardly in a position to demand anything. Thus, their plea: “Ring the Bell, Comrade”. “Plea” comes from “please; and “Comrade” is the affectionate name for Ralph!
This gentle plea reflects the NDP’s recognition of a singular fact: Only the Comrade could ring the real bell, the meaningful bell. Patches, Eustace, and Julian Francis at a calypso tent, are all engaged in entertainment; and the NDP lady with the yellow bell at EG Lynch’s funeral service, while disrupting a religious assembly, was unwittingly tolling the bell for the NDP’s defeat! The NDP’s plea is in fact an assertive ULP slogan: “Ring the Bell, Comrade”! “Labour2Win”!
Tactics of Non-Cooperation
We come now to St Clair Leacock’s foolish bombast: “Non-Cooperation with the ULP government”. This wholly unwise tactical declaration follows upon Leacock’s recent arrogant outbursts, to wit: “I am fed up with the repeated nonsense of Parnel Campbell and Sir James Mitchell. I say to them: Stop it; I am fed up!”
But who cares whether Leacock is fed up? Who is St Clair Leacock to dictate to the likes of Parnel and Sir James? Is Leacock not getting more than a little beyond himself? This man needs a reality check!
The simple fact about the NDP’s declaration of non-cooperation is that it has been in effect since July 27, 2007. On that day, Eustace wrote Ralph a letter discontinuing all cooperation with the government on the constitutional reform process unless four things happened: (1) Rodney Adams resigns as Supervisor of Elections; (2) Rodney Adams publishes his Report on the 2005 Elections; (3) ULP removes its election billboards; and (4) Julian Francis explains how he knew the number of Syrians who voted for Michael Hamlett in 2001 and himself in 2005. These were the ridiculous items of contention for the NDP, sufficient in its view to adopt “non-cooperation” as a tactic.
Since July 27, 2007, the NDP has been in a “non-cooperation” mode with the ULP government. So, the NDP cannot suspend cooperation when none has been in existence for seven years. The evidence abounds.
Unthinkingly, the NDP has now publicly pushed itself into a political corner. It has made it plain that whatever good proposal or law the government initiates in the people’s interest, it would not cooperate! The NDP has now made plain and open what it has hitherto tried to hide: That it is not interested in good governance or the people’s welfare; it is interested only in the quest for power at all costs. Non-cooperation is a tactic to nowhere sensible, progressive, patriotic and caring.
In the aftermath of the disruption of Lynch’s funeral, and amidst the church leaders’ sensible call for “political reconciliation”, the NDP’s response is non-cooperation; “war” in the north, south, east and west! As Frank Da Silva would say: “There you have it, folks”! At one stroke Leacock has put politics in St Vincent and the Grenadines into an arid no-man’s land of Hamas and the Israelis in Gaza.
NDP’s Real Frustration
The NDP’s real frustration stems from its weaknesses and lack of popular support. Its weaknesses lay in an absence of a coherent vision and philosophy; threadbare policies and programmes; poor organisation; a profound disconnect with real people; bad candidates; and dismal leadership.
The context of this frustration is its sinking feeling that it ought to have won the December 2010 general elections. After all, it had the 2009 Referendum wind at its political back (56 percent to 44 percent of the vote); and the economy was reeling from the fall-out of the global crisis, with a minus 4.8 percent in aggregate economic decline (2008-2010). In the immediate post-2010 elections hubris for the NDP, Leacock himself stated that the NDP needed “fresh legs at the top”. But that was only a partial and personally self-serving analysis. Nevertheless, the legs are less fresh, older and staler now than in 2010, including those of Leacock.
Meanwhile, the ULP’s political programme of renewal and refreshing of personnel and ideas is evident; it is paying dividends. Despite the natural disasters of October 2010, 2011, and 2013 (plus a drought in early 2010), real economic growth for the 2011 to 2013 period inclusive is now at an aggregate of 4.9 percent, above the decline of 2008 to 2010, inclusive. The data show economic growth for 2011-2013 as follows: 0.3 percent for 2011; 1.5 percent for 2012; and 3.1 percent for 2013. And there is a further pick-up in 2014 thus far. St Vincent and the Grenadines is performing much better than the OECS average.
Last October, 2013 the renowned pollster Peter Wickham of CADRES found that there was a 2.5 percent swing of popular support to the ULP over the figure for the 2010 elections. Wickham concluded that this would deliver a further two seats, at least, to the ULP.
Even more alarming for Eustace’s NDP was the finding that 61 percent of the population wanted Ralph to remain as Prime Minister and 31 percent wanted Eustace.
So, with everything on the uptick for the ULP, the mantra is: Labour2Win! The handful of discredited people around Eustace and the “internet crazies” are leading the NDP over a political cliff!