Editor: Unsurprisingly NDP has lost the elections and I expect that rather than introspection and an objective analysis they will likely be blaming everyone and everything, except themselves.
Let me say this, I have no intent to bash the party. This is also not about the ULP, they won the elections and I can write about them if you like. The results suggests that with a strong alternative, they can be defeated.
There are still some fundamental challenges facing the NDP and as I alluded to in other writings, unless those are addressed, the party will continue to be the people’s favourite opposition, unless the ULP becomes complacent and does some egregious things. Let me lay out three things (there are more) that need to be addressed by the NDP, as a priority, things that contribute to their losing streak.
Leadership: I am not speaking about the leaders as individuals, I am sure Dr Friday, Mr Leacock et al are patriotic gentlemen wanting the best for SVG, and would give all to execute on that. I am speaking of the principles of leadership that the party has failed to demonstrate over the last few election cycles. There are some fundamentals of leaderships that are critical to accomplishing individual goals and team goals. They are essential to success, to winning. I submit that these are lacking in the party/team and that job one (starting soonest) for the party is to invest in the team. Sure, take time to process the loss but quickly make some decisions with the next five years in mind. Make available to the team, leadership training and make it mandatory for every candidate individually and the team as a unit.
Strategy: There is a thing called “The winning strategy”, it is not a blueprint but more of a concept, it is tailored to every situation and dependent on a number of factors, one of which is an objective self-assessment of why you have not been winning. This is why there are so many books written on strategy and winning (The Art of War comes to mind), and why strategists are paid handsomely to deliver victories in all disciplines. Winning does not just happen and you do not just hope for it. You can have the best team, and even the best leader, but without a good strategy, you are leaving winning to “chance” or “Hope” as one candidate put it this year. We do not need to ask, evidence has shown that the NDP does not have a winning strategy. Luck is the residue of planning and preparation.
You have to be intentional and deliberate in understanding the challenges and craft a winning strategy.
Believability: Two can tell the same story to the same audience, and in one instance people walk away saying that was a great story and in the other, the audience is moved respond with tangible action. Looked at the NDP slogans and talking points over the years, This cycle is “get SVG working again” What’s the message? What’s being spun from that, is that SVG is not working, and while that may be true for a part of the population (the same in every country) is that story actually believable to the vast majority? Here is a nugget… Acknowledge the progress that has been made that impacts/benefits all Vincentians, then talk about how you are going to build on that to the benefit of ALL Vincentians. Don’t just say the words, believe them as only then can you make them believable. You have to also connect to people beyond your very loyal base and convince the electorate that they are voting FOR something rather than just against something/someone. Asking them to vote for change is not enough, convince them that this change is tangible and for the better. Sell the vision.
Here’s the thing. NDP, we have seen the playbook and like I said, while you made cosmetic changes, You seem unwilling or unable to make the fundamental changes that are required to appeal beyond a very strong, loyal and disgruntled base. You cannot pin hopes of winning on enough people being dissatisfied with the ULP. You cannot pin your hopes on winning by slinging all the mud you can muster at the ULP and its leader. We have watched this done and even if the claims are true; you hope enough people are convinced and give you a chance; But then you insult the very people you need to vote for you for not wanting to “vote them out”, for having a slave plantation mentality. It has not worked in the last few cycles, it’s not a strategy.
I asked someone the other day, if I am outside a restaurant living on hand-out and scraps from the owners or patrons and you came to assure me that I deserve better, that there is a restaurant down the block with a buffet where I can eat at the table, if I came with you. I remain unconvinced, the buffet exists. Would you insult me for being an ungrateful beggar, or acknowledged that you failed at your job of convincing me? The NDP do not have the luxury of waiting for 5 years to convince people they are an alternative. Pictures of different and hastily thought of “pie in the sky” projects that surface after election is called are neither convincing nor believable. Decrying actual projects or proposed projects as “destined to fail” and “won’t work” yet expecting people to be convinced that yours will, is foolhardy at best, especially when people are seeing those projects delivered. It insults the intelligence of the people you need to convince they should vote for you. Here is an example.
There may be sound reasons you believe the country should support China vs Taiwan. Have you laid out a comparative analysis of both options to educate Vincentians on why one is the better choice for Vincentians? Or do you think parading pictures of projects in other countries is enough; projects by the way that focus on their mature tourism product; a product you say we do not have, and cannot compete with. Have you laid out a concise plan on how you will build on work being done to improve that product?
Have you laid out the pros and cons of the CBI program to show how if properly managed in the Vincentian context, that in spite of potential pitfalls, the benefits outweighs the pitfalls? All is not lost. The party has the foundation to actually build itself, first as an effective opposition that holds the Government responsible to Vincentians and failing that be taken seriously as an alternative. To do that, there is work to be done, and you gotta have the want to. You cannot make people vote for the party, you can however make them want to vote for the party.