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From Eric To ‘One Love’
From time to time, politicians and sundry political formations arise to purportedly assure us that there’s “a new dawn” in our politics and we’re witnessing “a wind of change” in the political atmosphere that will blow away the political debris of the past. Of course, we do not always cater for recycled politicians, neophytes or troglodytes of a much earlier era.
But we’re not singular in the respect of placing greater emphasis on the inconsequentiality of individuals than the consequentially of issues. I suppose that we don’t invariably make the distinction between party politics and personality politics.
Dr Williams—our first and arguably more cerebral Prime Minister to date—is reputed to be the person who initiated party politics in this neck of the woods. Ironically, the party that he founded was seen as an extension of his own peculiar personality.
Although he cleverly orchestrated such that he was assured that the Opposition elements remained divided and eventually ensured that “a straw figure” would emerge, with the requisite qualities that could constitute the appropriate foil for his political thrust.
Whereas a political party should ideally represent a sounding board for the leader’s ideas and vision, our political parties eventually atrophied into an echo chamber for the political leader’s voice and the mechanism for distributing political patronage. Inevitably, the party, by dint of longevity (among other factors), developed its own particular brand, which even its creator ended up being unable to defy.
Beside that the party became an avenue for self-adulation and political idolatry. A case in point was that when Dr Williams wished to dispense with a parliamentarian selected by the members of his party, it only required “a wink and a nod” from him for the party groups to hand the said individual “the marching papers.”
Subsequent political leaders failed to recognise, at their and the party’s peril, that they were mere simply custodians and not owners of the party brand. Ironically, when George Chambers won the general election subsequent to William’s death, it was arguably a nostalgic vote and posthumous electoral victory for Eric Eustace Williams.
After Dr Williams died Chambers was handed a “poisoned chalice.” He did the best he could and advised his countrymen that “fete over back to work.” What ostensibly they actually heard was “fete last night, fete tomorrow night, fete forevermore.” Some said, “Give Georgie a chance.” Others expected him to wave his magic wand and work miracles.
He tried to convey to them that “the days of wind and roses” had come to an end and national belt-tightening was the order of the day. Who tell him to say so? As far as we are concerned, “Where ignorance is bliss, it’s folly to be wise.” Whether the Treasury was or was not regarded as the proverbial biscuit tin, it’s hard to persuade us (not only us) that you can’t spend your way out of bankruptcy, unless you’re fully tuned in to the “crazy-onomics” according to the wild postulations of the crackpot “economists,” and other ignoramuses.
Chambers was beaten upon up and down the country like the proverbial Good Friday bobolee. Even the calypsonians got on his case, to the tune that “he done see.” The idea was to laugh and ridicule him out of office with endless Chambers jokes. If the nationals only knew the abysmal state of the Treasury and took a good look in the mirror at themselves they’d see who really duncy and who is bobolee.
Now enter the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) led by ANR Robinson and constituting an amalgamation of Robinson’s DAC, Hudson-Phillips’ ONR, Basdeo Panday’s ULF and Lloyd Best’s Tapia. They promoted themselves as the “dream team” with all the answers.
Their slogan was “One Love,” which eventually evolved into “Pure Hate.” But pardon me for moving ahead of the story. The synthetic euphoria that swept the land was comparable to that of the halcyon PNM days. Now if I had even been tempted to keep Dr Williams abreast of the political goings-on since he had gone “over yonder,” I’d be less than honest if I didn’t tell him that, given the dramatis personae involved in that weird political concoction, I couldn’t think of a better political team to “snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory.” In my humble view, they represented a colossal hoax perpetrated on an unsuspecting and blithely expectant public. Ah lie?
In my view, it was neither an alliance, coalition (fish nor fowl) nor whatever but a shotgun mismarriage and electoral accommodation only for the purpose of acquiring political power. Best called them “a party of parties,” which “precollapsed” and he wouldn’t touch it with a 40-foot pole. Must all our efforts at political coalitions always leave us on tenterhooks, wondering whether “they’re on life support or suicide watch.” What a thing!
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