Restructuring our Political Parties

By Selwyn Ryan

 The antics of our political “parties” have been the subject of agonised scrutiny in recent weeks. 

The UNC, the COP, the ILP, the NAR and the venerable PNM are all trying to position themselves to achieve victory in what is likely to be a defining election in 2015. 

Last Sunday, the ILP held its promised founding convention, doing what most political parties normally do before they face an electorate. 

Given the circumstances that attended its conception and birth, it could not have been otherwise, but the event reminded me of the late Lloyd Best who frequently recalled the old saying that, “As you make your bed, so shall you lay on it.”

Lloyd always inveighed against “now for now” political parties sporting T20-20 pick up sides such as we had in 2010. 

The ILP quite naturally concentrated its talent and its financial resources on winning power in 2013, leaving the mundane business of building organisational capacity until after the elections were won as was assumed. 

The assumption might well have been that a victorious party, flush with the perks of power, would have had no difficulty attracting competent management cadres. I did not attend the convention, but the feedback which I got was that turnout was less than expected. It now seems that while the new party might indeed be around for a while yet, it has not yet attracted the notables needed to give it the necessary weight  and bounce. Good cadres are hard to find these days, at any price.

One wonders what has happened to the many thousands who signed up for the new party? 

Have they, like Rip Van Winkle, gone back to sleep, or have most, like other floating voters, gone back to the UNC like the flotsam and jetsam which were attracted to it four months ago?

I have given my prognosis about the future of the party, and I believe I have not exaggerated what lies ahead. If anything, I was generous in my early assessments.  

Jack, Lyndira, Anna, et al have however insisted that news of the ILP’s death is much exaggerated, and that the party is more alive than ever. 

We suspect that calls for fresh elections will serve to provide the party with the motivation and the funds needed to sustain it until the next bell rings.

In the meantime, “Uncle Jack” embodies the party. As he goes, so goes the Party. 

Montano may have smelled a corpse.

We note that Warner plans to effect an alliance with the  NAR, a party which was born in 1986 but which has long died, or so we all assumed. Here again Jack and Carson opted to go for appearances. 

Surely, everyone knows that the NAR is a mere ghost, one that has no embodiment. 

The NAR once had a brand name that used to mean something, but it now has no allure. 

Yoking the old brand  to the new one constitutes an insult to the political intelligence of voters.

It does not even have a coloured T-shirt to identify it!

The bottom line is that Sunday’s exercise did not appear to have achieved the hoped for “lift off”. The resignation of Robin Montano just a few days before the convention met, did not help. 

His complaint was that he was not consulted on much that went on and that he was often called upon to support initiatives which had already taken place. 

Surprise! Surprise! I assume that Montano would have been aware of that likely outcome. 

Whatever the reason and circumstances of his good bye, It did not serve to focus the shine on the new ball.

That ought to have been the end of the Jack’s narrative for the time being, but unfortunately, it was not. One now hears on the “old” social media that Warner is not only seeking to buy stock from Dr Carson Charles, but  that he is also  seeking to invest in Penny Beckles as well as he did with respect to Kamla and Lyndira Oudit. 

Reports are that Jack used Penny to fund PNM female candidates for the recent local government elections. 

It was even alleged that Penny was the conduit for the funds which were distributed at a city hotel prior to the election. 

More worrying was the report from usually reliable sources that she was Warner’s surprise candidate for the St Joseph seat which she was to contest on behalf of the ILP. The PNM General Council is aware of all of this. It is definitely not the case that Beckles was a victim of spite and patriarchal vengeance as some women and Manningites believe. 

Manning got hoisted on her own pe’tard.

Jack has neither admitted the truth or otherwise of these speculations. 

When asked, he declined to say Yea or Nay.

Which brings me to comment on the PNM intra party shuffle. Was Penny wise to jump out of the pack so early? Did she need to fly out of the sprinters’ block before the starter had time to say “set”? 

We note here that intra party elections are due in 2014 and not 2015 and that Penny is free like the Manning cabal to challenge Rowley et al? 

Why did she jump the gun? 

What maturity or discipline does that behaviour show? Did her funder’s backing somehow make her delusional? Who is making an investment in Penny and why?

My own view is that Penny has miscalculated the support she is said to have. 

She has some support among persons who believe she is a better choice than Rowley. 

I strongly disagree but word is spreading fast that she is not resourceful and will not make the cut.

This brings me finally to the ongoing speculation as to who would prevail in 2015. It is widely believed that the big two will dominate the race, but on a plurality and non hegemonic basis. The support of a third force will be critical to breaking the tie.The ILP is calculating that it will be the vital third force. Much however depends on what happens to Warner himself who is carrying handicaps which will become heavier the closer 2015 becomes. How can he lead a party which is serious about trust and good governance? Have men and men lost their reason?

COP is now constructively dead as an institution, but as a social force can tilt the balance one way or another. But COP members are themselves divided ideologically and ethnically. They are a coalition within a coalition. Some supported the Partnership and have gone back to base because of disenchantment with it. They  voted strategically because they desperately wanted to get rid of Manning while others switched to the UNC but would not now touch the UNC with a ten-foot pole. Some will switch back to the PNM, ambivalence about Rowley notwithstanding.

Much will also depend on who the UNC team is. Will the “cabal” be in view? Who will lead the PNM? How much will the corruption issue cost either party?

In the final analysis, we will expect the election to be very close and that the critical constituencies would be as usual San Fernando, St Joseph and Tunapuna. 

But a year in politics is a very long time.

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