The ink was barely dry on my STAR article ‘Is UWP Ready for Prime Time?’ when the knives and daggers were pulled. As the convention draws nearer and all posts are up for grabs the public blood spurring is real. The internal volcanic eruption is blowing up all kinds of smoke and it is vicious, demeaning and downright nasty. Wow! There was a time when the United Workers Party’s internal squabbling was classified and secretive. Yes, Daddy Compton must have heard the very vociferous confrontation that is disturbing his calm and peaceful rest.
The commotion started out this week when defeated candidate for Soufriere Allen Chastanet, a self-styled tourism guru, announced his intention to contest the leadership of the party. By throwing his hat in the ring, Chastanet confirmed what has long been speculated: that he is vaunting, ambitious and has been secretly eying the prime ministerial chair. Now, Chastanet who was handsomely defeated by SLP’s Harold Dalson believes that he can do for the UWP on a national level what he was unable to do for himself. Even the Bible says you must first be faithful in the little things before you can be trusted with the big things. So, how Allen will persuade the delegates that he can catapult the UWP to national prominence when he was not able to win a seat sounds like voodoo reasoning. Perhaps, political miracles are still possible in small islands where rum, chicken and block-o-ramas are convenient mechanisms for success at elections.
Member of Parliament for Central Castries, the flamboyant, no nonsense Richard Frederick, not one to easily keep his emotions in check, immediately fired the opening salvo. He said, “I don’t think Allen is serious.” His rational: “His own father told me that he is not a good manager. He spends money like a kid who never sees toys.” Notably, when asked to comment about Frederick’s remark the elder Chastanet would not comment specifically on Frederick’s remark but instead naturally affirmed his love for his son and his commitment to support his leadership aspirations. In his estimation, his son competently manages his own tourism related business and he has no doubt he can do a good job as leader of the UWP and by extension the country.
Less than twenty-four hours later, former UWP chairman Clem Bobb, who resigned his post after the last election, delivered the lowest of blows to former Prime Minister, Stephenson King. In what amounted to more than a personal venomous, vicious and calculated attack, Mr Bobb described King as “unlearned, hungry” and unfit to be leader and prime minister. To punctuate his blows and apply maximum pressure, he cited an incident when King was prime minister and he had received a text laced with profanity from Central Castries MP, Richard Frederick. He said he called on King to discipline Frederick and King promised to deal with the matter but did nothing. According to Bobb, it was at this point that he “realized King and Frederick were like peas in a pod.” It was there he had his come-uppance. It was then he knew that the country needed a different brand of good leadership. Then, he unleashed some more personal venom, accusing King of never holding a job and depending solely on his MP and prime ministerial salary for a living.
It is no secret that King and I share different political views and orientations but I find the attacks on his character from Clem Bobb shameful, outrageous and unfit for public consumption. Bobb’s claim that King has never had a job is also untrue. King was one of the fortunate ones from the Seventh Day Adventist Academy graduating class of 1978 to have landed a job at Giraudy’s law firm immediately after leaving school, a post he held for several years that may have given rise and credence to his political career. At the SDA Academy, while some of us were openly political and eventually got involved in politics, King never showed an interest. So, you can imagine the surprise when we found out that King decided to make politics his career. Of course, you can question his leadership qualities and abilities, but to throw dirty Castries gutter water at him and besmirch his character is beyond the pale. The former UWP chairman should be ashamed of himself. More importantly, what does Clem’s newfound conversion tell you about his own Jurassic tendencies, to say nothing about his own character? Clem served as chairman of the party and obviously defended the King administration. He never at the time distanced himself from decisions taken by the party. He was integral to the program and principles promoted by his party. If he is so outraged today, then clearly he was dishonest when he observed the atrocities and did nothing about it. Of course, it begs the question: had the UWP won the last election would Clem be attacking King‘s leadership?
To be fair, King inherited a dysfunctional party machinery. The party was in chaos and disarray long before King accidentally emerged as its leader and prime minister. He found a grouping of men meshed together simply for the purpose of winning an election. The late Prime Minister Sir John Compton had hurriedly assembled
this group. Upon his demise, some say caused by the stress of having to deal with those characters, the lot fell upon King to navigate this mangee cochan he was left. To his credit, he was able with calm reassurance and resilience to not only keep this motley crew afloat but also command the ship of state through stormy economic and political turmoil. He did it admirably, if not skillfully, despite relentless opposition from his political opposition, SLP and vipers inside the bowels of his own party. So, Clem Bobb owes King commendation, thankfulness and praise not his tirade of falsehood and character assassination. Bobb has every right to support whoever he thinks is more suitable for party leadership. He does not have the right to dispel untruths and use the vilest of personal attacks to achieve his objective.
You ask why should I care if the UWP self-destructs? The reality is I don’t give a hoot. However, it does matter when truth is twisted, fairness is ignored, justice is squandered and hypocrisy and backstabbing are given public platforms. King’s record deserves its rightful place and history must accurately record the troubles he encountered and the battles he fought and won. After all, my parents taught me that I must always give Jack his jacket. King’s legacy should not be tarnished by bitter defectors.