Our Readers' Opinions
December 18, 2015
NDP at the crossroads

Editor: I am not a political analyst. The opinions expressed are just that of an observer.

The party is at the crossroads. Unless you step back, OWN (take responsibility for) the loss at the polls, EVALUATE your direction and strategy, REORGANIZE, revamp and rejuvenate, the party would be in opposition for the next decade.{{more}} If, however, you embrace (be) the change you so diligently seek, the next five years could be a transition period that results in better results next election cycle.

1. OWN the loss at the polls. It is not about what the ULP did, or even what they did not do. It’s about what the NDP did and did not do. With the mandate from last cycle, the party failed to DEMONSTRATE that it was a better alternative to the ULP and the results showed with the swing. (i) The campaign was ineffective. You depended on convincing the people that ULP is bad for the country, as opposed to DEMONSTRATING NDP as a better alternative. There was a bigger focus on scandal, than STRATEGY. Scandals (whether bribes, pigs, lumber, galvanize, sex, lies, audio tapes, etc) will only give you a 24-hour bump. (ii) The handling of AIA was disastrous. Sure, you had issues with its conception, funding, delays et al, but the negativity that you peddled came across as your being against the airport, not just against how it was being financed, built etc. Vincentians on both sides want the airport, whether it is economically viable or not. Being vehemently against it may have been noble, but did not buy you votes, especially on the windward side where it was being built. You needed to publicly support the AIA, while DEMONSTRATING how you would have done it better. (iii)The honorary citizenship and the Garifuna issue was ill conceived. It was hasty, poorly researched, if at all and not thought through, evidenced by how quickly it faded from your platform. (iv) The state-of-the-art hospital seemed like an election gimmick for the same reason. Why was this not introduced years ago and why were there no answers to legitimate questions? There’s more, but let’s stop there.

2. EVALUATE your direction and strategy; build a brand. After being handed losses in four consecutive elections, smart people would admit something has to change. You need to evaluate leadership and I am not just talking about Eustace as the leader. There are some toxic elements in the party that, unless dealt with, will keep the party from being anything more than the opposition. Some candidates need to go, including some who won their seats. Eustace, I am sure, realizes it is time to retire, and transition to new leadership. There are, however, some wannabe leaders with egos as big as the country, who will not put the need of the party before personal ambition. Rather than sacrifice their tenure for the good of the party, their sense of entitlement and ego will keep the party in opposition unless ULP does disastrously over the next few years. A smart team will get behind Jules Ferdinand as the face and leadership of the party. He can garner respect, attract new candidates and support, help rebuild the party and improve its image. His being “new,” along with his track record in SVG and around the Caribbean is precisely why he is the best option for party leader.

3. STRATEGIZE. Please hire a strategist, someone who will tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear. To have any hope of winning the election next cycle, you need to start NOW. You need a strategy. Be the government the people wished they had. As long as you think like the opposition, act like the opposition, if all you do is oppose, then all you will be IS the opposition. Recruit and introduce new, young “candidates” within a year. Groom them to lead from the front on issues. Mentor them to clearly state positions on issues without resorting to the politics as usual that is so prevalent. Loudly support development, especially when it is proposed by the Government. When there are issues with those projects, clearly articulate that you ARE in favour of the development and elaborate how it can be done better. Don’t oppose the project and hope it will fail because you oppose the Government. Know the difference and separate the two.

There’s more, but let me conclude by saying this. People enjoy scandal, but expect STRATEGY. People elect politicians, not priests; so, how you point out the fault of others can make you look self-righteous. Humility trumps self-righteousness any day. People expect rhetoric, but want to see RESULTS. Dial down the rhetoric, anger and negativity. Go back and listen to the interviews and parliamentary discourse and tell me you do not come across as angry. People want sensationalism, but need SUBSTANCE. Craft a vision for the party and country, then regularly articulate that vision with clarity. A lot more of our people are Internet savvy. Many are studying abroad and exposed to a lot. They are trained to think for themselves and to challenge everything. Expect, therefore, they will challenge what is put out. They are not doubting you; they are looking for assurance that what you put forth is feasible and sound. They learn by challenging. So, prepare to engage them in all forums with well thought out and articulate responses. You will need to connect with and articulate a clear vision for the country to the 13-25 year olds. Those are the ones who will decide the next election. You need to start now.

Patrick Abbott