From the initial responses of the People's Partnership, it appears that the coalition has learned little or nothing from its comprehensive defeat in Monday's Tobago House of Assembly election.
The party's spokesmen in the persons of UNC chairman Jack Warner and UNC Senator Anand Ramlogan have attributed the rout of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) to racism and nothing but racism. The fact that, a mere 32 months ago, Tobagonians voted decisively for a coalition whose main leaders were Indo-Trinidadians makes no difference to Messrs Warner's and Ramlogan's stated belief that most Tobagonians are racially biased.
But in accusing the PNM of using the race card during the election campaign, the Partnership is now playing the same hand. This is so whether or not the accusation is true. It also seems politically foolish, since denigrating Tobagonians in such general terms almost certainly ensures that the Partnership will lose even more support in the sister isle come the 2015 general election. Last Sunday, Mr Warner predicted a 10-2 victory for the TOP in the THA election, and said that, "If we don't win this election, there is no election we will win." He will now backtrack on that statement as though he never made it, and along with his colleagues pretend that the THA defeat has little or no implications for the Partnership's electoral fortunes in Trinidad. But such a head-in-the-sand attitude means that the coalition government will most likely continue to make the same mistakes until 2015.
So if the Partnership's political strategists have calculated that Tobago is a lost cause, then the race-baiting makes political sense as a device to solidify the United National Congress's core support within Trinidad in preparation for this year's Local Government election. The race talk is also meant to distract from the consideration that, if Tobagonians did not vote against the TOP/Partnership on the basis of racial prejudice, then they must have rejected the party on other grounds, such as corruption.
This is the bison in the room which the People's Partnership does not wish to acknowledge. Public perception that the coalition is corrupt and nepotistic has solidified since its 2010 victory, and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar also miscalculated her personal appeal by playing such an active part in the THA election. The coalition has less than two years left to make itself attractive to voters, but it can do so only by changing its cronyism style of governance. This it appears unwilling or unable to do. If so, this reluctance or inability means that the party is in thrall to certain individuals and groups whose support it cannot afford to lose—to the detriment of the nation.