R. Rose
December 16, 2016

Politics having negative effects on us all

By the time this issue of SEARCHLIGHT reaches readers, another chapter in our long saga of unsavoury politics would have unfurled. The House of Assembly, our national Parliament, would have met yesterday to deal with the people’s business.

Those of us who are more politically inclined would have been cocking their ears to hear the content of the promised “statement” by vice-president of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), St Clair Leacock, who is now, obviously, a party malcontent.{{more}}

Leacock’s “statement” may well turn out to be a “fuse bomb,” as we say in local circles, devoid of the sensationalism that many seek. One may have to read between the lines to decipher where he really stands; but it is just possible that he would give clarity on the confused state of his party politics and, in the process, make things more complicated for his colleagues, who are still in the process of adjusting to the resignation of the NDP’s second leader, Hon Arnhim Eustace.

Both within and without the NDP, there are mixed views on that party’s decision to opt for the leadership of Dr Godwin Friday, who had shared with Leacock the vice-presidency under Mr Eustace. Some consider Mr Friday as giving the party a “gentler, kinder” image, in contrast to the rambunctious image associated with Mr Leacock and his neighbouring Parliamentarian for Kingstown, Hon Daniel Cummings. But, on the other hand, there are faithful party stalwarts who believe that the confrontational line, with which Mr. Leacock, rightly or wrongly, is associated, is the correct course and do not see Mr Friday as personifying that line of action.

The “Major”, as Mr Leacock is known, due to his military background, must be not only frustrated, but deeply disappointed as well, in being denied the prize which he obviously felt he deserved, due to his faithfulness to the party. He it was who spearheaded the move to wean the NDP from its dependence on party founder Sir James Mitchell, and right up to the end of Mr Eustace’s tenure, he continued to profess his loyalty to his party president.

For his part, Dr Friday has signalled that he is willing to go beyond the narrow party confines and reach out to those who may be sceptical of the NDP leadership. This is clearly a departure from the party line of being almost hostile to all who do not subscribe to NDP politics and line of march. It is left to be seen how far he can take this, whether it can survive internally and be implemented externally. He has his work cut out, given the rag-tag band which has been influencing party policy, to the detriment of the NDP’s prospects for gaining power.

What will be interesting is to gauge how accession to the leadership will impact on the new NDP leader. The nature of our politics, particularly in the 21st century, is such that it can completely transform one’s character. Take Mr Eustace, for instance, a man who by the end of 2016, has a very different image than what he had at the end of the last century. A man once considered balanced, ended up almost hysterical in his public utterances. It was so good to see him visibly relaxed, and smiling, after he had resigned from the leadership. Whatever the disappointment at not achieving the ultimate goal, leading the NDP to electoral victory, his family at least, must be overjoyed to have that burden lifted.

It is something that all who aspire to political leadership need to reflect on deeply. Our failure to update and modernize our political construct is damaging to all those who engage in party politics. It is even worse in the age of the social media and the permanent talk-shows on radio. Our politicians end up being anything but themselves, trying to please all and afraid to stand on principle. Deception and “mama-guy” have become the order of the day, the truth becomes a victim of political expediency. Is that what we want of our politics?

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.