Former Prime Minister and founder of the opposition New Democratic Party says polls have shown that opposition leader Godwin Friday outranks Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and his son, Finance Minister, Camillo Gonsalves in “likeability and integrity”.
Sir James, speaking on Boom FM on Tuesday, said that Friday, who will face the polls for the first time as opposition leader, enjoys a positive image among the population at a time when the country is “fed up ah Ralph”.
“This election, the mood of St. Vincent is — tell me if I am wrong — ah fed up ah Ralph. Number two: recent polls, I know, have shown that Dr. Friday is ahead with likeability and integrity over Ralph and Camillo,” the retired politician said in one of his first radio appearances in months.
“In other words, people don’t have a negative view of Dr. Friday. And that, it’s not just a matter of ‘Ah voting fuh de Comrade again’ you know.
“Because, you see, it’s all in the context of COVID, it’s all in the context of fresher; it’s all in the question of choice. Even before COVID, people have been suffering in this country. And we know that. It is not Son Mitchell saying so. Whether you like me or not, you know things are bad in this place and it was bad before COVID.”
Friday has been representing the Northern Grenadines since 2001 and became opposition leader in 2017, replacing Arnhim Eustace in that post as well as at the helm of the government.
He will lead the party in its fourth attempt to unseat Gonsalves and the ULP, since they came to office in March 2001.
“Leadership is always a big issue,” Sir James said when asked if leadership will also be an issue in the upcoming election, which the prime minister has said will be held by December, ahead of the March 2021 constitutional deadline.
“There are other components of winning an election. As I see it, leadership, number one; strategy, number 2; money, number 3; and the team. Money would only come if you have the good leadership,” he said.
The former prime minister said he was not the one who came up with “Ah fed up ah Ralph.”
“Is what I hear in the street? I hear a lot in the street.”
Sir James, was prime minister from 1984 to March 2000, but did not contest the March 2001 election when his party was voted out of office.
He said: “Strategy is overall policy and how you market your policy and how you present yourself, how you present the people and what you do when and all of that kind of thing”.
Sir James said that in 1984, he led the NDP to victory on “a negative vote”.
“And I won on a very positive note in 1989,” he said, referring to the only time in the country’s history that a political party won all of the parliamentary seats.
“There are two kinds of votes people do. They vote in a government and they vote out a government. … And it is always said that people throw out a government and it is always said that government never win an election, it’s the opposition that lose. That is one philosophy. Bear that in mind.”
In illustrating his point that things are bad in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sir James said a couple told him that they had met a boy outside their gate and asked why he was not going to school.
The boy told them he had nothing to eat so the couple went back inside and made him a sandwich and told him to go to school.
However, the boy asked them to wrap up half of the sandwich so he could take it to his mother, who had nothing to eat.
“That is St. Vincent,” Sir James said.