Tuesday, 17 January 2012 02:30
By Dr. Isaac newton
Part I traced what the United Progressive Party (UPP) government of Antigua & Barbuda must do to gain back precious ground lost, and win the national elections in 2014.
Part II identifies the approach the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) could use to reclaim power.
The glaring gap between the UPP’s increasing unpopularity and the ALP’s decreasing public support should not be shocking. As the UPP gets more unpopular, that won’t naturally translate into preference for the ALP. Rallying against the Government is not the same thing as rallying for the Opposition.
For example, the people in Libya did not just march against Gaddafi, they marched for their freedom. Nor would talk-show politics alone that expose the government’s shortcomings boost public confidence in the ALP’s leadership.
Given the nuances of local politics, it is not automatic that what occurred in St Lucia and Jamaica will follow in Antigua & Barbuda. If becoming the next government is the name of the game, a major transformation in road map and representation is the absolute precondition.
Strategically, the ALP must decide what its next move is after its next move. And it must always prepare a solid counter response to the government’s advances. The solution after next should always be on the table before party leaders engage in public advocacy or resistance. A losing tactic is to wait for the people’s frustration to spill over into civil disobedience.
The people may be ready for noble sacrifices only after 2014. Clearly, the ALP must change the people’s doubt that the party is a safer pair of hands to take over the government.
The ALP will also have to inspire grassroots passions for real change. Creativity yoked to urgent needs is essential to move the ordinary person from fear to faith, and from faith to fearlessness. Although the people generally regret voting for the UPP, they are not ready to return to the ALP.
What the ALP must guard against is the paradox of the post-modern mind. It is a mind that could hate the government without loving the opposition. And somehow, it operates on self-interest, not necessarily on party loyalty alone. Party leaders will do well to remember that our social network generation is a different kind of beast. They cannot afford to misread the political landscape to mean that disaffection with Spencer equals affection for Bird.
Love and hate in politics are not always joined at the hips. The ALP must shock itself into the post-modern era with an attractive, youth oriented, and relevant nation-building programme.
Outside the inner sanctum of the ALP, there is a general perception that the former prime minister, Lester Bird, has become a barrier to sure victory. His smooth departure is likely to increase the ALP's chances at winning tenfold. Yet insiders are not quite ready to abandon the vast experience and wisdom of Bird, nor are they willing to risk the enormous political capital that his family legacy contains.
There are sufficient sentiments from party stalwarts that Bird should be given ample space to either retire with his boots on, or leave at his discretion. In contrast, many in the wider society are divided over whether Bird would bring turmoil or stability. As it stands, his legacy is do or die. Bird’s legacy will either punish or restore the ALP to prominence.
With a generational shift in thinking, it is felt by a younger and more vibrant sector of the party that the only way to prevent the ALP from sitting on the opposition bench for a third unbroken time is to see the back of Bird with or without his approval. This haunting leadership issue will decide the immediate future of the ALP. If it is not settled by the end of this year, the ALP is heading for certain defeat.
Should new leadership emerge, ALP Senator Gail Christian's chances are greater at defeating PM Baldwin Spencer; ALP candidate Dean Jonas with strategic help should take down UPP Dr Jacqui Leandro-Quinn; UPP Senator Dr Errol Cort will most likely return to Parliament; and ALP Max Fernandez and Chet Green are likely to outshine the UPP's John Maginley and Eleston Adams.
It is quite possible that a united ALP could design a sustainable strategic victory pathway with the singular aim of demonstrating that it is the alternative good, not the lesser of two evils. If it does this successfully, it will thrash the UPP. Mounting a winning campaign will require fresh thinking, new energy, and a combination of tried hands with agile legs.
Further, the ALP could attract the people through solid programmes and new initiatives. As constituted, it won’t be easy to convince this generation that the ALP is best suited to create national progress. Yet, the ALP must find a way to do just that. If not, the UPP will continue to be unpopular while the ALP remains devoid of the people’s overwhelming support.
Perhaps ALP leaders should begin with the premise that to win, they’ll have to do a 180 turnaround. The people will continue to tolerate Spencer’s weaknesses for a very long time, if Bird’s strengths are seen as worse.
But if the ALP showcases its political might and links it to the people’s scientific-based pressing needs (not what the party thinks those needs are), it will defeat the UPP with a landslide victory. Winning the future, not relying on the past, is the only sure path to re-election.
Effective re-positioning does not require an impending disaster to be executed successfully. Winning needs adequate strategic planning time. To wait six months to roll out its campaign could prove to be fatal. The myth of inevitable victory is a poor substitute for the hard choices and necessary sacrifices the ALP must make to win in 2014.
However, the politics of personal ambition must surrender to the needs of the nation and what’s best for the party. Otherwise, destructive threats of fractions and splits will ruin the ALP permanently.
Although two years may appear to be a long time for many unknowns to occur, it does not follow that strategic planning is useless. Our need for sensing future events not only contains its own intrinsic logic, but it is part of human nature and the wisdom of campaigning.
Depending on your psychological or scientific filter, you may choose to tabulate the number of variables that are unlikely to happen, or anticipate the likelihood of various scenarios playing out across time and space. If you do the latter, strategic considerations will anticipate the people's urgent needs and hopes. Seen as a whole, these considerations are likely to unfold with little room for surprises.
But if predicting is too much for your blood, then expect the 2014 general elections to be a slave to fate. One thing is sure post-2014 the Spencer/Bird era will perish of natural causes. With it, the false idea that great leaders come once in a lifetime will collapse. And the almighty lie that size of country determines leadership quantity and quality will died forever.
Dr Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects.
Dr. Newton works extensively, in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia.
He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.
See related stories:
How to Win in 2014 - Part I