Round Table with Oscar
December 8, 2015
Driving backwards in elections

Using the rearview mirror

The Matter of Party and State Leadership

I think that for the first time in our political career as a people, we are seeing and accepting political leadership as a twisted and ugly caricature of itself. The leader has become measured to suit one model, compared with nothing else but one style and stacked up against one image. What we are seeing is a cartoon in which we are the fools, seriously.{{more}} I find it hard to laugh at this comic tragedy. Just imagine the mockery it would make of American (US) society if the Political and citizen community considered that their presidents should all be measured to fit the image and persona of a beloved Ronald Reagan, or a Bill Clinton for that matter. Barack Obama can never be a Reagan clone. He is Obama. Each leader does not bring to the table the same style and fashion as a favourite competitor or predecessor, but his or her own complex of gifts and character.

In our SVG, when we look back at the years of the Ebenezer Joshua – Milton Cato political leadership battles, Vincentians did not take one leader, say Mr Cato, and say “Mr Joshua does not have the features and CV of Mr Cato, so Joshua is not fit to lead.” Today, and for the past 10 or more years, I have been hearing that the remarkable gifts of Dr Gonsalves equip him to be our Prime Minister, but Mr Eustace is nothing like Dr Gonsalves in gifts, so where he going, say he is leader! He must be a Gonsalves to become our leader in SVG. Do you know that the ‘ancient’ Greeks had a word for persons who taught and thought that kind of philosophy? They called them ‘idiots’, not as a negative value judgement, but to suggest that such persons’ minds were centred on their ‘idios’, their own selves.

Somewhere along the line, I want to give the Unity Labour Party the benefit of the doubt concerning their proposed cultivation of a cult of ‘only the Gonsalves can rule’ in SVG. After all, it was Labour who signed the end of the ‘Rule Britannia’ regime of colonialism in 1979. ULP will not do the idiot thing of starting a father to son to daughter Gonsalves kingdom here, you think?

As for the NDP and leadership, the Eustace mode of operation seems to be bringing together a kind of collective or partnership effort among the Parliamentarians at last. The NDP election manifesto is a transparent team document. The leadership of different parliamentarians can be seen in different proposals. Mr Leacock is there in the constituency budget, so is Linton Lewis on meritocracy, and Daniel Cummings and others make up the team document. These proposals are not all without room for critical question, but they indicate a shared party leadership. What is left to be seen is how inclusive that leadership will be, making room for interests that are not from the party, but are for the nation. And of course, hopefully, the NDP, unlike the ULP, and unlike its first handover to Mr Eustace, will show us what it has in mind for a democratic and transparent practice of transition from one political leader to another when Mr Eustace steps aside.

Dynasties, or political handovers through bloodlines, are not democratic, whether they happen in old imperial empires or in today’s revolutionary socialist administrations. In our young post-colonial Caribbean societies, we must resist and overthrow the ugly and insidious monopoly leadership posturings of the Gonsalves academy and its mass based students. It is a necessary cleansing.

As we gaze in the rearview mirror, politically, over the past 80 years, we do not see any of our leaders, from George McIntosh to James Mitchell, make so much effort to thrust their progeny into the political limelight. With Dr Gonsalves, we seem to be driving our nation further backwards at the level of who commands the state apparatus. Did these earlier leaders have a superior democratic instinct than the present Prime Minister, or is our political archivist, Kenneth John, right on point, in claiming that our political leaders tend to lose their way near the end of their useful political lives?

Perhaps we should not omit what the ‘Conspiracy’ theory pundits have to say on this matter. Ellsworth Shake Keane helps me to put it in politically correct idiom: “We are our own Compromises”.