The New Today

Commentary

A brief cursory look at NDC candidates – Part II

Before I take a look at new candidates recently announced, I want to briefly spotlight Lennox Andrews, who was assessed in Part One of this article because of his scatterbrain presentation during the formal launch of the four candidates for St. Andrew.

This reinforces my point in last week’s article that he needs to focus on issues affecting St. Andrew South West, the constituency he wishes to represent in parliament.

Constantly trying to project this epitome of brilliance, he comes across as too intellectual and focusing on economic theory rather than the plight of the people he wishes to serve. He needs to stop this top down tutorial approach and ground with the people listening to their needs and highlighting their concerns.

Lennox Andrews would need to quickly transform himself away from this self-righteous attitude, considered a turn-off to poor people, if he is to defeat Yolande Bain-Hosford.

Rather than this scatterbrain approach he needs to be more disciplined, stay on message relevant to his constituency such as the highly partisan distribution of assistance to vulnerable constituents, the deplorable state of social and physical infrastructure such as roads, access to water, significant levels of poverty and deprivation especially among youths and the elderly in St. Andrew South West.

In addition to that, he needs to surround himself with a capable team of persons who are people centered and well-grounded, not aloof and standoffish, able to do the organisational work required to defeat the incumbent.

Lennox Andrews needs to get off his laurels and hit the pavement with his team in every nook and cranny in the constituency, knocking on doors, engaging and listening to people, getting those who are not registered to do so, and bring their concerns to the fore instead of trying to portray himself as this intellectual which he is not.

Of the candidates announced recently Denis Cornwall is a good choice for St. Patrick East. His extended family connections in one of the largest polling divisions in that constituency will put him in good stead as well as his affable personality.

Nevertheless, if Cornwall is to win that seat for the Congress party he will first have to surround himself with a competent team who are willing to do the organisational work required for victory.

He must walk the constituency and use his endearing spirit to connect with people in a genuine way, listen to their needs and assure them of his commitment to help improve their situation, and that of the constituency, once given the opportunity to serve them in government.

The constituency group and his team must embark on an immediate registration drive to get persons to register and commence intense canvassing of the constituency for the fight to unseat the incumbent would not be an easy one.

Gloria Thomas for St. Andrew North-west is another good choice. Well respected in the community, always willing to help those vulnerable and in need, her life of service working with service organisations to better people’s lives will give her the visibility and grounding required to take the fight to the ruling party candidate.

However, Gloria has to understand that the strong social capital she has in the constituency must be complimented by the organisational work that has to be done to ensure success. Her team has to ramp up registering and canvassing and intensify the campaign on the ground in the polling divisions before time runs out.

Tessa St Cyr, the announced candidate for St. Andrew North East is a promising choice, appeared to be fired up, she and her team must be prepared to undertake the organisational work, pounding the pavement, engaging constituents, canvassing, registering eligible voters and bringing the plight of constituents to the fore.

She must understand that all politics are local and as such clinically focus on the burning issues that affect people in the constituency. The ground campaign in the various polling divisions will be instrumental for a successful outcome and Tessa must be prepared to engage constituents in these areas, both supporters, non- supporters and those on the fence to solicit firm support in an attempt to win the seat.

In spite of the candidate for St. Andrew South East, David Andrews, is less well known on the ground than other candidates, if he is prepared to put together a competent team, work with the constituency group and do the work on the ground he can prevail in a situation of a swing towards the opposition.

There is precedent for a late surge in the past campaign of Patrick Simmonds.

However, David will need to immediately go down on the ground and engage people in the heavily low income polling divisions. If he is politically savvy enough he would become a spokesman for Imanis, many of whom he has had cause to council and mentor while at the Ministry of Education, and highlight the litany of abuse and ill-treatment meted out to them by their supervisors and managerial staff.

He must be under no illusions that the task ahead for him is a difficult one and must put together a competent team, work with the constituency group, to do the work required for victory. He must go down on the ground in the polling divisions registering persons, canvassing the constituency while attempting to get those that haven’t voted in past elections to come out and do so this time around.

The announced candidate for St. George’s North East, Ron Redhead, may not be as well-known as previous NDC standard-bearers for that constituency, however his youthful enthusiasm and conviction will go a long way to help in his endeavour to win the seat.

Ron would have to reach out quickly to capable persons who are willing to help him and put together a competent team who understand the intricacies of the different polling division areas and social demographics to work with the constituency group.

Considered a past NDC stronghold, Ron must reach out to that older base of voters mostly small farmers, artisans and construction workers whom the late George Brizan cultivated and rekindle that relationship as well as connect with the large swaths of younger voters in Willis/New Hampshire, Boca, Vendome and La Mode where his family connections reside as soon as possible.

If he is to win the seat Ron and his team must develop messaging tailored to the varying demographics of the constituency.

His message must speak to the concerns of the first group mentioned that is the small farmers and artisans in the agricultural belt of the constituency, highlight the plight of younger voters who are mostly unemployed and champion their cause giving them hope for a sustained brighter future instead of the current unstable meager existence they are forced to eke out under the current social handout system of the incumbent government designed to get votes in return for the ‘crumbs of comfort’ provided them.

