The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
The Unity Labour Party (ULP) has now won the popular vote in five successive general elections (1998, 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015) and gained the majority of seats in the last four of these elections, Four-Inna-Row, the most recent victory being secured with an increase in the popular votes. All of these achievements are historic in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in the rest of the Caribbean. In the process, the ULP has been confirmed as the natural party of governance.
These political/electoral accomplishments have eclipsed the impressive performances of: the People’s Political Party (PPP) under Ebenezer Joshua (1957, 1961, and 1966 the later being a one-seat majority with a minority of the popular votes; the SVG Labour Party under Milton Cato (1967, 1974, 1979 __ Cato’s Labour Party failed to win a majority of seats in 1972); and the New Democratic Party (NDP) under James Mitchell (1984, 1989, 1994, and 1998 the latter being a one-seat majority with a minority of the popular votes). Indeed, the NDP’s high-water mark, in terms of popular votes of 66 percent in 1989, declined sharply, within 9 years to 45 percent in 1998.
The ULP’s accomplishments commenced under the leadership of Vincent Beache in 1998, and have continued magnificently under Comrade Ralph, the most successful electoral leader of a mass party in our country’s history. They built upon the extraordinary foundations laid by the former SVGLP under Milton Cato and the cohesive, progressive, and internationalist labours, support, and networks of the United People’s Movement and the Movement for National Unity.
ULP’S Philosophy, Policies and Programmes
From its formal establishment in October 1994 to the present time, the ULP elaborated a compelling developmental narrative which has found favour with the overwhelming majority of Vincentians at home and in the diaspora. Indeed, huge numbers of persons who do not support the ULP for personal or tribal political reasons, nevertheless accept and endorse the fundamental premises and programmatic platform of the ULP.
This compelling developmental narrative focuses on the following central elements: (i) the reaffirmation that our nation is founded upon the belief in the supremacy of God and the freedom and dignity of man and woman; (ii) the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a magnificent part of our Caribbean civilisation which is unique, legitimate, and noble and which possesses a trajectory for further ennoblement and upliftment; (iii) the upliftment of our civilisation and the life and living of our people, necessarily requires a sustainable economic base and disciplined productive efforts by all; (iv) the sustainable economic base has as its central quest the building of a many-sided, modern, competitive post-colonial economy on the tripartite, integrated pillars of the private, cooperative, and public sectors of the economy; (v) the entire enterprise of good governance, public policy and its implementation is reflective of the core universal principles of social democracy as applied to the particular circumstances of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; (vi) the region, the international political economy and our diaspora are vital locales for engagement, and more, in our people’s interest; and (vii) the policies and specific programmes flow inexorably from the foregoing considerations.
No mass political party in CARICOM has ever consistently and coherently advanced as progressive an agenda as has the ULP. The people know it; even most of our political opponents acknowledge this. More importantly, successive ULP governments have executed an impressive implementation, within the constraints of a small-island developing state, of this very agenda, policies, and programmes. It is not a surprise, therefore, that people of all ages and interests respond positively to the ULP at the polls.
Undoubtedly, the ULP is the best organised mass political party in CARICOM. Its democratic organs and structures function from the level of the constituencies through the Central Executive up to the National Council and National Convention. The Party’s Secretariat, headed by the remarkable Julian Francis, the best General Secretary of a mass party in our region, is the excellent hub around which the Party’s machinery revolves.
The ULP owns its well-equipped Party Headquarters; it also owns a popular radio station; and it has an excellent presence on social media.
To be sure, there are, as always weaknesses and limitations in its organisation and a further upgrade is required. But the ULP remains the best organised mass political party in our Caribbean.
The ULP on the move, particularly in campaign mode, is an awesome entity to behold. The people know it and appreciate it; our political opponents marvel at it, in jealousy!
Team and Leadership
Over the life of the ULP, it has consistently presented to the electorate quality candidates with an admixture of experience and youthful energy. And it has always been in quest of the renewal of political personnel offered to the voters. Indeed, as early as at the ULP’s National Convention within months of the Party’s re-election in 2005, its central theme encompassed its renewal of personnel and ideas. As a consequence of this strategic embrace of on-going renewal, the ULP has been the political force representing change.
It is remarkable that the governing ULP has consistently been able to attract far more young and creative talent, and popular support among the youths, than the opposition NDP. This fact runs counter to the norm in politics, in the Caribbean and elsewhere, that long-running, ruling political parties tend to lose the support of the young. The ULP, from its top leadership down to the rank-and-file, has been able successfully, to position itself as representing “the future” while connecting with the elderly and that which is of value in our past! On the other hand, the NDP seems always wedded to the past even whilst it is at war with its founder, Sir James Mitchell, who led the Party gloriously in the past. The NDP’s mindset always has it fighting the last general elections, not the next one; politically, the ULP does the opposite.
At the leadership level, Comrade Ralph offered to step down as Political Leader in the period between 2010 and 2015. Indeed, for over a year after the 2010 general elections he was insisting that the Party find itself a new leader for the 2015 elections. It was the Party which rebuffed him and demanded, in February 2012, that he remained at the helm for the 2015 electoral encounter. Again Comrade Ralph has made it plain that for 2020 elections he would not be leading the ULP. In fact, he publicly stated in the recent election campaign that one of his central political tasks in the 2016-2020 period is to manage efficaciously the transition to younger leadership in the Party and Government. In contrast, in the NDP, Arnhim Eustace is bent on continuing as leader despite the fact that he was made Prime Minister once, by Sir James Mitchell, in the year 2000, and he has made himself Opposition Leader on four occasions (2001, 2005, 2010, and 2015) an inglorious record. First-time voters in 2015, who had not yet entered pre-school in 2001, have known Eustace only as a repeated political loser at the national level throughout their lives. Contrariwise, these same youngsters have known Comrade Ralph as a vibrant, hopeful, political winner from their childhood. Even the infants currently at preschool indentify Ralph and the ULP with their future.
Our nation has been blessed in moulding and lifting up Comrade Ralph as its Leader. Of relevance are his socialisation in rural and urban St. Vincent, his training and education in diverse disciplines (social sciences, political economy, government, history, philosophy, public administration, and law), his life and living as a Caribbean and global citizen, his work experiences as a university lecturer and practising lawyer, his political activism over a 47-year period, his 22-year run thus far as an elected Parliamentarian, his role as Prime Minister continuously since March 2001, and his regional and international experience, connections, and esteem. Above all, he has simply been a Leader who has made a huge difference, for the better, for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Today, after his “Four-Inna-Row”, his political prestige is higher than ever.
ULP’s team and leadership have been better by far! The people know this; and so, too, even the bulk of the opposition activists.
The ULP’s accomplishments, vision and plans, quality team and leadership, organisation, and an existential connection with, and love for, the people, have made the Party a phenomenal political force. The NDP must first recognise all this, do its own internal soul-searching, reform itself, and come again to the people. Meanwhile, the NDP’s current path of folly in the post-election period will surely lend to its further descent into political nothingness! Sensible, mature people dislike political foolishness, nastiness, and power-hungry displays driven by a handful of “crazies”.
At the same time, the ULP is riding high in every material particular.
Office of the Prime Minister
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].