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Lift campaign to a positive level – Part 1

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You can’t even breathe these days without the air you take in being contaminated by some whiff of the election atmosphere. No matter where you turn, and try as some do to try and avoid the political smatterings, it just keeps following you around, haunting you. No wonder there are those who torturously count the days until it all ends, we go to the polls, vote, celebrate, and then get on with the business of our country. We do have “a country to build”, in the words of calypso bard De Man Age.{{more}}

In the midst of all this, it is heartening to note the call for a national debate among political leaders. It is an aspect of our political life much neglected outside the exchanges in Parliament and which, if properly managed, can help to sanitize the increasingly foul electoral atmosphere. It is easy for politicians to get on a stage during campaigning and make all kinds of allegations and personal attacks; quite another to face up in a sober debate.

It might even be useful to have not only national debates, but constituency ones at that, giving voters the opportunity to hear candidates reason and put forward ideas and policies. Some may come out shining in the exercise, while others run the risk of losing whatever lustre has been rubbed on them by their parties. Additionally, it would also help to remind us all that the election is not just about the two maximum leaders.

Saying this, it is interesting to note the approach of the NDP and ULP on the leadership question. The latter has never hidden its strategy, election after election, in making leadership, by this meaning the persons leading the two contending parties, central to its campaign. It is convinced that on a one-to-one basis, backed up by the results of polls it has commissioned, that this is a winner.

Interestingly, the NDP is now taking the opposite course, downplaying the maximum leader factor and instead going to lengths to promote what new prospective candidate Dr Jules Ferdinand calls “a team effort”. Whether this is a defensive tactic or a conscious one to counter the overwhelming presence of both Dr Gonsalves in the case of the ULP, and in the NDP’s own situation, the equally dominating stature of its former, and now apparently estranged leader, Sir James Mitchell, is up for speculation.

Incidentally, the NDP can only do good for itself if it seeks to promote the image of new candidates like Dr Ferdinand. It puzzles many persons that so much prominence is given, especially on air, to some whose tactlessness, unfounded aggression and schoolboyish politics do more harm than good. The gathering army of bandwaggoners too must be watched. Just ask Ralph; some of them would have killed you for him! Mr Eustace will have to watch some of them with a “kokey eye”, as the old people say, and feed them with a “long-handle spoon”.

One sad, persistent but negative characteristic of the political campaigning, has been the resort to very personal attacks by candidates. It is like a recurring disease for which we should long have found a cure. All sorts of spurious allegations are made each week. One of them even accused Jomo Thomas, an old comrade of mine, as being a “foreigner”. Jomo’s political record is there for those who have eyes to see. You do not have to agree with him, or support him, but have respect for his long-standing commitment to our country. And if you don’t know, ask Mr Leacock, ask Bassy Alexander or Mr Carlyle Dougan, he ain’t no “just come”.

This resort to pettiness, who is not living in which constituency, who is a criminal, can deteriorate to dangerous levels. We have had the spectre of the rape allegations, including by persons who are none too clean themselves. Yes, we want examination of the character of those who put themselves forward to represent us, but let’s not have the hypocrisy, casting stones when in glass houses, while skeletons are in one’s cupboard. That’s why enlightened debate is so necessary. (To be continued)

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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