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Alternative Government, not permanent Opposition

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“The pity is that the controversy has already distracted from any objective scrutiny of how Camillo Gonsalves will perform in his first attempt at presenting a Budget. In fact, reading between the lines, it would not surprise me if the Opposition were, not only to instigate protests when he does so, but also, if they would be led by the in-house extremists to boycott the presentation entirely”. (From Eye of the Needle, Jan 26, 2018).

Having written those words in my column two weeks ago, I could only express disappointment now that they turned out to be prophetic. I would have been happy to be proven wrong. Sadly, the tactics of old, which have proven to be a failure time and again, have kept the Opposition imprisoned. It is as if, for some strange reason, they are stuck in time, mistaking tactical manoeuvres for strategic direction.

At the time of writing, I do not know whether once the Finance Minister has finished his Budget presentation they would have returned to engage in the debate, but it amazes me how those who have the responsibility of representing tens of thousands of Vincentians would neglect the opportunity to expose the shortcomings of the Government and put themselves forward as a credible alternative. Maybe I am too stupid to understand!

Once more, it is a demonstration of the failure to combine tactics, of protest and opposition, with those of alternative vision, providing that exists. Every time golden opportunities are presented, the lines are fluffed, and the resort is the same, to traditional politics of opposition. We get more of the same each time, irrespective of the previous outcomes. It is as though those responsible are unaware of the law of diminishing returns.

I say this, not to knock the Opposition or pull them down, for if any pulling is to be done, I would wish it would be for them to “pull up their socks” and treat the national business with the seriousness it deserves. I expect to be attacked for this, but that is neither here or there to me, nor indeed to the future of our beloved country. I believe that the position being consistently adopted by the Opposition, even in cases where there is genuine reason to oppose, end up each time short-changing the country as a whole and even their own supporters, in particular.

The ULP has been in power some 17 years, having won the 2001 elections after a set of momentous events of 2000. Those events did not come out of the blue, nor were they stage-managed by the ULP; they arose out of very peculiar circumstances which are unlikely to occur in the same manner again. The ULP was skilful in taking advantage of that situation. The NDP must correctly analyze the current juncture and know what tactics to employ.

While, generally, and especially policy-wise, the ULP has a lot to its credit and a number of impressive achievements to show, it also has its downside. Having sound policies is one thing, the implementation is another. There is quite a bit of dissatisfaction in the perceived tolerance of the ULP to the behaviour of some in its fold and even perceived arrogance, their open contradiction of the spirit of “love” and “together now” advanced by the party’s leadership. Persons who are guilty of misdeeds are not only tolerated, but in some cases appear to be rewarded. On the human front, there is much to remedy.

It creates opportunities for the Opposition, for where there is a good, there must be a better. But that is the challenge, to prove and demonstrate a better alternative. All the cussing and ranting will not do it, nor will those in glass houses be able to cast stones. The daily diet of vitriol on the airwaves and social media cannot display an alternative, a sober judgement, maturity or creative thinking. Leaders must lead and certainly must not be led by those who are using politics to grind axes or as a means of personal advancement.

I do not think that I am alone in wanting to see the Government challenged, intellectually, policy-wise and morally. I want to see an Opposition which gives me hope that it has the vision and the wisdom to be a credible alternative Government, which can take on the ULP in debates and demonstrate that it can match, can uplift. The ULP is not here forever, but the politics of ignorance can only prolong its stewardship.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.