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The Comrade – Master politician and captain


The art of public relations is the ability to influence public opinion, through the presentation of a client’s image, message, or product. It is also the business of generating goodwill toward an individual, cause, company, or product.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, a seasoned politician, who once got the short end of the stick from a government that was “ruling by public relations” one day finally threw his hands in the air in disgust and declared that the most important things in politics were impressions. That is where the battle is won, he said. And he was right.{{more}}

Perhaps more so than in any other sector of society, public relations is critical in politics. Handled incorrectly it can lead to the collapse of a government or even the collapse of an economy.

Imagine a company going through financial woes and not being able to contain that lid but have opponents blow it open, that is a company that creditors will move in on and shutdown. It is a company that is a poor PR practitioner. That has happened before with companies and governments.

Students of public relations, journalism, and mass communications know too well the public-setting agenda of news sources and what they call “source power” – especially with powerful people like prime ministers and presidents.

It only takes but a week of immersion in Vincentian politics to recognize the political deft of the Comrade.

Two instances arose in September concerning non-payment of bills by government departments and the Comrade skillfully reprimanded those responsible with a long saddened, and upset countenance, adding that he will speak to them in “robust” language – a euphemism for colloquial language not found in the English language dictionary but laden with connotative meaning, easily imaginable by the average person.

Maybe the public officers do need to be robustly reprimanded. Maybe they are at fault, we do not know, but what we do know is that one does not wash dirty linen in public and more importantly, it is a well known technique by politicians to pass the buck rather than say “the buck stops here, I apologise”.

Public officers, at the receiving end, like the politician elsewhere in the Caribbean understand the “ruling by public relations” practice. They know too that they have no right of reply. After all, who would dare contradict his/her boss in public and still have a job at the end of the day? You just grin and bear it.

In such circumstances, one expects the Parliamentary Opposition to give voice to the voiceless and defend the public officers but it seems that there is a serious case of laryngitis at Democrat House.

When the Opposition fails, there is another backup – The Fourth Estate.

However we have journalists who attend news conferences or interviews where allegations or blame casting are done. The responsibility of those journalists – is not to take sides – but be the Devil’s Advocacy and bring balance to the interview or news conference. To robustly (in the denotative definition of the word) challenge the speaker and represent the accused.

Sadly, we have sat and listened but have heard no challenging voice from the media corps.

One therefore has to tip one’s hat to the Comrade and accord him his accolade as a master politician, par excellence public relations practitioner, and a firm captain of his ship.