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A Statesman is not just a dead politician

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04.JAN.11

Editor: The political campaign just ended saw innumerable editorials, as well as letters from citizens printed in the local papers, pleading or imploring the candidates and their respective parties to elevate the conversation to a level of debating their several differences on priorities, policies, principles, and procedures, rather than to continue to disparage their opponents’ personalities and/or to continue to demonize the opposing party collectively.{{more}} Impugning the motives or character of your opponent(s) says very little favorable about yourself. The people’s exhortations seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Leadership is guiding, not herding. Leadership is best characterized by inspiring, motivating and persuading to action or acceptance; it is not agitating nor inciting nor intimidating to obtain compliance to dictates. A Statesman is not just a dead politician, but a public figure who exhibited the traits our Governor General just did at the Layou swearing in and again in his recent Throne Speech. All credit to him for that, but it would have been more welcome hearing those sentiments and values expressed by our Prime Minister, in place of the continuing stream of belligerent diatribe he has been uttering of late. Rabble-rousing is best left to demagogues.

Concurrence and compromise are the appropriate notes to strike for the leader of a party whose position was attained by a margin of only 80 votes (the number which, if voting for Mr. Hull instead of Mr. Charles in the Central Leeward constituency, would have given the election to the NDP). An election is not a cricket match—the casting of a vote is an expression of trust and confidence in a person and/or party for whom it is cast. The outcome of an election must be considered in terms of by what percent of the votes cast does the majority party have the trust and confidence of the electorate. John Kennedy, for example, reflected that that he was keenly aware that he won the election by one-tenth of one percent of the vote cast; more than half of the total votes cast were for someone else. His subsequent speeches and addresses showed his awareness of, and sensitivity to, the implications of that fact.

The new Government could start out by identifying those concerns and issues that the informed citizenry has expressed the strongest interest in, and on which both parties are in essential agreement as to possible resolution, and then move on those. Certainly, campaign finance and campaign practices’ reform (the OAS’ outlines are already out there) would be a place to start. “Ownership of the campaign” quickly becomes ownership of the reins of power when it is financial. Minority political parties need to be afforded the same perks, privileges and exemptions as the two major parties, whether or not they have attained a seat in Parliament, and whether or not they seek to contend in every constituency.

Defacing public and private property with paint and posters needs to be curtailed. Appropriate spaces in the capital city and in each town or community can be set aside as designated spaces, reserved for all political parties to post their handbills or slogans, with spaces apportioned for each party. Political parties would be fined for infractions of this act. A political rally is an occasion for the free expression of ideas and positions, not the incitement of a lynch-mob. Booking of venues should be handled by an independent entity with established ground rules: no one party could book any one site for the majority of the duration of the campaign. This begins, but by no means encompasses all the concerns surrounding issues brought to light in the last election.

Sir Frederick’s admonitions are spot-on. A Prime Minister, his Cabinet, and all the members of Parliament are elected to serve the country as a whole, urban and rural, mainland and out islands, rich and poor. All must be considered and given weight during the course of conceiving and debating any and all proposals for government action. Personal animosities and emotional attacks exchanged among Parliamentarians or between the P.M. and the Opposition are not just unseemly, they are obstructive to the business of government.

Is the lesson learned from the last election that “……the worst are filled with passionate intensity, while the best lack all conviction … “ (W.B. Yeats)

Permit me a quote from the internet: Edmund Burke famously told the voters of Bristol: “Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Refusing to bow to political pressure, Burke declared:

“If, from this conduct, I shall forfeit the suffrages at an ensuing election, it will stand on record an example to future representatives of the Commons of England, that one man at least had dared to resist the desires of his constituents [and his party] when his judgment assured him they were wrong.”

Should we only be so fortunate as to have such representatives.

HJA

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