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A Virgin Islands Party déjà vu

Dickson Igwe. Photo: VINO
Dickson Igwe

The climb to the mountain top called Power has gotten a lot steeper for the VIP. The Summit of High Office is further away. Party members have failed to bury the hatchet. Factionalism and ill will remain a feature of the Grand Ole Party. Not good!

Key players are unwilling to compromise: “If you don’t make me team captain, I am taking my ball home!”

Voters in the VIP demographic, the older generation, the over 50s, multi generation Virgin Islanders: Virgin Islanders whose great, great, great grandparents were Virgin Islanders, and who would normally vote VIP, are increasingly turned off. Everywhere this “Jack the wannabe investigative journalist” visits, his VIP friends state that they are “p----- off” with what is going down in their Party.

Then the National Democratic Party has sharpened its sword. It is polishing its armour. There is a spring in the step of NDP leaders. They smell blood.

The NDP is already gearing up for the war ahead. It has the savviest political players in the Virgin Islands. It has the support of big business. Foreign investors like what they see with the NDP. The ruling party remains power hungry and disciplined. It is determined to remain in power.

A third term for the NDP looks likely. And that is despite all the talk of voter anger, and a tsunami of votes for the VIP, in 2018 or 2019. Jack the Voter will not place the VIP in the halls of power in its present disunited state.

Yes voters like change. But voters do not want change at any cost. In politics, unity and competence go hand in hand with electoral success. Disunity is making the VIP look incompetent. Voters will not place the proverbial X on a losing ballot. Voters look for winners and vote for what appears a winning side.

Now, in the absence of accurate polling in the [British] Virgin Islands, the closest the pundit gets to election prediction is street talk.

Street corner gossip is where political debate and analysis takes place in the Virgin Islands:

The Sunday Morning Well, office banter, the social function, the marital bedroom, the bordello, the alleyway of the whorehouse, and so on, and so forth; these are the places elections are gauged and predicted in the VI.

Up until very recently, the talk coming out of these very informal forums has been that there will be a tsunami of votes for the VIP come the next election. The NDP will be wiped out by voter anger.

That talk has stopped. This Old Boy chatted away with an NDP stalwart in April 2017, and when yours truly brought up the ‘tsunami theory’ the guy laughed. “Ha!” He said! “What tsunami?”

He stated confidently that the NDP had certain districts in the “back pocket.” These would be retained easily he asserted. He said that the NDP possessed the District Advantage the VIP once held.

He further predicted that at the most, the VIP would gain just one At Large Seat and maybe a couple of districts. The Big Shot stated that the VIP would remain in opposition for the foreseeable future.

Another local NDP pundit believed that certain district moves being played by some savvy NDP players would see victory at a general election easily manifested. This guy predicted a major crossover and realignment before the next general election, in favour of the NDP.

The one dissenting voice has been a friend of this ‘Ole Bohemian’ who stated that the people of the Virgin Islands will not stand for a third NDP term. This is a guy with parents and grandparents that are BV Islanders, going back many generations.

But this demographic has changed. It no is longer the omnipotent force it once was. There is a new demographic forming that is the result of migration and intermarriage, brought on by the economic boom in financial services and tourism, starting in the late 1980s. This is the crucible for the NDP base.

And where is the VIP as all this is taking place? It appears to be in slumber. Has the party forgotten who it is playing ball against? Has the VIP forgotten how it was caught completely off guard and unawares at the last general election?

The NDP has smart and savvy minds running the show. The NDP does not take prisoners. It never has. The NDP is a well-oiled and effective political fighting machine. As a general election approaches, it will begin to fire on all six cylinders. It has already started its campaign, albeit quietly.

It is the incumbent. It does not need to select new candidates. The NDP is in charge of the timing and nuances of a general election. Everyone else has to ask the genie in the lamp.

And the NDP continues to enjoy the demographic advantages this Old Boy described before the last general election. Caribbean Migrants who vote, first generation B V Islanders, and the young, remain the key NDP constituency. Additionally, key global investors remain happy with the NDP.

