Early in his latest work in progress Jimmy Fletcher warns readers not to expect many external references. He reveals his intention to offer a personal reflection of his experiences gathered along the way, “not overly influenced by textbook concepts” and cautions that his recommendations apply “only if you intend to run an honest, open, people focused, inclusive government that values and makes the best use of indigenous resources.” Aspirants with contrary ambitions, he warns, will find little value in his How To Run A Government, a title he says was inspired by Cicero’s How To Win An Election. (I cannot but wonder whether Dr. Fletcher, when reportedly he was among Kenny Anthony’s closest advisors, had recommended the then prime minister study Cicero’s classic text prior to his June 6, 2016 surprise!)
“In that very enjoyable and informative little book,” Dr Fletcher reveals, “Quintus Cicero seeks to give practical advice in a letter to his brother Marcus Cicero, an idealist, who in 64 BC was running for the highest office in the Republic, that of Consul. Perhaps in the same vein, the information in this book [How To Run A Government] is the sort of advice I would want someone to give to me—if I found myself on the verge of assuming the position of Prime Minister of my country.” Of course, the author is being especially humble. After all, should he turn his mind to adversarial politics at some future time, he would do so fully armed with the advice of the cited legendary Roman statesman and military leader!
Then again, might the above be a smoke signal? Could it be mere coincidence that even as I write the not so hush-hush word is that certain influential opposition muckamucks are surreptitiously engaged in persuading Dr. Fletcher to consider taking over the leadership of the Saint Lucia Labour Party before the next general elections? Farfetched, you say? Maybe. But I’d bet Julian Hunte would disagree! I need add that Fletcher has denied all knowledge of such divisive talk, which could well be a strategy culled from the earlier cited classic text of Quintus Cicero. We shall see.
Meanwhile there is How To Run A Government, wherein the author advises that when a candidate has agreed to accept the nomination to be the political leader of his party he should be certain he understands the implications of that decision: He would now be charged with the responsibility to lead the party “with its proud historical tradition into the next general elections.” The reader may be forgiven if at this point it seems to him the author is sending a direct message to a particular party leader. No matter, Fletcher reminds his imagined candidate that from his acceptance of the responsibility of leadership “the hopes and aspirations of your supporters are now pivoted on your shoulders.”
Additionally: “The tone you set during the election campaign will send a signal to the electorate about your leadership style and your priorities. You will need to articulate, clearly and often, your plans for the country. You should not focus only on the ills of the present administration. Your goal is to inspire hope that the government you will lead as prime minister will be empathetic, purposeful, competent, inclusive and successful. Your party should not come across as one that opposes everything done by the government, yet does not provide any information or indication on how or what it would do differently, or better, if elected.” He forgot to mention the advice of Hilary Beckles back in 2005: Political party leaders should be neither “partisan nor vindictive,”
but be capable of mobilizing every good for social development!
Of course there is always to be confronted the matter of suitable election candidates. Fletcher considers it the job of the political leader to attract honest men and women “who are liked and respected” in their respective communities. Candidates for party leadership should be “persons of integrity.” As for the election campaign, the author describes it as “a grueling period . . . It will be your responsibility to provide support for candidates with more difficult challenges and affirmation and encouragement to those who appear to have an easier path to victory. Your party must operate as a strong team, not as a collection of candidates wearing the same color shirts and running under the same party symbol.”
Finally, writes Dr. Fletcher, “while your most important goal and preoccupation during this period must be to secure the victory of as many candidates as possible, it is never too soon to start a dialogue with your team on how you will govern when elected.” He warns of “many parties” that had appeared “efficient and well-prepared” during their campaigns only to prove “totally clueless in government.”
I suspect the seasoned (cynical?) election campaigner, the established party stalwart, not to say current and former party leaders, will at this point be asking how much the author really knows about politics in Saint Lucia, despite his history as he wrote it in the opening pages of How To Run A Government. Is Fletcher suggesting likable Saint Lucian men and women of integrity are unlikely to make demands on the party leader similar to those of our run-of-the-mill potential election candidates?
Will the individuals the author considers desirable be prepared to risk plunging into the perilous waters of local politics outside of protective cages? Will they require guaranteed survival kits should their campaigns fail to land them a seat in parliament? It is one thing to believe our country contains the talented, selfless and nationalistic citizens that Dr. Fletcher says can rescue our country. It is quite another to guarantee them that the arena in which they are expected to do battle has been cleansed of the swarms of monster hagfish that a long time ago had turned local politics into a highly lucrative cottage industry.
And even if Dr. Fletcher’s game-changing ideal candidate actually lives and is willing to take the plunge of his life, what of his family, his wife and kids? Will they also be so country-first in their thinking as to be prepared in the existing circumstances to be willing targets for varieties of collateral damage, all in the best interests of Helen? And should their husband, dad or brother not make it to parliament, will
they be safe from the elected bunch of regular politicians now at the levers of power? While it may be possible to purge political “Saint Lucianness” out of the man can you also make the voting population less venomous?
Dr. Fletcher is nothing if not an optimist. His How To Run A Government may well be tangible proof of his faith in his fellow Saint Lucian. In our next episode we’ll examine what the author has to say about “the day after the polls have closed”—successfully for his envisaged party.