Grant calling it quits
Ten general elections, ten successful campaigns.
However, veteran campaign manager Reynold Grant is calling it a day.
The man who for the tenth consecutive time brought home the winning seat for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the Christ Church West constituency during the February 21 general election told the Sunday Sun, “This one was my last”.
“I had a long haul, I love it, they were all successful, this is my time to bow out.”
Grant had “a good run” that started at age 17 when he first joined his father on the campaign trail canvassing for the late Sir Harold St John.
“It was then a double-member constituency, so we used to canvas the same area thatis now Christ Church West. In 1971 it went to single-member constituencies.”
His oldest brother took over the lead role of campaigner in the Grant family and Ronald joined him to work for the election of Sir Henry Forde. Young Reynold would soon become Sir Henry’s campaign manager and would go on to undertake the same role for successful BLP candidates from the 1971 election to the one just ended.
He attributes his success to “hard work and a good understanding of the constituency, which has a variety of social standards” – a constituency in which he grew up, from which he moved but never left.
“We have in some fairly rich people, some middle-class people and some poor people, so there is a mixture,” he said about the area he knows so well.
About his campaign teams over the years, he noted: “We had very good people and we had the privilege of sending them out in areas to make your work easier, because you could depend on the people from the various areas to furnish you with the information you needed to operate properly.”
But the seasoned campaigner observes trends developing in the political arena today that disturb him.
“People seem to have lost faith in the politicians. They don’t seem to trust the politicians like they used to. You even get this mistrust in other parts of the constituency. Our percentage has been dropping since the 1999 election. The last three, it has been hovering around 52 to 55 per cent, which is extremely poor.
“They used to vote very, very heavily. There was a time when it used to be around 82 per cent, so there is a big drop-off in the number of people who go to the polls now throughout the whole constituency.”
Grant had some advice for politicians who want to capture the youth vote.
“The young people today expect a lot more than what people used to expect from politicians, so I think politicians have a lot of work to convince young people to come out and vote. If not, the numbers are going to continue to dwindle. They need a reason to vote now other than saying that you belong to a party or you like a candidate . . . . The politicians’ priorities have to change to fit in with the new generation of people.”
Casting an analytical glance back at the 2013 election campaign, Grant zeroed in on the contentious money issue raised by both political parties and the alleged buying of votes.
“I don’t think this constituency escaped the money problem either, which is a very terrible thing that has crept into our politics,” he said.
It was a factor that posed one of his biggest challenges as a campaign manager.
“We had to see if we could get the interest of people piqued to the highest level and then we had to try to get them out to vote, which . . . was harder this time than previously.”
He also faced the challenge of responding to the demands of people offering their services to the campaign, noting that “most of the people who join campaign teams go into it expecting something in return, especially now . . .”.
“Everybody in this thing now wants money. Whichever level they are at, you got to be prepared to pay them.”
The expectation was perhaps best explained by the young man who Grant said told him: “There is nothing wrong with that because the politicians in this for position and money too.”
He said there was also difficulty attracting young people to work with the campaign team.
“You have to put them in the office to work – telephone canvass, dropping out brochures – but when it comes to canvassing, young people ain’t walking ’bout in no sun canvassing.”
He also advises anyone aspiring to be a campaign manager to “make up in their mind to work hard and long and to look for people in the constituency whom people respect and trust”.
“You can’t have people walking about in the constituency asking for the support of a candidate if people in the constituency don’t trust them or don’t respect them, because doors in the constituency won’t be opened to them when they knock on those doors.”
This point proved to be especially pertinent in Christ Church West, which has a “fairly large white community”.
Grant said the claim that white people did not get involved in politics was a fallacy.
“They get involved as long as you ask them. You have to know exactly how you can use them, which area suits them best because even in canvassing, you had to be very specific on who you use to canvass the area, what sort of canvassing you need to do in the area.”
In those predominantly white Christ Church West districts, Grant said he always focused on house to house, one on one.
“That’s where the candidate became vitally important because it is he [who] had to go in there and do most of the work. That’s an area you don’t want to carry a whole large group of people to canvass, so you need the candidate and just one or two people. The other thing in that area is, you do a lot of work with telephone canvass, very important.
“White Barbadians, they don’t come right out and get involved in politics but they do when you ask them. You have to know exactly how you can use them.”
This veteran says it is time to hang up his election boots.
“I had a lot of satisfaction working, trying to win elections for my candidates. All I intend to do now is relax,” said the retired stevedore.