The New Today

Commentary

The noise in the market is not the sale of fish

The political landscape in Grenada is comprised of the two main political parties which both have solid political bases that have been loyal to them over the years.

The ruling NNP has a base of support of around twenty five thousand while the opposition NDC is estimated at approximately twenty one thousand voters. In addition, there are a block of another twenty thousand voters or so who have not voted in past elections and a smaller group of ten to fifteen thousand swing voters.

The ruling NNP has managed to win successive elections by energising its base and attracting a majority of swing voters most of whom are from the working class. The last time NDC won an election it was able to attract over fifty five percent of swing voters in addition to its base.

The broad elements of the ruling NNP strategy for the upcoming elections, due in early 2023, are beginning to emerge and it reflects the political economy of the 2022 budget.

The NNP, considered more of a working class party, has been successful at the polls because of its ability to attract a large majority of working class, upper class and a small slice of middle class voters.

This coalition has been maintained over the years by hoodwinking the poor working class into believing they care while the smaller elite big business upper class reaped the majority of the benefits from their policies.

The political economy of the 2022 budget focuses on the relationship that the government has with the people as seen in enactment of public policy and resource allocation patterns in the budget.

As indicated in last week’s article, the budget offers important insights into the deceptive relationship the government has with the people and the pathways through which this relationship is nurtured.

It was concluded in last week’s article that the tax relief measures didn’t go far enough to alleviate the suffering caused by high taxes and the economic decline. Rather these measures are piecemeal only designed to shore up support among the working poor.

Similarly, the deception with current account surpluses that were recorded since 2016 rising to a high of ninety one million dollars in 2021 yet government said it could not pay public servants their agreed 4% salary increase.

This deception was achieved by the non-inclusion of the financing plan in previous budgets. If this was done for the years 2016 to 2019 it would have clearly shown that government was able to pay the 4% salary increase contrary to its stated position that it was unable to do so.

This was an anti-worker and wicked act against public servants and their families who had to use up whatever savings they had or borrowed heavily to eke out a living during the height of the pandemic.

As stated in last week’s article, while expansion in capital expenditure in times of economic decline is needed to boost growth and employment, the deceptive manner in which capital projects are implemented, particularly those funded from the National Transformation Fund (NTF) and borrowing on the local market, is of concern.

The pathways identified above are the means by which government’s deceptive relationship with the people are nurtured. It also throws light on the broad elements of NNP’s political strategy for the upcoming elections which is to shore up support among working class swing voters at the same time prevent hemorrhaging of support from the base by providing targeted tax relief measures to the poor working class while attempting to paint Dickon Mitchell as emboldened to big business and foreign investors.

In addition to having advantage of access to the State’s purse to finance its election strategy, the party is better organised than NDC with an efficient campaign and election day machinery giving it clear pole advantage in the upcoming election race.

The young leader Dickon Mitchell must not allow himself to be pigeonholed by the St. Andrew’s clique for though they are able to contribute to the effort, the fact is that a wide cross section of persons with diverse skills set are urgently needed to place the NDC on a firm election footing as soon as possible.

Dickon must not get ahead of himself for ‘the noise in the market is not the sale of fish’. The crowds that are popping up to listen to him in the villages can’t be translated into votes on Election Day if the party is not properly organised with fully functioning national executive and constituency groups working in unison, strong teams of advisors and strategists helping to plan the way forward, strong campaign machinery and Election Day ground game to bring out the votes.

These structures can’t be built overnight neither can a small clique of advisors be able to substitute the functions of a party’s organisational structure.

Since the NDC Convention at the end of October much focus and attention have been placed on the hype and excitement generated by the young leader by the St. Andrew’s clique led by the SGU lady, stationary man, and member of the Inner Temple of law.

They have neglected the organisational work required to build the necessary structures and processes required for a political party to triumph in a general election. Hype and excitement are not votes as much as the noise in the market doesn’t indicate the sale of fish.

The NNP has been quietly putting together elements of their strategy to shore up votes and prevent hemorrhaging of support from the party. Since a year ago, the government has been building indoor toilets for the elderly, stepping up small capital works projects such as construction of drains, retaining walls, and repairs to government buildings.

They have now provided deceptive tax relief and capital works program in the 2022 budget aimed at energising their working class base of swing voters into voting for them in the upcoming elections and at the same time, the NNP leader is busy sending out negative ‘feelers’ in messaging to determine what will stick on Dickon.

The leader of the NNP clearly understands the noise in the market is not the sale of fish and has quietly rolled out these initiatives that are designed to get votes in much the same way as the prudent fish vendor will quietly organise, package and present her fish in a manner that would attract buyers.

It has been almost six weeks since Dickon Mitchell was elected leader of the NDC and apart from the hype and excitement, launch of a structure-less registration campaign with one man running around like a headless chicken, and an ill-advised frenzy to identify candidates, not much if any effort has been made to strengthen constituency groups, revive non-functioning ones, form teams of advisors to provide advice to the young leader on economic matters, work with the young Public Relations Officer on developing effective messaging, and develop political strategy to counter the moves of the NNP.

Instead the three musketeers – the Indian SGU lady, stationary man and member of the inner temple of law – have exploited their friendship with the young leader, get into his head and appear to be leading him down a path of hype and excitement much like the noise in the market and neglecting the organisational work required to getting registered voters to the polling booth as the prudent fish vendor would do to ensure the sale of fish.

