Our Readers' Opinions
April 8, 2005

The new NDP party

Editor: The last twelve (12) months or so have seen the emergence of an interesting New NDP. It is interesting because of the new personalities that have emerged, the new approach to leadership and the level of opposition of the present ULP Government.

In assessing the quality of opposition by the new NDP, specifically their frequent absence from Parliament and the quality of questions that are tabled, my mind goes back to the early 1980’s when Sir James Mitchell single-handedly and successfully stood up to “the strongest Government in the World” on many issues of great import.{{more}}

Today’s New NDP, for all its academicians, appears incapable of debating and confronting the present Government on major public issues. The New NDP candidates appear to want to achieve office without toiling on the opposition benches and doing the people’s business as was the case with Sir James and the Old NDP.

The New NDP is also far too preoccupied with Ralph Gonsalves. NICE radio now has a daily schedule of Dougie’s “breakfast with Ralph”, EG follows at 10:30 a.m. with “brunch with Ralph & Julian” until 1:30 p.m. Frank completes the daily cycle with “dinner with Ralph” until 10:00 p.m. There is no rest on the weekend when the Candy Edwards duo continues the “breakfast with Ralph” sessions, followed by Keith’s callalou presentation of “weekly reflections with Ralph”.

This obsession is amazing, particularly when you consider that these are adults who claim to be leaders of our society. Imagine debating why Ralph cried, why he kissed the Pope’s hand and middle finger awards. The real problem with that approach was highlighted in the last election, where quite a bit was spent on trying to discredit the PM while support for the ULP was increasing in every single constituency.

The New NDP, because of its overzealous and misdirected opposition to every government initiative will continue to have problems discrediting Ralph and his Government. There is no corruption at the leadership or Governmental level; there is just one (1) failed one million dollar project – the Call Centre and several other successful initiatives and projects.

In spite of cash flow problems, the economic indicators are all better than they were in 2001. Tourism and bananas are both being affected by extra regional forces and it is widely accepted that better can hardly be done.

The New NDP also has to explain away the success stories and projects in sports, education and housing. The stabilization in the administration of health care and the advances in AIDS treatment will also have to be knocked down. In short, the New NDP has very few issues on which to campaign.

Interestingly, all of the questionable initiatives and potential failures of the ULP government were successfully thwarted by the New NDP, even before they got off the ground. These included Big Gutt, Tobago Cays and the Cross Country Road. There are now no failed projects to which the New NDP can successfully point.

The New NDP somehow believes it can win the next election without increasing its support base and has personally attacked and alienated a wide cross-section of NGO’s Media Houses, Trade Unions, Church leaders and public servants.

More significantly, the New NDP has too many leaders at the executive level. This was borne out recently on NICE radio last Friday night, where leadership at different levels publicly admonished another leader within the New NDP. You may say that that is democracy but there can only be one leader. Sir James was very good at being the “I-man” and commanding respect; Ralph is only slightly different, but equally successful.

If the leader of the New NDP continues to lead from behind he can expect nightmares dealing with the numerous strong-headed personalities within the party. In explaining the relationship between Coard and Bishop in 1983, Sir James said that Maurice Bishop was “riding a tiger”. He ensured that this was not the case with his NDP.

The New NDP is however full of tigers who seem quite capable of jumping in at will and leading the way with varying personal agendas and no common Party vision or strategy. The leadership of the New NDP appears now to have been ceded to talk-show hosts and Party stalwarts. With so many leaders who cannot be led, the New NDP will struggle to move forward. East Kingstown will also continue to hold “the key” to the future of the Party.