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Dr Douglas Leader too Long? Who Will Replace Him?

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by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Political strategist Peter Wickham suggests that Dr Denzil Douglas may have stayed at the helm of the party longer than he should. 

During an interview on Inside Politics from SKN Newsline hosted by Andre Huey, Wickham said, “as much as a leader can be outstanding, I often think that leaders tarnish their own image by staying at the wicket too long. One of the more distinguished sons of the Caribbean cricketing soil, Sir Viv, [bowed] out when he was still considered one of the greats, and I think that that is, sadly, something that a lot of our leaders in the Caribbean don’t do. They tarry in the vineyard long past their “Sell By Date”, and I think that this is what we are seeing here,” Wickham said. 

The topic of discussion was the next leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, which remained the hot topic since Dr Douglas announced his intention to step back from his leadership role.

“It seems pretty clear in my mind that he is somewhat reluctant to go and that he is now saying… I will go in a situation where there will be a contest. And his position was that look, the tradition of the Labour party is that we do not contest the leadership, that has never happened before, and if he is going to be contested then he is not running… That’s a reasonable position for him to take.”

Also included in the conversation was Maurice “EK” Flanders, popular DJ and radio host and Duncan “Big Lice” Wattley, calypsonian and social commentator.

While the panellists agree that Dr Douglas’s career has been one of the strongest in the region, both Flanders and Wattley agreed that he remained the leader of the SKNLP for too long.

But who do they endorse as the next leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition?

In the running are party executives, the Hon. Dr Geoffrey Hanley, Mr Konris Maynard, and Dr Terrance Drew.

Konris Maynard is the newest candidate throwing his hat in the ring for the leadership position, and Flanders questioned the addition and speculated that it may “murky the waters.”

“When Dr Douglas said consider Konris Maynard, he is ‘murkying’ the water because you already have two candidates that were nominated already. Why would you want a third? Why would you even want a fourth? Why would you, as the leader, even suggest [someone else]? It also gives air to the notion Douglas did not want to go, so he wants to anoint somebody who is of his view, somebody whose ear he may have. And you have all these things floating in the air that you would not want because it gives the opposition ammunition for their campaign against you.”

A leaked voice note in which Dr Douglas mentioned Maynard as consideration for party leader, was according to public opinion, an endorsement on the part of Dr Douglas. And Wickham likened that endorsement as the kiss of death and suggested that Maynard may find it hard to convince party delegates that he is the right choice for party leader.

“He can’t just say I am just one of the three candidates consider me on my basis. He has to understand that he has to move from a place where people see him as being the handpicked alternative to Dr Douglas. And in this reality, that is a kiss of death quite frankly because we’ve gone from a situation in which being Dr Douglas’s favourite candidate helps to a point where I think within Labout Party circles now, it doesn’t help because I think people within the Labour Party understand… that Dr Douglas has gone from being the most significant asset of the Labour Party to a significant liability in that regard.”

In reference to Dr Hanley as the next possible leader of the opposition, all three panellists suggested that he may not be the man for the job, whether it was because of his youthfulness, lack of national appeal or because he was not automatically chosen considering he is the only one of the three candidates who have a parliamentary seat.

“The leader of a political party must have a particular charisma. He must be charismatic. But he must be able to demonstrate that he could bring everybody under that particular umbrella to be a force to be reckoned with… nothing against Geoffrey; I Just believe that he is a bit green on that side, and there are other exceptions I believe would work against Dr Hanley… If Dr Geoffrey Hanley had the support of the entire party, the Labour Party, it would have been an easy transition to move from Dr Douglas to Geoffrey Hanley because he’s in parliament, he won his seat. But it is clear that there are doubts, that there are apprehensions and that some persons are not ok with that.”

According to the panellists, the leading candidate seems to be Dr Terrance Drew for the next leader.

“When Dr Drew came on the scene, when he first came, he was a bit green, so to speak, and he has grown into politic. And I have observed that he has national appeal. I have also observed that when he speaks, he commands attention. I have also seen where he is not only just a community leader but a national leader as well; the pandemic would have shown that. When the Team Unity Government made some blunders in certain decisions that they would have undertaken, Dr Drew was basically the lone voice out there apart from myself on the radio and others. And over time, he has shown where he has that capacity to lead… His contributions to the community [are] stellar, and he is the type of man, he listens; you can sit down and have a conversation with Dr Drew, and he will listen to you… and I think he was really and truly supposed to be already the leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party,” expressed Flanders.

“The people of constituencies two and three and four and so forth are supporting Dr Drew. So already he is satisfying a particular function that he can be a uniting force for the Labour Party and so that to me is a strength that Dr Drew has,” shared Big Lice.

Wickham is his comments likened Dr Drew to Prime Minister the Hon. Dr Timothy Harris.

“I think that Dr Drew is the essentially the Dr Harris of this era. There are so many characteristics that he has in common with Dr Harris. He has the political skills, he has the charisma, he seems to be the most logical person to take over the Labour Party, and I think that is the same reason he was targeted in the same way that Dr Harris was targeted. I have said it repeatedly that if Dr Harris had led the Labour Party after Dr Douglas, we would not be in the situation today where we would be talking about a Labour Party in office. A person that you said was not suited to lead the country within the labour party; he was so power-hungry, he was so this, and he was that crosses the floor, takes up leadership on the other side, and he wins, which is proof that people never had a problem with him in the first place. And I think that this is the challenge that I have when we are looking at this whole question because we are now hearing similar reasons why Dr Drew shouldn’t be [the] leader, and I think that Dr Drew, quite frankly, presents himself as the best option. If I look at the public opinion data we have received, when we have polled, certainly [in] the last two elections, it’s been clear that Kittitians and Nevisians believe that the alternative to Dr Douglas is Dr Drew.”

When asked for comment on Dr Douglas stepping down, Dr Harris, during his press conference on October 28, shared that he had not put much thought into it as he is focused on leading the country out of the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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