Voters born overseas remain with the NDP. And so do Virgin Islanders with parents that come from nearby islands. It will take extremely hard work, and great effort, to turn this demographic deficit around to the advantage of the VIP. Demographics are a critical election factor. Every second counts if this demographic deficit is to be erased. It can be done, however, with hard, grueling work.

Ok, as a General Election approaches, there is talk of a third party. This is déjà vu all over again.

This time, the “rumor mill” has it that it will be composed of true political heavyweights: men and women of gravity and substance. But have we not heard this song before? Have we not seen this movie? Has the narrative in recent years of third parties led to political success?

This Old Boy does not want to invalidate the legitimate exertions of individuals who want to form a third political party. He does not want to throw water on the ‘third party bonfire.’ However, now, as before, it remains a near impossible task breaking the “Two Party Mold.” Brand remains an all- powerful asset in politics. Whoever controls either the VIP or NDP brands holds an overwhelming advantage. Why? These brands are cemented in the voter imagination. The funding infrastructure favors one or the other party.

And as before, these third parties always appear to wait until just before a campaign starts. Any new party must appear, with 13 good candidates, “like yesterday,” to have any chance of success. It will have to raise hard cash, and advertise on a daily basis on TV and radio.

Third parties in the Virgin Islands offer a number of valid candidates. They go down to defeat frequently. Then simply disappear. One hopes that this will not be the fate for the new party. A new party will also take more votes away from the VIP than from the NDP. Third parties act as spoilers in Virgin Islands politics especially for the challenging party that is out of power.

Is there any hope for the VIP? There is always hope in life. One good thing the VIP has done is adopt a number of attractive young people.

Zoe McMillan is an attractive people person who appears ready for another shot at power: Sharie DeCastro is a bright, attractive, and intelligent, young woman; Charmaine Rosan Bunbury is a fighter and an attorney, with a great grassroots message; Sowande Wheatley is a young and passionate intellectual: Julian Willock is a street fighter. Willock is the rare type of soldier you want next to you in the trenches of the political battlefield. Willock is loyal to a fault. Willock is a conviction politician. The man does not quit.

These young people are a breath of fresh air in the putrid environment of politics. Voters will consider these youthful leaders if they come out with serious policy proposals and good economic options. They must show wisdom, savvy, maturity and political gravitas. They need to start putting flesh to the bones of party policy immediately. They must get on radio and TV shows, and talk with potential VIP voters on the street.

However they will need the guidance of wiser, experienced, and older heads, in what will be a “bloody campaign.” The Party Leader is a Consummate Politician and an excellent campaigner. He is also a great speaker. He possesses the proverbial “gift of the gab.” He is a formidable performer on the podium. The VIP Chairman is a political matador, a bull fighter with great legwork. He should be Campaigner in Chief, even though he is Party Leader.

Together with the Party President and Congress, he must select the very best candidates to fight an uphill battle. He is the best man to lead a new VIP team into battle.

There is no place for friendship and favoritism. Only those who can succeed against a formidable band of seasoned politicians should be selected.  The NDP is composed of the most skillful swordsmen politics in the Virgin Islands has ever seen.

The best thing for the VIP is for the two opposing factions to come together. The hatchet must be buried.

Right before a crucial political season is the very worst time for infighting. Politics is not pretty. Politics is about raw power. Men and women who want to inhabit the corridors of power must learn to forgive and forget. Politics is back room deals and unholy alliances. In politics, enemies have to share the same bed. Politics makes for strange bedfellows. That is what is required to achieve power.

The acquisition of power is an aggressive affair. Caesar was stabbed in the back by his friends in the Roman Senate, and worst of all by his closest ally, Brutus, who gave the final thrust of the dagger. Caesar was buried. Then it was back to business the next day, it was politics as usual in Rome. That is the nature of the political game. Politics is not a picnic in the park. It is a knife fight in a slippery, grimy, back alley.

In the absence of the VIP uniting, this Old Boy will put his hard earned cash on the NDP winning a third term.

The clock is ticking on the VIP.

