The constant campaign

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (26 Oct. 2007)

One of the major topics of discussion lately – or at least the one that the press isn’t temporarily gagged from reporting on – is “will he or won’t he”, call an election that is.

I’m not sure why this is such a hard question and generates such hand-wringing. The answer is obvious: he might.

Predicting an election is always an entertaining exercise for everyone from the political junkies (to whom it is an obsession) to the casual observer. There are the usual warning signs; although the shark oil of election preparation is the timing of a taxi driver fare increase (before an election as expected but this time after the lucrative summer months and the PGA Grand Slam and the Music Festival have passed).

Lately however, the prediction game has turned out to be a little different. If you feel like we’ve been in election mode for the better part of a year, it’s because we have.

First there was talk of a snap election after the PLP Gala (aka Presidential Inauguration), then there was the slow(ish) build during the summer months – a plan clearly scuttled by a rather notorious leak and the subsequent extraordinary attempts to suppress information by the Premier and his inner circle - the speculative but unlikely Labour Day timing talk to preempt the Privy Council ruling, and now we’re at it again as the next logical window of November’s reconvening of Parliament and a December poll approaches.

The signs that an election could be imminent – again – are everywhere: race has predictably moved to the forefront, Cabinet Members are touring uncompleted housing projects (complete with shiny green hard-hats), they’re trying to reverse course on Southlands, graduation rates and tourism numbers are being misrepresented, the taxi industry received their large fare hike and our litigious Premier is again trying to silence the press.

These are all reliable indicators that the PLP spin doctors are trying to put on their best face, mend some fences and minimize their vulnerabilities.

As previously mentioned though, we’ve done this dance before. So is now the real deal? Maybe. Although there’s another dynamic probably driving our Premier to be The Constant Campaigner.

One is inclined to believe from the PLP insider rumblings in newspaper articles, word on the street, and talk of the PLP delegates returning their leadership elections to two from four years, that there remains an entrenched dissatisfaction with both the style and substance of the PLP’s latest leader both within his party and outside.

Whether it’s The Friends and Family Plan that drives the Brown Government’s agenda; the expanding inner circle of unaccountable taxpayer funded consultants and advisors; the confrontational approach which has destroyed any good faith with the business community; the lack of consultation over controversial development or the lingering ethical problems and troubling but unanswered questions, there’s a lot to leave one disenchanted.

The days of an emboldened and boastful PLP post Alex Scott are long gone. The polls appear to have shifted – substantially it would appear – after the public became aware of things previously buried in Police files…at which point the Premier began his perpetual campaign.

If you were a party leader with growing discontent inside (and outside) your party what would you do? How’s about put your party into non-stop election mode, or as a friend recently described it to me, as a constant state of arousal? (Well he used a different rather cruder term that rhymes with ‘election’, but that would be crass.)

It isn’t a bad survival strategy to load your election rifle, look down the sight, take aim, remove the safety, apply a little pressure to the trigger but not pull it all the way. It’s a surefire way to ensure that the firing squad is pointing in the other direction.

It might have appeared strange during the summer months to see the Premier working his supporters into frenzy after frenzy, dragging the press around for day long photo-ops, hitting the PLP-friendly media circuit, announcing candidates in a very deliberate and planned manner and dropping election hint after election hint all for naught. Until you consider the alternative that is.

Unhappy party members with idle time on their hands can make life difficult for a leader with big ambitions but bigger liabilities.

Observers of recent political developments in the UK will be aware that when Gordon Brown publicly changed his mind on calling an election after the Tories built some momentum he experienced another sudden drop in the polls; the move was an acknowledgement that he knew things looked bleak and was weak.

Only time will tell if an election will materialize from this latest re-upping of the election ante, and there are only so many available opportunities before that hard deadline of July 2008 hits, but something tells me that part of that decision will hinge as much on developments in the courts as in the constituencies

It would appear that the Premier knows he’s not in a very strong position, and is waiting either for a little good news or a mistake by the UBP to pull the trigger and hope for the best.

The one mistake he won’t make however is to admit that things aren’t going as well as he’d hoped; but you don’t have to be a political pundit to see that.

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