What if Jack had remained in Cabinet?
We know he couldn’t, but what if he had. He couldn’t because the report of the David Simmons Concacaf committee on probable corruption on his part proved too damning for Kamla Persad-Bissessar to keep him on. He couldn’t because—and we knew this for sure from the terrible things he has been saying about the Government after he left, even though we had enough hints before—he had reached the point where he could not get along with the cabal that had developed and taken Kamla away from him. He couldn’t because his elevated status within the Government had started slipping irretrievably. He couldn’t…
And he couldn’t even if he hadn’t sought a fresh mandate on his own from the voters of Chaguanas West. With ministerial status gone, he would have had no platform of authority to mount, no hands from the deck to play.
So what if he had remained in the Cabinet? If the crowds at his party’s meetings and the NACTA polls are anything to go by, the People’s Partnership would be winning Monday’s local government elections.
The crowds, some parts of them clearly migrant, are huge by comparison with the United National Congress (UNC) and People’s National Movement (PNM) crowds; and these two parties are free to tote their crowds around as well. (Are their people demotivated?) And the NACTA polls are very clear in showing that, in most of the corporations polled, the combined percentages of votes for the UNC and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), or the Congress of the People (COP) and the ILP, exceed the percentage for the PNM.
If Jack was still there, would the UNC and the COP be winning the votes that the ILP is? Or would the ILP voters be going to the PNM or be abstinent?
I find those questions quite intriguing, but I have no answers to them because no poll has asked their equivalents of the voters in any of the corporations. Their equivalents would be (in the vernacular, surely): If Jack Warner was still in the Cabinet, you woulda vote for the UNC or the COP? If not, you woulda vote for the PNM or you woulda stay away from the polls?
While I don’t know the answers, I doubt the voters would have given the UNC/COP the ILP percentages since Jack would have been mired in the distasteful image the Government has been presenting to many in the population and not been able to offer voters the kind of freshness and adventure he and his party are offering now.
It is because he has separated himself from them and, incredibly to many, is riding on an agenda of integrity and representation that he can be taking away huge chunks of their voters—voters that either never had an appetite for the PNM or have not yet regained their appetite for that party. It is because he is casting the ILP as what the UNC (and the rest of the Partnership) should have been that he is attracting those chunks and, perhaps, winning over swing voters and new voters.
So if he had stayed, it is not automatic that the UNC/COP would be winning the percentages the ILP is winning now. Disaffected voters would be either looking to the PNM or else going the route of abstinence. Which doesn’t say much for the appeal of the PNM.
But the UNC say they have listened to the message of the NACTA polls and are taking steps to reverse them. For example, UNC deputy political leader Roodal Moonilal says:
“We saw the results. It means that we have to work. I think we are six per cent behind the PNM in some areas. It means we must work harder and push faster. I am confident that our campaigners, activists will step up to the plate… Polls are polls. We take polls very seriously because they are a snapshot at a particular time. But whatever the polls say, we work hard. I will be on the campaign trail this week with various candidates. We will continue to work hard and reverse the polls if they are against us and increase our lead if they are for us.”
For him, the trick is for him and his people to work hard and fast. He thinks they can make up lost ground in the campaign. It does not seem to have occurred to him that the damage he is seeking to repair occurred long before the hustings and cannot be fixed in them. He does not seem to appreciate that the enemy is not only the PNM but also the ILP. All the UNC/COP have to do, he says, is work harder and faster… in the campaign!
Listen now to Attorney General Ramlogan: “The feedback thus far has been very good for the People’s Partnership and we are very positive and upbeat about that. What we have to have is a very aggressive, on-the-ground, door-to-door campaign, and that is what we have been preparing with all our candidates.”
If the feedback has been “very good’’, why the need for a “very aggressive’’ campaign on the ground?
The AG again: “The key point that has arisen has been one of accessibility and that is why I think that all of the ministers, all MPs, all senators, they must be accessible.’’
The key point is poor accessibility? Is this why so many people are turned off by the government? No mention of broken promises, of unprecedented levels of corruption and tribalism, of rigged legislation?
Of course not! It’s just that the MPs and ministers had not been making themselves available to the common man!
Listen to him sing that silly song again and another: “In T&T, (for) an elected MP to properly serve his constituency whilst at the same time being a Government Minister, it’s a very difficult task and I think where we fell down, this Government fell down, is primarily in the area of communications first and foremost and, secondly, in managing the governance of the country and perhaps not paying enough attention to the politics on the ground. And that has been the lesson and the significance of the Chaguanas West by-election, and since that time, all the ministers, all of the MPs, they have been on the ground.”
They were too busy playing minister to talk to the people and pay attention to “the politics on the ground’’, whatever that means. And they were too busy falling down in the management of the governance of the country —read “mismanaging the country’’.
So the trick now was to be “on the ground’’—since Jack won Chaguanas West outside of the cabinet.
That would slow the upsetting run of the ILP and the dogged encroachment of the PNM, ent it?
• Winford James is a UWI lecturer and political analyst