May 13, 2005
Gearing up for the poll

Are we all making too much of last week’s Cabinet reshuffle?

When Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced last week several changes in Cabinet posts, it was a question of, “oh finally”. The Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration had long made it clear its intention of having Senator Julian Francis – the party’s General Secretary and erstwhile elections campaign manager- step down ahead of general elections. It was something that had long been making the rounds in political discussion circles and on the political talk show circuit.{{more}}

What perhaps surprised some though, were the several accompanying cabinet changes. After all, Senator Francis had an able and youthful Glen Beache as his Junior Minister in the Transport and Works Ministry who could have stepped up to the wicket. But then again, the younger Beache would, if internal party democracy works to his benefit, have a fight on his hands to win the constituency his father Sir Vincent is standing down from. What we got instead was the move of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Straker from that ministry to that of Transport and Works.

At the same time Education Minister Mike Browne is moved across to Foreign Affairs and Trade, a ministry well suited to his personality. With this change, up steps Browne’s Junior Minister Clayton Burgin, who has been just as integrally involved in the ULP’s Education Revolution. Here, confidence is being placed in Burgin, good for him ahead of a poll where he comes up against the New Democratic Party’s self-styled “achiever” Dr. Linton Lewis. But whatever linguistic shortcomings Burgin’s detractors’ may point out, he does have a good record of achievement in education working always very much alongside, rather than under, his senior Mike Browne.

One may ask, just what is the rational, the science behind these changes? If truth be told, one should not read too much into this cabinet reshuffle beyond the obvious. The ULP is formally moving into election mode. Not that they have not been in campaign mode since about November last year.

The wily Prime Minister has, for good measure, thrown a googly at the opposition with his announcement that elections must be before March 27 or 28. The NDP has, to their credit been busy readying their election machinery with two candidate launchings and eight candidate announcements thus far. This race to the finish can be a sprint, which seems hardly likely, or a middle distance event; they are getting ready.

We are comforted in knowing that no sitting government would dare upset our Carnival with its economic benefits, not to mention the social bonus of allowing the population to let off steam. Carnival has already been launched too.

So, do we see a great Christmas and elections budget with increased spending on a massive road works programme? Minister Straker should therefore have his hands full even as General Secretary Francis marshals the troops on the political field of play.

We can too, look forward to the Prime Minister, after his rest and spiritual rejuvenation, formally announce plans for the financing of the Argyle International Airport before the streets and atmosphere begin to get really noisy with campaigning.

It is all about getting into the elections mode.