BVI News

Virgin Islands Party déjà vu

Dickson Igwe

By Dickson Igwe, contributor

The climb to the mountain top called power has gotten a lot steeper for the Virgin Islands Party (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 (NDP) has sharpened its sword. It is polishing its armor. 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.

Voters like change, but…

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 BVI.

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 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 favor 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 BVIslanders, going back many generations.

But this demographic has changed. It no is longer the omnipotent force it once was.

Caribbean migrants who vote

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.

The NDP continues to enjoy the demographic advantages this Old Boy described before the last general election.

Caribbean migrants who vote, first generation BVIslanders, 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.

Talk of a third party

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.

Hope in Willock, et al?

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. Shari 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 favouritism. 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.

Politics is about raw power

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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