The New Today


The learning curve for Dickon

As the euphoria over the election of Dickon Mitchell as political leader for the NDC begins to wane there are some concerns emerging that must be dealt with early if the organisation is to transform itself into a viable alternative to the ruling party.

After many engagements with local media during the past week, one would have expected to see the new political leader appear on the party’s Heart Beat programme to speak to supporters in a less formal setting.

After I listened to the new leader on the Bubb’s report, the General Secretary rabble rouse on the Heart Beat program, watched a picture circulating of the deputy PRO and Prime Minister, and observed subtle attempts by the other side to fabricate notions of disunity within the party, I asked myself – does Dickon and his youthful team understand the amount of organisational work required to defeat a seasoned real politick like Keith Mitchell?

Does he have a deep awareness of the weak structures, processes and toxic culture that exist within the NDC? If he is aware of that and the level of organisational work required to lift the party, he must reject the status quo and move to enact reforms as soon as possible.

It is good to be saying all the right things to the press, however words must be backed up by substance and tangible actions.

Dickon must not go along with the play book given to him by the rejected failed bunch of losers nor can he expect the new executive is adequately resourced to undertake the extensive work required to take the party forward.

After I listened to the General Secretary on the Heart Beat program, I wondered if the party leader has accepted the status quo and is willing to go along with the same old broken approach.

Learrie Barry, the new General Secretary wasted much of his time rehashing elements of the OAS report on electoral reform without outlining a strategy or elements of one on how to effectively pressure government to act in accordance with recommendations of the said report.

A known rabble rouser, the General Secretary sounded like the old status quo. It would have been more appropriate for the new political leader to have appeared on the first party program after the convention to speak to the rank and file in an informal setting.

The fact that the General Secretary and host choose registration and electoral reform speaks volume which suggest the script and work program of the failed bunch is being relied upon, in other words, business as usual.

One would think having just elected a political leader on a change platform the first program after the elections ought to have focused on internal reforms and organisational work of the party and how the leader is going to operationalise the change slogan into action.

Rather than speak to the new change agenda, the General Secretary regurgitated elements of the old script as he suggested in passing a work plan was drawn up and an analysis of all constituencies were completed in two days.

The question is – does the political leader really appreciate the level of organisational work required to lift the party and defeat the incumbent? Is he expecting to use the playbook of the failed old guards to do so? Should that be the case he is courting disaster and a sound cut tail from the incumbent.

I would suggest that Orlando Romain should have a sit down with his father who must have firsthand knowledge of the organisational work required to build a grassroots political organisation from his days during the revolution.

This fly by night assessment of constituencies by the General Secretary should be revisited, the political leader ought to meet with all constituency groups to hear from them, outline his changed agenda and priority action plan. He must take charge and lead the process guided by a team of competent advisors.

Having met with the constituency groups he must then move to operationalise reform of the strategy committee by morphing it into a committee of constituency chairmen, political strategists and some of his advisors to drive the organisational building and real politicking of the party. This is where the work of rebuilding polling division by polling division has to start from.

Non-functioning constituency groups have to be re-energised with competent persons and brought up to speed with the others.

A well-functioning constituency group will be able to support the candidate given the nod to contest the upcoming general elections. In fact, the constituency groups must play a pivotal role in the process to identify candidates.

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The current candidate selection process must be reviewed and strengthened to give the party the best opportunity to field a successful slate of candidates.

Though time maybe limited the process must not be circumvented to favour one candidate over another, since the best possible candidate that is likely to be successful should be identified.

The new political leader is speaking change however to date there appears to be no effort to transform words into action. The utterances of the General Secretary and some of the political leader suggest an acceptance of the status quo and the old way of doing things.

How can candidates be given the nod to contest seats when the candidate selection process is wanting and in need of review? Who would be responsible for vetting the candidates and constituency elections to select the persons?

There is no need to reinvent the wheel – the party can look at the process that other parties in the region use to select their candidates.

The point I am trying to make is if Dickon doesn’t start to implement his change agenda and allow himself to be boxed in by the old guards and their way of doing things the party will fail again notwithstanding the buzz and youthful energy around him.

He must take charge and stamp his authority and not allow what happened to Franka Bernardine to repeat itself. He can’t accept the status quo or allow himself to lose sight of his change agenda. It is time that he pays some attention to the organisational work, the internal reforms needed to make the party more efficient and effective.

Dickon can’t go along with the old guard’s way of selecting candidates and expect to have a successful slate at the upcoming elections. He must seek to make the selection process more transparent, competitive, driven by internal polling instead of the ad hoc manner in which candidates were selected in the past.

Perennial losers should not think they have some entitlement to run in spite of repeated defeats. His slate must reflect his change agenda.

The NDC has not been seen as a party that has a culture of discipline, unity, and real politick that is political strategising. Dickon must move to change that by setting up a proper office to manage the daily affairs of the party and assist the executive in carrying out its functions.

He must move to reform the strategy committee, to strengthen the political work of the party and instill a culture of deep political analysis based on scientific polling data. The anecdotal approach taken by the old guards should be discontinued and a competent polling outfit hired to provide data analytics upon which to base the party’s decision making.

Dickon should seek advice from persons with experience in organisational work and building political party structures to make the NDC more astute, efficient and nimble, being able to effectively scope the political landscape and respond to the ever changing political environment in a timely manner.

He must not rely on the failed old guards, however must move to elicit assistance from competent persons who are willing to help the party.

Dickon must keep at bay those who have turned off large swath of voters by their caustic approach at communications and others that are condescending to poor people and always appear to be speaking down to them.

Capital alone don’t build – country poor people, labour, blood, sweat and tears contribute immensely as well and Imanis must be seen as victims of a government that practice to the letter the mantra of keep them poor and they will love you more.

Having emerged from humble circumstance, the son of a single parent mother to rise to success, Dickon must reposition the party as a working class champion focusing on working class, bread and butter, populist issues that would facilitate the rise of many more Dickon Mitchell from poor communities across the island.

Dickon must be wary of being defined as this big business champion or be pigeon hold by elements of the old guards on the executive and within the party.

He must be his own man and effect meaningful change in the NDC that will lead the party to success.

Special Correspondent