WHEN it comes to local party politics, I have a very long nose that can smell a rat from afar – and it’s hardly ever let me down. Political sniffer dog that I have grown to be, when I first heard that Dr Claudius Preville had decided – just like that, out of the blue – to ‘challenge’ Allen Chastanet for the post of Political Leader, it just didn’t sound right. After all, Dr.Preville backed Mr. Chastanet for the position one year earlier. I just knew there had to be something else there….
When someone argued that Dr.Preville was only seeking to better qualify for contesting the Babonneau seat, I also dumped that assertion. I just felt a man of his intellectual and academic stature (I almost said ‘of his kalikiti’) would not be content taking care of rural Babonneau. I felt he instead had his eyes on a Castries seat – specifically Castries Central – and I chronicled that in an earlier edition of this column. Now I’m hearing in the news that the UWP Castries Central Constituency Group met recently and said they want Dr.Preville to replace Richard Frederick as the party’s candidate in the next general elections.
The related news item also stated something else that I’d also predicted in this newspaper: that the Francis brothers (Peterson and Hermangild) will not be trusted as UWP candidates just because they parted with Labour. I said they would not be trusted to run either in Castries Central or Anse la Raye – and the item said the Castries Central group made it abundantly clear they did not want Peterson as a candidate. I now also predict that the same will happen in Anse la Raye to Hermangild Francis (if he makes a bid for that seat) because, like Ezekiel Joseph, Dr. Keith Mondesir has never fully accepted that he would have been defeated by a rival ‘Dr Pep’ (or that an eye doctor would be beaten by a calypsonian).
In the case of Dr.Preville running for Babonneau, considering how Ezekiel has behaved — as if he never should have lost and beaten by a woman — I knew he never really felt threatened by Dr Preville. Now we know why – Dr.Preville never had his eyes on Babonneau at all. His sights have always been locked on Castries Central from the time he knew the long knives were out for Frederick.
I quipped in yet another edition of this column (just ahead of the last UWP National Conference) that it was quite interesting that neither the two men going into battle for the right to lead the UWP into the next general elections have a seat. Now the picture is getting clearer to others: each will be doing a different battle, but both with the same goal: hoping to enter parliament sideways, or through a back door.
In Dr Preville’s case, he’s riding on the fact that the UWP has always held the Castries Central seat, except when won by Sarah Flood on a Labour ticket. Proverbially speaking, Sarah went to bed with Frederick, resigned on the first working day in 2006 and opened the way for the by-election that would become his path into parliament – and the UWP.
Sir John (apparently knowing then what others are only knowing now) had insisted all along that Frederick would not be allowed to run on a UWP ticket, so ‘Freddo’ ran on his own – and won as an independent. He subsequently won twice more on a Flambeau ticket. By Dr Preville’s political ‘guesstimation’, Frederick can’t win if the Constituency Group does not support him.
However, Frederick has already shown he can win on his own, so Dr Preville is being too economical in his political judgment. Besides, Frederick hasn’t said if he’ll run in 2016 — whether on any other party’s ticket or alone again. So, for as long as Frederick keeps the UWP guessing, for just as long will Dr Preville’s analytical conclusion remain factually inconclusive.
In the UWP Leader’s case, the chickens are also either coming home to roost or flying home to fry. For as long as Mr Chastanet has had his eyes on the UWP leadership, for just as long he’s also had both his eyes wide open for any available one. None was available on the table, so apparently the search went below.
Micoud South MP Arsene James has flatly denied every time he’s been asked (by the press) whether he’s been approached by his Political Leader with an arrangement that would see the sitting MP stand down to make way for his leader to contest that seat.
Now the question is being asked publicly by the Prime Minister, who’s also asking whether a sum was agreed and whether a down payment has already been made. (The PM I know will not make such a statement without knowing something, but I guess I can’t ask him to “Tell me what you know that I don’t know about what you know that I don’t know.”)
As things stand, I know no one who doesn’t believe that there’s some arrangement in place for Allen Chastanet to run the Micoud South seat. I won’t go as far as saying the arrangement involves money (even though I won’t put my head on a block on that one…). Questions are more and louder now, yet still with no positive answers. But the question I think that really need to be asked now is whether the representative process meant behind elections is served if an elected MP can simply decide to vacate the seat at any time he or she feels to before the end of the term, simply to facilitate someone else showing more keen interest.
To his credit, Mr. James did say a long time ago (and has often publicly repeated since then) that if and when the time came for him to vacate the seat before an election, he would ‘consult’ those who put him there. But even that isn’t as fool-proof as it may sound, because (after all) he won’t be able or willing to consult all those who voted for him in the first place.
My strong suggestion instead is that we forget about the names and the constituency involved in this case and look at the wider picture of what can happen if MPs are allowed to make ‘arrangements’ to cause by-elections ahead of due elections to facilitate others interested in contesting. If we do agree that the picture doesn’t look nice, then it would do us all well to advocate that voters in every constituency be given the ‘Right of Recall’ to recall MPs who, for whatever reason, have come to or arrived at a premature end of their term.
Not all will agree, but that’s just my view — as a chronic chronicler!