November 29, 2013
Bring an end to this public bickering

Fri Nov 29, 2013

It is sad to witness the public laundering of the political dirty linen of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) as manifested by the exchanges in the media by the party’s founder and former leader Sir James Mitchell, and the successor he appointed, Mr Arnhim Eustace.{{more}}

What happened this week is not exactly earth-shattering news, for Sir James and Mr Eustace have been at it for quite some time. Sir James is clearly not pleased with the direction in which his party is going, and has, for some time now, been open in his criticism of the inheritors of his mantle.

But with the Unity Labour Party (ULP) into the second half of its term of office, and Mr Eustace desperately anxious to exude confidence in victory at his fourth attempt, it cannot be helpful for Sir James to once more be pouring cold water on his leadership skills.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with public disagreements on political strategy and tactics between members of the same flock. Sir James, as founder and long-time chief strategist of the NDP, is certainly entitled to his opinions on the path of his successors, whether in private or public. At the same time, it is he who chose to run from the heat of battle in 2000, and to throw an ill-prepared Mr Eustace into the ring. He has, however, while staying on the periphery, not been shy to take centre stage at crucial moments. The NDP leadership too, despite their complaints, has been willing to follow Sir James’ lead at such times, for example, during the campaign for the referendum on the proposed new Constitution in 2009. Ironically, that victory of the “No” vote remains the major achievement of the NDP under Mr Eustace’s leadership. It is, therefore, highly likely that this abdication of the leadership role by Mr Eustace to Sir James in 2009, fostered, in the minds of many NDP supporters, and perhaps, in that of Sir James himself, that he is indispensable to his party’s fortunes.

Sir James has a wealth of experience from which the NDP certainly could benefit, but Sir James should also accept that while he can and should offer assistance and advice, the party he gave birth to has a new leader, who does not have to take what he is offering. There comes a time when a parent must let go.

It is very often difficult for long serving political leaders to hand over the baton. Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday is said to be contemplating a comeback to challenge for the chairmanship of his party, and his Barbadian counterpart, Owen Arthur, learnt a lesson after unseating his successor Mia Mottley, when he failed at his attempt to regain the “throne”, the prime ministerial post.

It is time to put an end to the bickering. The NDP leadership and Sir James should either sit down and resolve their differences or make a clean break.

The NDP cannot continue like this on the road to the next general elections. The confusion in the minds of their members and supporters needs to be resolved, once and for all.