One year after being swept from office after some 20 years at the seat of power the St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party find themselves at a serious crossroad. They are at a junction now where very serious decisions must be taken regarding the future direction of the party.
This decision becomes even more relevant and timely after the party’s recent series of activities which included a Public Rally and a protest march. Both events exposed the party and confirmed what many have easily concluded and that is the party is at the lowest ebb it has been in decades. Over the years one of the laudable charateristics of the Labour Party on St.Kitts has been it’s ability to mobilize. Marches and rallies of upwards of 3,000 persons was as expected as the red shirts and the loud music. On Friday 19th the party organized an anti-government protest march through the streets of the capital Basseterre. Less than 300 party loyalists participated in the slow march through the city streets. 200 plus persons for a Labour Party event is a far cry from their own lofty standards. The failure of the protest as far as numbers at least has brought the question of the future of the party and it’s leadership into stark focus.
Recent Don Anderson Polls conducted in the last quarter of 2015 indicate that the ruling Team UNITY Administration led by the dynamic Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris enjoys a near 70% favourable rating. This certainly suggests that the opposition has some serious work to do. They however have at least 4 years to do it but they must at this point make a decision regarding their leadership. It is obvious that the brash style of the party leader Dr. Denzil Douglas does not resonate as it once did with the electorate. The results of the 2015 elections clearly showed that persons had become tired of the loud, brash arrogant style of Dr.Douglas . The warm inspiring message of a united people who can live together and work together regardless of political affiliation was the message that the people preferred to hear and what the people wanted. Thus Team UNITY , a tri-partite group
of three of the major parties in St.Kitts-Nevis that exuded the characteristics of a Unified nation, became the favoured political organization . Team UNITY Leader and now Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris’ message of a fair shair and prosperity for all resonated and continues to resonate with the masses.
One year after the 2015 election the Opposition Labour Party remains in the same pre-election campaign mode which ultimately saw their demise. Their style has not softened nor has it changed in anyway. A situation that is quite baffling when the February 16th elections clearly showed that the electorate had enough of that style of politics and yearned for something new, something different, a fresh start.
Former Pollster for the Party well known Caribbean Political Analyst Peter Wickham in a recent interview questioned the strategy of the SKN Labour Party .
According to Mr. Wickham, the party and its leader are under the impression that they did not really lose the February 16th General Election and the Team Unity Government will not last for five years.
“The style of opposition suggests to me that the Labour Party is convinced that they did not lose the election, the Labour Party is convinced that they have done nothing wrong, and the Labour Party is convinced that the best way to undo what has been done in the last election, is by keeping the pressure on. Realistically it cannot be sustained for five years,” Wickham told WINN FM in a recent interview.
“I think there is a perception on the part of the Labour Party that this government will not last five years, and if it doesn’t last five years, certainly their strategy is right. If it does last five years, the strategy will burn itself out in short order, and I do feel that a political party that is as old as the Labour Party, the former Prime Minister the Leader of the Opposition, you have some of the more senior Members who are still holding seats in Parliament, says to me that there’s no break with the Old Guard, and that Old Guard has to be careful that it doesn’t burn itself out by repeating the same things it would have said when it was in government.”
Wickham also told Caribupdate News recently that the Opposition SKN Labour Party is unfortunately for them stuck with the leadership of former Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas. He stated that he did not see anyone from the party’s current slate that can successfully challenge Douglas for the leadership of the party. This situation is the quagmire that the party finds itself in. Where the same Leader that took the party into an embarrassing loss at the polls is the same leader they may have to count on to lead them into the next polls.
Over the last two decades there can hardly be found any Prime Minister who has lost power and remain as his party;s leader. In most cases they resign and in others they are forced or voted out as Party Leaders.
Dr. Denzil Douglas came at a critical time in the history of SKN politics. He came he conquered and he succeeded to some extent. But his shine has worn off and his appeal has turned into disdain by at least 70% of the electorate. The so called down the middle voters are becoming larger and larger and these are the voters that more and more makes the difference in the politics of St.Kitts-Nevis. Dr Douglas does not appeal to this group now and it is unlikely he would appeal to them by the next election slated for 2020.
With 47 of the 198 promises outlined in their manifesto already implemented in just the 1st year of office the Team UNITY administration by 2020 will have easily implemented all their campaign promises and pursued and implemented new ones. This would no doubt raise their appeal and favourability even more. This means the task of regaining power by the Dr. Douglas led opposition is a monumental one. A task that is severely compounded by the leadership of Dr. Douglas.
What next for the SKN LABOUR Party? Heaven knows. One thing’s certain the road on which they now travel is not one that will reap much success.