The New Today

Commentary

Change is only change until it is transformed into action

It’s been over three weeks since the National Democratic Congress (NDC) elected a new leader on a change agenda and although he has been saying all the right things in his media engagements, to date, there is little in the way of tangible action.

In spite of the buzz and interest generated by the new leader there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to lift the party after successive crushing election defeats. The task ahead to change the culture, strengthen the organisational arms of the party and navigate the political landscape would be a difficult one.

Dickon Mitchell’s challenge is to expand the NDC’s base beyond the twenty two thousand voters or so in two ways by capturing a majority of the swing voters who tend to go for NNP in the latter stages of the election campaign and excite a large portion of citizens who didn’t vote in multiple election cycles to come out and vote this round.

In order to do that, he would have to rebuild the party, polling division by polling division in a short space of time. This effort would require organisational skills, ground work, manpower and coordination. It requires properly functioning constituency groups as well.

This is why Dickon ought to pay more attention to the organisational work of the party. By now he should have had an introductory meeting with all functioning constituency groups to meet members, introduce himself and outline his change agenda.

He and his General Secretary should now be looking to return to each of the groups for more structured working meetings to discuss the work in the constituency; and take action to revive those that are not properly functioning at this time.

To move away from the old guard’s approach of appointing a slate of candidates to contest seats just before elections are called, Dickon must take a page from the playbook of Keith Mitchell and change that by having the current process for selection of candidates reviewed and strengthened to make it more transparent, competitive driven by data and sound analysis. Once this is done the revised process should be approved by the party’s executive and adopted by all constituencies.

Persons must not be allowed to manipulate the process as is apparently being done in St. Andrew North West to satisfy selfish desires. NDC needs to get candidates who can attract not only the core support base but many others at the community level.

Dickon must pay attention to the candidate selection process and have a properly selected team of candidates out in the field working in their respective constituencies by early first quarter of next year.

Timely selection of the best possible slate of candidates is critical to the success of the party in the upcoming general election. The perennial bunch of losers from the old guard should not be expected to run in this new change environment. The time has come for a fresh slate of candidates that reflect the change agenda.

Another important area that needs immediate attention is voter registration.

The party should move to leverage the excitement and buzz over Dickon and launch a well-executed nationwide voter registration drive.

This is one of the areas financial backers of the new leader can show early support and commitment. NDC must not be caught with its pants down this time around because large numbers of supporters are not registered as was the case in the last two election cycles.

The plan already drawn up must be dusted off the shelves, reviewed, resourced and implemented as soon as possible. Dickon also has to put structures in place to overhaul the non-functioning system of canvassing that has failed the party in the last two general elections.

The new leader must seek out qualified persons on the island who are willing to help with canvassing of the voter’s list and to bring a more scientific approach to match the current system used by the NNP and even surpass it in order to beat the Green Machine.

The NDC can’t become complacent with the excitement and buzz over its leader.

The road ahead to revival and success is going to be difficult and fraught with danger but how those mine fields are navigated will determine a positive outcome. Therefore Dickon and his new executive must start to focus on organisational work and real politicking to counter the quiet moves of the NNP.

This quiet work of NNP involves an expansive program of small capital works in all constituencies, stepped up implementation of large capital projects, distribution of housing grants, soft loans of up to five thousand dollars to assist persons with house repair and expansion, and a Christmas hamper program to provide food to the needy.

Related:  The learning curve for Dickon

This is clearly intended to shore up party support and sway the undecided to NNP as Grenada moves closer to the next election. The seasoned real politick in NNP has commenced the first phase of his election campaign.

Dickon must pivot away from his media blitz and start focusing on the work at hand for all politics is local, Keith Mitchell knows that very well. Dickon Mitchell must quickly learn that and his PRO and other communications persons must develop narratives to counter this quiet move.

The old guard continually gave KCM latitude to make similar moves without attempting to develop a counter narrative to minimise its impact. This must change, though the approach is to lift the level of political discourse as the eagle snatches its prey from the ground to soar high into the sky where it has the advantage.

The eagle must come down to the ground to capture prey. Though Dickon may want to change the political discourse it is necessary at times to engage in direct action to counter the moves of your opponent and seize the opportunity.

The recent announcement by the NNP Party Chairman that a succession committee has been identified to look at the matter of leadership within the party is a direct response to the election of Dickon Mitchell as party leader by the NDC. Recognising the downside risk of an aging leader in an environment where the clamour for change is growing stronger along with a worsening economic situation, the pressure is on the ruling party to act.

The NNP has been known to make unforced errors under pressure and this could be the situation going forward. None of the names within the Cabinet, particularly the two Lance Aux Pines whites touted around as possible leader will be able to garner national support or is able to lead this country.

Should the party opt for a young outsider the challenge would be if support for KCM can be transferred to any of the names that are being called about such as the corporate lawyer based in London, female attorney in the North-west, and central banker.

Whether these persons would want to leave their lucrative positions and uproot their families to return to Grenada under this cloud of uncertainty is another question.

The ruling party has its own challenges as well and it would be interesting to see how Dickon Mitchell and the NDC are able to take advantage of the situation going forward to their benefit.

In order to do so Dickon must start to focus on organisational work and real politicking that would help him to transform his change agenda into action.

Dickon must be cautious not to be drawn in by the press on too much deep policy matters and plans, however he must identify five or six populist issues that are affecting the middle and working class to shape his platform around going forward.

Do not make the mistake of Hillary Clinton who came across as a policy wonk rather than connect with the emotions and soul of the people and shape the emotional argument. You must create an imagery of how you want to see the country much like Reagan’s shining city on the hill, setting clear goals and having a competent team around you to help implement that vision.

Dickon must not make the recent mistake of Joe Biden trying to implement someone else’s plan, like Donald Trump’s inadequate Afghanistan withdrawal plan, without a detailed review by your team.

All plans left back by the old guard ought to be thoroughly reviewed. You must take action to move the NDC towards the working class while promoting policies that would help the private sector grow.

You must change the inept political culture that for too long has engulfed the NDC. You must be politically savvy enough to see through the cunning ploy of the other side in extension of the State of Emergency to May of next year when all other neighbouring CARICOM States are discontinuing theirs even in cases where Covid-19 cases are higher than ours.

You must see how the NDC election campaign could be handicapped by the extended state of emergency, while the incumbent pursue its quiet strategy of using state resources to quell discontent among its support base, and work creative and smart to overcome that hurdle.

You must be astute enough to look beyond the horizons for opportunities that would improve the fortunes of the NDC to the benefit of all Grenadians. You must take action that would cause lasting change to happen within the NDC.

Special Correspondent