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Chalk and cheese

Tennyson Joseph

Chalk and cheese

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The leadership debate which emerged towards the end of 2011 within the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has reached a decisive conclusion.
This leadership question was resolved, not in a dimly lit backroom with only a small clique in attendance, but was played out in the full glare of national television.  
By stepping up to the plate and bringing a speedy resolution to the Alexandra dispute only three days after the substantive minister had washed his hands and admitted failure, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart demonstrated empirically the distance between himself and his fellow Cabinet members. It was chalk and cheese.
This also happened in a long week when the over-exuberance of the Minister of Finance in declaring to a meeting of business people that two regional governments had committed themselves to investing their National Insurance funds in the Four Seasons project, resulted in a public denial from the said governments.
Question of politics  
When it is recalled that it was the Minister of Finance who, until very recently, had been championed in certain circles as the possible alternative leader to the sitting Prime Minister, then the extent to which Stuart cemented his leadership in the past week becomes clear.  
To cap it off, Stuart moved from demonstration to verbal admonition, when he encouraged the neophytes in his party, during the DLP’s Friday lunchtime lecture, to develop an appreciation for history and to ground their political actions upon a progressive and meaningful philosophy.
As the Prime Minister saw it, without such a philosophy, one’s involvement in politics becomes simply a question of “becoming Prime Minister”, which in itself is the basis for the worst kinds of opportunism since one can be swayed in any direction.
These words can best be understood as the final cementing of Stuart’s leadership.
Leadership questions can only be resolved empirically. Like true love, leadership cannot be defined and explained. It can only be felt and experienced.
It is for this reason that debates about leadership cannot be settled in the pages of newspapers or by the crunched numbers of pollsters. They can only be settled in the real world of political practice.
Leadership acumen is not announced, it is demonstrated. Ministers, prospective leaders, and potential prime ministers are placed before the national populace and are expected to perform their respective roles and it is in their daily conduct and performance that future leaders emerge organically.
It is this unstructured mechanism which separates the sheep from the goats.  
Such “natural selection” is always more effective than any artificial succession mechanism. This is why the “specially anointed” and selected deputies normally suffer loss, since these types place more faith in the trappings of office, image, and “sounding like a leader”, than on actual performance.
Stuart’s intervention was a reminder that substance should precede style.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specializing in regional affairs. Email [email protected]