Cooke ready to dish out his ‘new kind of politics’
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July 16, 2010
Cooke ready to dish out his ‘new kind of politics’

by Kenton X. Chance Fri, Jul 16, 2010

Radio announcer Ernesto Cooke wants to be the Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) Member of Parliament for South Leeward. Beyond that, he wants to change politics in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

He plans be the type of politician who understands that “while there is collective agreement and collective decisions you make as a party, one must have an opinion as well.”

“I think it is time for a new kind of politics, not just talk new kind of politics but do new kind of politics,” he told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday.

“That’s why my politics is all about breaking the mould,” Cooke added.

He is making it clear that while he wants to be the ULP’s candidate, as a Christian, his allegiance is to God and he has “no allegiance to any political party.”

“I don’t hold allegiance to a political leader or any special person in a political party. I have expressed that view to [leader of the ULP and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph] Gonsalves as well. I am not a yes-man and will never be a yes-man,” Cooke told SEARCHLIGHT in Questelles on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old resident of Campden Park was at the Questelles Government School to meet with constituents who wanted to know about his plans for the constituency, he said.

However, while he said he spoke to about 11 constituents, only one came solely to hear the aspiring politician.

“I think he is the man for the people, to meet the people on the ground, talk to them,” food vendor Orine Kelly, who has been urging Cooke to enter politics, told SEARCHLIGHT.

“The representation is good, but everybody is complaining about [Dr. Douglas] Slater. They are not seeing him often enough,” Kelly, a ULP supporter, said of the current representative.

Cooke said St Vincent and the Grenadines needs to get out of the “tribal mode” where successor governments totally disregard the policies of their predecessors.

He thinks that Vincentians are displeased with their current representatives.

“They have not been seeing them a lot. That’s what they have been complaining about,’ he told SEARCHLIGHT.

The host of the morning show on WE FM said while this country has been able to “hold it together” in the ongoing economic crisis, “people are not seeing that reflected in the way they are living.”

“At the end of the day, I can only buy such and such with my pay and it’s done. I can’t save anything much,” he said, adding, “I think that is the problem right now, when you talk about the economy.”

Reflecting on the 17 years of New Democratic Party (NDP) rule before the ULP came to office in 2001, Cooke said, “People saw the representatives more, they had roads being done and I think they didn’t cry out for more because they had a lot of jobs…”

Cooke is, however, inspired by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ “drive and energy”, which makes the ULP attractive to him.

He speaks of Slater as having a “laidback and easy-going” style, but said the Cabinet member performed well, “locally and regionally” as Minister of Health.

Cooke said while constituents complained about not seeing Slater often, “I think he did what he could have done [considering] his demeanour.”

He said the major problems in South Leeward now are jobs for the youth and roads, adding that the constituency has potential in agro-processing and farming.

Cooke had said on radio that he was willing to contest the next general elections, due by March 2011, on either a ULP or NDP ticket.

He further said Gonsalves subsequently inquired about his interest in politics and suggested that Cooke feel out constituents’ reaction to his possible candidacy.

Gonsalves, Cooke said, “thinks I have what it takes”.

Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday that any member of the ULP can canvass to be a candidate, adding that several persons were interested in representing South Leeward.

He further said while there are no educational or other requirements, candidates will be screened by the Party’s Candidate Selection Committee.

Cooke is a member of the Questelles Seventh-Day Adventist Church and has an associate degree in Public Relations from Cambridge International College in England and is pursuing a degree in Marketing from that institution.

Cooke’s father, Noel Cooke, was a permanent secretary under the NDP administration which was voted out of office in 2001.

The NDP has identified teacher Nigel “Nature” Stevenson as its candidate for South Leeward in the next general elections.

Stevenson lost to Slater by 600 votes during his first attempt to take the seat in 2005.