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ULP 2015 National Convention

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Another step along the road towards the next general elections was taken last Sunday, when the governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) held its self-proclaimed “last Convention” before the national polls. This followed the party’s mass meeting three weeks ago to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the commencement of its three terms in office.{{more}

So far, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has not made a comparative response, so it may well be that it is cautiously weighing whether these are tactics by the ruling party aimed at drawing it into all-out campaigning without knowledge of the electoral date. Under our Constitution, the Prime Minister has the privilege of being able to call the elections when he considers it favourable to him, as long as it is within the constitutional term limits.

Whatever the approach, the leadership of the ULP must be satisfied with Sunday’s event. There was a mass turn-out, energy levels appeared to be higher than in recent times and the mobilization and presentations of some of its younger leaders, Luke Browne and Carlos James in particular, augur well for the future.

Yet, as an old saying goes, “one swallow does not a summer make.” Elections are not decided by large crowds, whether at conventions or mass rallies, nor by free public concerts, music and refreshments. Both parties have had that bitter experience. Getting people to the polls, the younger folk in particular, is another matter altogether.

A rough reading of the political mood in the country would indicate that the ULP faces a major challenge to win a fourth term. True, it has had impressive accomplishments to its credit, but sometimes one can be the victim of one’s own successes. Additionally, the longer a party remains in power, the more chances it has had to offend voters, the more the disappointments seem to weigh and the greater the political attrition.

Thousands of young voters would have known only one Prime Minister and would not be in a position to compare and contrast. Curiosity can have a strange attraction. Then, there is the Prime Minister’s latest revision of his departure date — 2020 being the latest. Will this be a factor in the elections?

All of these factors, plus, of course, the Government’s own record, will no doubt be part of the decision-making process in the casting of ballots. But so too will be an examination of the cohesiveness of any strategy adopted by the Opposition, its ability to craft a clear alternative beyond anti-Gonsalves rhetoric and whether it can shed much of the negative baggage it has accumulated in order to instil confidence in the electorate.

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