ALBERT BRANDFORD: Paying the price
ALL THREE LOSING candidates just rejected by the ruling Democratic Labour Party contested constituencies in St Michael.
Their margin of defeat ranged from 12 votes for the Reverend Dr Patrick Tannis, to 119 and 124 for Kenny Best and Patrick Todd, respectively.
The leadership of the DLP has, therefore, played its political card – St Michael.
It was played with urgency and irreverence, apparently, in reaction to heightened activity by the Opposition. No wonder Tannis is the only one to have reacted publicly. He lost by the narrowest of margins; continued to work in the constituency and vowed not to leave constituents. It is, therefore, understandable that he expressed surprise about the process.
According to Tannis, he was given three months to run for the last general election in 2013. In the circumstances, his performance was commendable. So, what is responsible for his rejection?
Whatever it is, it seems like betrayal or political tug-of-war among the leadership.
In the DAILY NATION of Friday, April 14, Tannis said he told the party the economy was heading for big trouble, and shared how they could get out of it at council meetings but they did not listen to his prophetic utterances.
In being persistent with criticism of the economy, he, perhaps, annoyed the Minister of Finance most. In this sense, he might have suffered a similar fate to the former Governor of the Central Bank, except that the process was somewhat different.
Tannis lamented: “I was extricated from your presence. It speaks to what kind of party the DLP has found itself to be.” He seems to be suggesting that blind loyalty is expected from members, and especially, potential candidates.
The Reverend might have been expecting support from the leadership, which was reported to be privately opposed to his rejection, but it appears those who expect to inherit the Big Chair prevailed.
The extrication would have to be related to his unsuitability for the strategy the DLP proposes for the election campaign. But what’s in it that would make him unsuitable?
Alternatively, his replacement, Rodney Grant, would have to be deemed an appropriate candidate by the party. The best way to determine his appropriateness would have been through the tried and tested sample survey.
That Tannis complained about the process leaves one to conclude that such a survey was not conducted.
In the past, candidates were deselected by the DLP under the leadership of David Thompson. In this case, the impression is not given that Tannis was selected in the first place. Further, for a candidate that did so well in his first outing, it does not appear that the constituency branch put forward his name using the process.
If the Reverend intends to stay in the political arena, then he has the option of being an Independent or joining one of the new political organisations. The issue becomes: whose votes is he more likely to cut? The answer is critical in assessing the role he is likely to play in determining the outcome in a constituency that was nail-biting.
This introduces a new element across constituencies, that is, the third-party factor. This was very much in evidence during the time of the National Democratic Party. Some analysts are already trying to assess the influence of this factor in the closely contested constituencies in 2013, next time around.
It is already evident by the paving of roads, in heavily populated areas, that the DLP plans to focus on the Greater St Michael area, defined within the corridor from Rendezvous along the ABC Highway to Holder’s Hill. Since constituency boundaries are only imaginary lines, the defined area carries an urban flavour.
Notwithstanding the apparent financial difficulties at the Urban Development Commission, there is little doubt that a St Michael strategy must include a role for it. The politics of largesse may be explained as part of the philosophy of survival. The issue, though, is whose survival?
The politics of largesse is not new. It simply has become more institutionalised with the advent of UDC and the Rural Development Commission. They are now recognised as vital in the lead-up to an election, so vital that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart took hold of them.
So Government’s stated intention to merge them has not yet occurred, notwithstanding completion of the study on state-owned enterprises long ago.
The strategy would be justified on the grounds of the survival of “the poor black man”, when it is more to do with the survival of the politicians.
In this going down, there is a preferred kind of candidate – the one who seems more familiar with the workings at ground level.
Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email: [email protected]