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9 Responses to “A Virgin Islands Party déjà vu”

  • vip (14/05/2017, 15:23) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    This is deep
  • lesson for the BVI (14/05/2017, 20:56) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    , The Bahamas — Dr Hubert Minnis is the newly-elected Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, after delivering a crushing defeat to Perry Christie’s Progressive Liberal Party in a 35-4¹ parliamentary split.

    Minnis’ Free National Movement party secured the exit of virtually all of the PLP’s senior political hierarchy, with former Prime Minister, Perry Christie, losing his Centreville seat to an FNM political newcomer, Reece Chipman.

    Also losing their seats were Fred Mitchell, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Obediah Wilchcombe, former Minister of Tourism; Shane Gibson, former Minister of Labour; Glenys Hanna-Martin², former Minister of Transport; and Leslie Miller, Member of Parliament for Tall Pines and a decades-long PLP veteran.

    Allegations of PLP corruption and arrogance dominated the keenly-contested election campaign, with the 73-year old Christie weeks ago earning the ire of the electorate as he defiantly boasted that “not even God” could stop him.
  • pat (15/05/2017, 10:23) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    this analysis is exactly right. I have often asked where are the district rallies? the debates? the new slate of potential candidates? Where are the bullet points of issues? where are the newspaper interviews to get ideas out? where are the visible events that tell people VIP is still around? NDP would be disastrous for a 3rd term. They are catering to China which wants to run the world, suck people into borrowing money from their banks and get them indebted to them. (read international papers), they want to throw the baby out with the bathwater as they try and compete with other concreted, elitist, resorted jungles while ruining what prompts BVI to get repeated awards from tourist publications.
    NDP is ingrained in many projects and conflicts of interest. But they don't care. They don't even register their interests which they were supposed to do by LAW. NEWSFLASH! they are NOT above the law!
  • ccc (15/05/2017, 13:11) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    Vip is dead maybe they can get 1 or 2 more seats next election
  • Political Observer (PO) (15/05/2017, 14:38) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    The venerable Ralph T. O'Neal, former Premier and Leader of VIP, left the VIP in shambles. The passing of the baton was botched; there was no effective succession planning. All he left was hungry crabs in a bucket. It was a mad scramble with each one just about self-interest, not the people's interest. Unity was fling out the window and the 11-2 shellacking by the NDP resulted, catching the VIP, PEP ......flat-footed and napping. And if VIP does not bury the hatchet and unite with a sense of purpose, the results would be the same next election. If VIP members are truly patriots, they would put the country/territory interest ahead of self interest. There can only be one leader at a time. The attitude if I'm not Leader let the house burn is selfish. If one is not a team player, no one will follow; and if no one is following, you are not leading.

    Moreover, at the end of the day, it is about the economy. James Carville, the Ragin Cajun, former Clinton adviser and Democratic stalwart, once quipped "It is the economy, stupid." When the economy is good, voters are short sighted and become single issue focus. If the economy is bad, they will kick the encumbent government to the curb in a heart beat. While if the economy is good, the encumbent government will have to perform nefarious acts to get relieved of duty. And even then some voters will be oblivious to the bad behaviour. Virgin Islanders have grown accustomed to a certain standard of living and quality of life and when that is threatened there is trouble in paradise.

    Further, agree with Igwe that anyone wishing to contest the next election whether it is tomorrow or the next day must prepare now. Waiting as is the current practice for the election to be called may be too late. Any action after election is called should be just closing the deal, not starting a campaign. If you are going to stand for election, you should have started campaigning yesterday. Losing election candidates lacks consistency and persistence. Can anyone remember who stood for election on the Opposition Team last election? Exactly!
  • vex (15/05/2017, 20:53) Like (7) Dislike (0) Reply
    This VIP nightmare must stop now or else take 4 more years of the NDP and let the UK take over
  • youths for willock (16/05/2017, 10:43) Like (5) Dislike (2) Reply
    Yes i with willock
  • 1 (19/05/2017, 19:33) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    And one will be held accountable.
  • zoe (21/05/2017, 14:12) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Here's the truth: among the grassroots, Willock has already won the war of ideas in the VIP


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