Related:  NDC must expand its base to beat NNP

Ron and his team should understand clearly it will be a battle for the ages to win back that seat from NNP and must step up registration, improve the effectiveness of canvassing, do the organisational work and focus on the issues of the constituency for it must be remembered that all politics are local.

A cursory look at the second set of candidates reveals though there are a few who have extensive social capital, name recognition and visibility in their constituency, the central executive and team of advisors need to move quickly to lift the campaign to another level if the party is to be successful in the next general elections.

None of these candidates can mount a campaign on their own volition, the party needs to give all of them extensive support and tap into that undercurrent of malaise, discontent with the present direction of the country, and a yearning for dynamic new thinking in the political sphere to create an atmosphere for change. Critical to this is messaging which has been the Achilles’ heel over many election cycles.

There are too much information and materials available on government from the treatment meted out to public servants to the contempt shown to locals by emboldening Caucasian and Middle Eastern expatriates living on the island, to the intensely partisan approach in distribution of social services, to wanton wastage in public expenditure because of poor quality of infrastructure work and lack of transparency in use of government funds not to develop messaging that can stir up people’s emotions.

Where is the messaging to counter the NNP’s narrative on tried and tested leadership and in safe hands – just telling people to be the change would not cut it. NDC needs to create messaging that taps in the undercurrent of discontent to stir emotions and galvanise popular support.

The party needs to create messaging that will directly undercut the NNP’s narrative on the themes ‘tried and tested’ and in ‘safe hands’. They need to create, also, messaging that speaks to a new vision where there will be equal access to government’s social services for all irrespective of political affiliation, where agriculture and food security will be given back its prominence in the development paradigm, where locals would be empowered in their own country and not feel like second class citizens, and development would be transformational and people centered.

The National Executive and campaign strategists need to improve their messaging in order to lift the campaign. Another very important activity that has to be given immediate attention is the organisational work required to facilitate an efficient registration process and effective canvassing.

Too many constituencies are falling behind in registration which can result in electoral defeat if immediate efforts are not made to strengthen the voter registration process across all constituencies.

Similarly, the General Secretary and his team must seek to improve the effectiveness of canvassing across all constituencies providing further training to new persons and better utilisation of experienced canvassers in the various polling divisions.

A mechanism should be set up to share best practices among constituencies to enhance the quality of canvassing across the board.

The National Executive of the party must be aware that registration and canvassing are make or break activities if not done properly will result in defeat at the polls.

Now that the slate is almost completed attention ought to be given to management of the national campaign. A campaign management structure should already be created and competent, experienced persons either identified or hired already to manage the operations going forward.

The team should rely on scientific polling data to drive its decision making and in that regard a well-respected regional polling outfit should be hired to conduct a national poll to see where the party is at.

The local pollster used to conduct constituency polls that help to decide on candidates may not have the wherewithal to conduct a proper national poll. It is imperative that the party don’t go into the elections blind nor depend on speculations on the other side’s polling results.

The incumbent leader mentioned in the recent launch of candidates, he has seen the figures and it is looking good. A trained statistician and known to be a stickler for accurate data, his pronouncement should not be taken lightly.

The fact that in spite of the controversy over St. Patrick West, Victor ‘Bello’ Philip was given the nod is an indication of confidence in the figures and the NDC should reconsider the source of the information given on the other side’s polling.

In summary, though the almost completed slate looks credible with some candidates having extensive social capital in their respective constituencies, if the National Executive and management team do not seek to lift the campaign, the candidates face being overwhelmed by a high-pitched, energetic one by the incumbent.

Many of the constituency groups went into abeyance after the last election and don’t have the full capability to undertake effective canvassing as well as voter registration campaigns.

The National Executive needs to expand its training of canvassers and step up monitoring of field work in the constituency.

The NDC can’t expect to win the upcoming elections if it can’t convince voters to vote for them. Neither can the party do so if they fail to demonstrate they are willing to champion the people’s causes and you have their blacks.

The NDC can’t expect to win the upcoming elections if it can’t convince voters why they should vote for them. Neither can the party do so if it fails to demonstrate it is willing to champion the people’s causes.

The NDC needs to become more activist in its messaging and galvanise support around burning issues that affect people such as pensions, the state of healthcare and agriculture, widespread youth hopelessness and unemployment, and high cost of living among others.

It needs to stir up people’s emotions by highlighting how born Grenadians are being treated as second class citizens in their jobs or as they go about daily living.

Now that it is found out that government took in a record amount of revenue under the Citizens by Investment program last year, NDC needs to press government on behalf of pensioners to start paying workers without delay in accordance with the law and not attempt to negotiate away workers’ pensions under the disguise of fiscal responsibility.

Time is running out, since this elections is likely going to be called sometime in June, and according to old people NDC needs to ‘get up and get’ by energising its campaign, stepping up on organisational work, and creating an enabling political campaign environment that will help credible candidates to be victorious at the polls.

Special Correspondent