Calls for Eustace to hand over the leadership of his party have resumed. Others who say no compare Mr Eustaceâs sojourn in the political wilderness to the journeys Mitchell and Eustaceâs nemesis, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, have trod. They say that these two prime ministers toiled for many years before enjoying the fruits of their labour. While this argument may appear reasonable on the surface, digging a little deeper leads to a marked difference. Mitchell and Gonsalves led fringe parties during their wilderness years, but achieved success only after leading mass parties. It is an historical fact that politics in SVG has been a two-party race with little luck coming to fringe parties.
In Mitchellâs case, his NDP inherited the Peopleâs Political Party (PPP) of Ebenezer Joshua, the mass party that battled for power with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Labour Party (SVGLP) of Robert Milton Cato. It was the PPP, which was traditionally strong in the Leeward and Kingstown seats that gave Mitchell the momentum to take government. In the case of Gonsalves, his Movement for National Unity joined with the SVGLP under Sir Vincent Beache to form the Unity Labour Party (ULP), which inherited the SVGLPâs traditional strength in Marriaqua and the Windward seats.
Unlike Mitchell, Gonsalves, Ken Boyea of the now defunct Peopleâs Progressive Movement, and lately Ivan OâNeal and Anesia Baptiste, Eustace has not experienced life in the political wilderness as the leader of a fringe party. Eustace also joins Beache as the only leaders of mass parties in SVG to have not tasted victory in general elections. To Beacheâs credit, his opposition coalition of the SVGLP and the MNU won the popular vote in 1998. Beache also had the foresight to give way to fresher legs in the newly formed ULP and eventually saw his successor lead this nation into four successive terms in office.
To Eustaceâs credit, he has been able to keep the NDP together against the political genius of Gonsalves, perhaps the last of the Caribbeanâs post-independence juggernauts. Eustace, however, has to decide if his purpose for the NDP is that of a John the Baptist, a prophet who paves the way for a new NDP king. The decision time is nigh.