Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
He may not state this publicly, but Chairman of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Gaston Browne is focussing on becoming the country’s fourth prime minister. Sound farfetched?
Perhaps, but I have been reliably informed that Browne is mobilizing forces to become leader of the ALP before general elections, which are constitutionally due by March 2014.
If you ask Browne if this is the case, he may deflect a direct answer, but the plan is already in motion to take over from current ALP leader Lester Bird.
It is no secret that Bird, after regaining his Rural East seat five years after losing it to his "apprentice," Dr Errol Cort in 2004, wants to become prime minister again.
But at his age, and with concerns over his failing health, Bird’s expectations may not be realistic and the self-acclaimed "Comeback Kid" may just have to take a back seat.
That being said, my major concern is this notion that Gaston is mobilizing his team to become leader of the ALP and ultimately prime minister of Antigua & Barbuda.
Obviously, to become PM, he must become head of the ALP, and that may be more difficult than becoming the nation’s chief servant.
So let’s look at the first hurdle, which is convincing Labourites that he, Browne, is the best person to take over from Lester Bird.
Now for those who see further than mere words, I chose "take over from Bird" very carefully, and perhaps with more information at hand than most.
Anyway, one thing is certain. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and the United Progressive Party are losing favour with the electorate.
Even Spencer admitted that the party is losing popularity, and he knows why.
The UPP’s mantra of transparency and accountability has been non-existent for a long time.
The Chinese Power Plant, the fences scandal, the "huffing" of Half Moon Bay, poor fiscal policies, and lethargic investment principles have all plagued the UPP.
The two-party system that we practice here in Antigua & Barbuda simply makes the ALP an alternative to the UPP.
Why would Bird give up now, with another chance at becoming prime minister (the ultimate comeback) so close at hand?
Some suggest that Browne will have to defeat Bird at an ALP convention something he (Browne) failed at before.
To beat Bird means a fight at the ALP convention, but sources say that Browne is not looking forward to a fight. Therefore, something else is in the works.
Here is what may be happening.
There is another MP, namely Molwyn Joseph, who is courting the idea of becoming leader of the ALP as well.
Both Browne and Joseph understand what Bird's name means to ALP supporters, and would like to have a peaceful transition of power in the ALP, rather than a war.
So, while none will state this publicly, Bird, it appears, is handing the torch over to Browne, and with that the chairman is sharpening up his image, and mobilizing his troops to become leader.
In the past, Bird suggested his willingness to lead the ALP into the 2014 elections, and once successful would pass the leadership to the next in line.
So then, where does Joseph fit in?
Browne has shown his willingness to fight Bird in the past, so a fight against Joseph may be something the City West MP would welcome as an easy walkover.
Interestingly, over the past six months or more, it was Joseph, not Browne or Bird, who has been leading the ALP against the UPP.
Whether or not Bird and Browne have an understanding, Joseph may still prefer his chances of beating Browne in a run-off for the leadership.
This is an interesting scenario, and not one that was conjured up. It’s the reality that is the ALP at this time.
Now to the general elections, where Browne or Joseph and the ALP will have to convince the electorate that they can lead Antigua & Barbuda out of the deepest financial rut it has been in.
Again, Browne has youth on his side, but that alone does not make for a good leader, and Browne has demonstrated in the past that his immaturity can be a hindrance.
And what about those other ALP MP’s? Will they rally their support behind Browne?
It appears that most of those MP’s and prospective candidates will march to Bird’s tune, and at this juncture, everything seem to be "going down Point" and City West.
Two months ago, Bird would have resisted any reference to "passing the torch," in spite of the fact that many have called for him to do so.
What then would have prompted the heir of Father of the Nation VC Bird to rethink that position?
Perhaps some introspection, or perhaps that "Mind of the Nation" poll that at least one media house, Queens Medal and all, may be keeping secret and confidential.
Bird went into a tailspin when recent comments by Peter Wickham suggested that he should “set off on a different political adventure” by leaving elective politics.
The former PM was irate and responded, “The ALP rejects the so-called advice of Peter Wickham as being deliberately aimed at undermining the leadership of the ALP, which is a repeat of his efforts in the run-up to the 2009 general elections."
He said, “In 2009, Wickham made equally offensive remarks about leadership, age and in-fighting. The electorate of the Rural East Constituency returned the Honourable Lester Bird to Parliament despite Wickham’s farcical claims.”
That response may be just more rhetoric coming from Bird, since sources in the ALP are convinced that Bird will not lead the ALP into the next general elections.
Perhaps Antiguans & Barbudans home and abroad should be getting accustomed to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Perhaps Prime Minister Molwyn Joseph may be a better sounding name, or perhaps Prime Minister Doctor, Doctor Baldwin Spencer may be here for a long time.
You the people will have your say pretty soon.