For the first time in nearly 10-months, former Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has admitted publicly that he is taking full responsibility for his New National Party (NNP) loss at the general election nearly a year ago, to attorney-at-law Dickon Mitchell and the then opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Addressing party supporters at a meeting last Thursday night in Crochu in the St Andrew South-east constituency of former Education Minister Emmalin Pierre, the 76-year old Dr. Mitchell told them that the time has come for some serious “soul-searching” in order to plot the way forward for the party in its attempt to recapture power in the country.
“We clearly made mistakes. We took a lot for granted. We did not do our work,” he said.
According to the former Prime Minister this attitude within NNP stemmed from over confidence following the back-to-back clean sweep of the polls in both the 2013 and 2018 general election over Congress under its leaders, former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and ex-Minister of Finance Nazim Burke.
He conceded that there was a belief within NNP that “we could just cruise through” at the polls and hold onto the seat of government at the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen, St George’s.
“I am talking about myself too from Captain down to cook – all of us have to accept responsibility and the Captain must take first responsibility and I have accepted mine ,” he said.
Congress won the elections 9-6 with about three NNP Candidates – Foreign Minister Oliver Joseph (St David), Infrastructure Development Minister Norland Cox (South St George and ex-policeman in New York, Nimrod Ollivierre (St George North-east) suffering humiliating defeats by not winning a single polling division in their constituencies.
The former Prime Minister told party supporters that the NNP is confident that it has “the support of the people of the country” and will soon be back in office.
“The NNP is the strongest political organisation in this country and will be so for years,” he said.
Dr. Mitchell appealed for the party to go back to basic and hit “the ground” and do the political work that is needed in order to regain power.
He said it was the formula used by NNP following the defeat at the polls in the 1990 general elections.
He stressed that the ground work entails “visiting people, listening to them, empathizing with them because “if we get back to our people, listen to them, listen to their concerns, show empathy, show love, show concern – that is what will strengthen the NNP and make it to continue to be a force to be reckoned with and clear winner in the next election to come.”
“So each constituency we have to go back to the ground, visit everybody …. meeting the people, listening to their concerns and doing what we have to do to show that we care for them and we care for their interest. That is what we have to do Sister and Brothers,” he said.
After the defeat at the 1990 general election, Dr. Mitchell brought in female Jamaican political activist Joan Webley who put together a plan of action for the party along the lines of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) then headed by the late Edward Seaga to strengthen its internal organisations and machinery to end up with a majority of eight seats to form the government after the 1995 poll.
The NNP has been using the Joan Webley model extensively to win elections in 1999, 2003, 2013 and 2018.
Dr. Mitchell called for NNP to work towards putting together “a serious Youth arm Convention” and also “a serious Women Convention” as part of the political trust in going forward and to be followed by “a serious convention of the whole party.”
“If we have the youth organised, you have the women who are the most powerful force in any political organisation, and if you have both of those organised the New National Party cannot lose,” he said.
“That is the plan Sisters and Brothers and that is what everyone must give their support to,” he told the meeting.
This is apparently directed at former Agriculture Minister Peter David who has been calling for a convention to elect a new leader following the ex-Prime Minister’s announcement prior to the last general election that he will not contest another national poll.
David has been crisscrossing the country to promote himself as the next leader of the NNP.
According to party insiders Dr. Mitchell and his second in Command, former Public Utilities Minister Gregory Bowen have been carefully crafting their own plans to ensure that David is crushed at the convention.
Speculation is rife that the convention will not be held until the Keith Mitchell faction finds a youthful leader to put up against David at the election.
The two names which have surfaced in recent days are attorneys-at-law Derick Sylvester, the current President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) and Dwight Horsford who is currently serving as Attorney General in the British territory of Anguilla.