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This frenzy to identify candidates while overlooking the organisational work to strengthen constituency groups is flawed since a well-functioning group is central to the process of identification, vetting and prioritising of a list of candidates from which a final selection is made by the national selection committee based on agreed criteria.

After all party supporters in the various constituencies are not the ones best placed to identify suitable persons for consideration. Likewise, which organ of the party is best able to lead in organisation of constituency level campaign machinery, undertake canvassing, and set up get out the votes initiatives on Election Day?

Dickon must come to his senses and quickly understand that well organised constituency groups in all fifteen constituencies are critical to the success of the party.

The current approach pursued by the three musketeers to disregard the national executive and party organs and supplant their ill-considered selfish approach to politics would not lead the party to victory, rather it would only serve to breed discord and push back from constituency groups.

During the rebranding and reorganisation of New Labour in England, Tony Blair’s advisors never attempted to circumvent the organs of the party rather they worked to strengthen these structures thus making labour a more efficient and effective political force.

The three musketeers and young optimum certainly don’t have a monopoly on political thinking for their efforts to date are found badly wanting, equivalent to the noise in the market.

Dickon urgently needs a reset because his charm, eloquence and good looks will get him only so far up the hill, however it is the organisational work that will get him over the top to victory. It is the organisational work that would result in the sale of fish not the hype and excitement.

Dickon needs to reach out and surround himself with a diverse team of competent advisors. He needs to have a solid team of economic advisors to help him and the party put together an economic agenda.

Dickon needs not look far for competent persons – Brian Francis, Richard Duncan, Curlan Gilchrist, Laurel Bain are names that immediately come to mind as more than capable along with Lennox Andrews to provide sound economic advice.

The young leader needs to widen his group of political inner circle from reliance on the three musketeers to a diverse group of political strategists to include persons like Stephen Fletcher, Jude Bernard and even some trusted senior persons from the former revolutionary government who are noted for their organisational skills and political strategising to help strengthen the organs of the party as quickly as possible.

Dickon should get his PRO to reach out to persons like Willie Joseph to help him with developing effective messaging following the budget debate.

The point is that Dickon needs to reach out beyond the three musketeers, who appear to be pursuing a selfish town/country regionalist agenda, and the youthful exuberance of optimum to solicit assistance from a wider group of persons that would help the party with the organisational work required to defeat the incumbent.

He needs to stay true to his mantra that all those who wish to come under the unity tent are welcome to do so recognising that notwithstanding the apparent softening of the political landscape and shifting of the winds, it will take a herculean effort to dislodge a seasoned realpolitik as the incumbent leader from office. It will take an alliance of forces, not a narrow minded selfish clique to unseat the NNP.

For the incumbent has laid bare its strategy, use the 2022 budget through allocation of resources from the State’s purse to again deceive the working class into voting for them while continuing to drown the middle class in taxes.

This strategy is designed to maintain a hugely beneficial reciprocal relationship between the ruling political elites and foreign entities while the poor have to contend with crumbs from the State’s purse.

Dickon must understand the ruling political elites will not relinquish power easily, he would have to lead his party into brutal hand to hand combat in the political trenches in order to be victorious. This would require an alliance of forces under a big inclusive unity tent.

The young leader, having seen the quiet roll out of the NNP strategy – is he going to continue on the current path characterised by a botched ill-advised press conference to present the budget response, launch of a structure-less voter registration campaign, attempts by the clique to supplant themselves in various constituencies, and a few pop up meet and greet informal meetings in various constituencies, all orchestrated by the three musketeers or is he going to reset and pivot to a more inclusive strategy that would strengthen the organs of the party and build an alliance of forces strong enough to defeat the incumbent?

Dickon must understand that that hype and excitement is only the noise in the market and that can’t win over enough votes to take NDC to victory. The task at hand requires serious organisational work to strengthen constituency groups, rebuilding polling division by polling division, that would drive canvassing and grassroots work in constituencies and lay the foundation for an efficient Election Day machinery to get out the votes.

He needs to work with his executive to identify and build teams of advisors who can help the party with political strategy, development of various policy positions and effective messaging to counter the other side’s strategy. For they have rolled out initiatives to shore up support among the base of their party and attract swing voters that is to ensure the sale of fish.

Is Dickon going to continue with hype and excitement – the noise in the market – or is he going to reach out to a wider group of advisors to help strengthen the organs of the party and position it through effective messaging to continue to energise the base, excite large sections of those who have not voted in previous general elections to come out and vote for NDC this time, and attract a significant portion of swing votes to overwhelm the NNP?

Dickon, please understand that the narrow-minded, regionalist approach of the three musketeers would not work for the hype, noise in the market can’t attract sufficient votes. A properly functioning organisation, with competent persons ready to do the hard ground work, strong team of advisors to help strategise and guide the process, and effective messaging to attract voters are what is required to ensure the sale of fish.

The PRO should already be working with William Joseph and others to develop messaging arising from information in the budget such as the clear deception with current account surpluses and government’s ability to pay public servants when it said it could not do so and cap in the price of fuel which is still higher than neighbouring countries with similar size economies.

The mantra in going forward should be – the noise in the market is not the sale of fish.

Special Correspondent