SUZANNE MILLS Sunday, May 26 2013.
Last weekend, former attorney general Glenda Morean-Philips was astoundingly frank at the PNM Women’s League anniversary celebrations. Many people she explained did not like the PP, but they were not seeing a visible, credible alternative. That’s an astonishing admission for a PNM member to make in public.
I don’t think that anyone has to labour to understand why the party is at a relative standstill, why it lacks the appeal it needs after three years in opposition. If many people are upset at the PP, even more will tell you, “not me and Rowley.” Truth be told if you ask them why not, many (and they are not PP supporters) aren’t quite certain. “There’s just something about him I don’t like.” The PNM’s problem is that Dr Keith Rowley is not seen as Prime Minister material.
I have always argued that the PNM in 2010 needed someone fresh, someone who was not a raging bull, but a woman or a gentle man to counter Kamla’s natural charm. Fate dealt the PNM Dr Keith Rowley. Elections though are not only decided on issues and ethnicities, but also depend on who the leader of a party is and Rowley does not cut it. He’s so desperate to become prime minister, he’s prepared to do just about anything — jump from roundtables to patriot platforms, form alliances with just about anyone, demand every week for the Government to call an election now, file a series of no confidence motions, be ever on the hunt for bacchanal. It’s crazy Opposition and it’s a turn off. This week’s email no confidence motion was surreal.
Can the PNM be pleased with its current leader? I don’t think everyone is. The scuttlebutt is that there have been moves a-foot to replace him. Morean-Philip’s statement was very revealing. It was up to the women in the party to give it visibility, she said. It is uncharacteristic for the women’s league to make public critiques of the party and indirectly of its leadership and her comments make you wonder whether the party is concerned that after three years of PP government and Rowley opposition the PNM’s fortunes in Trinidad still aren’t what they could be.
This week’s motion of no confidence has certainly backfired: Rowley attacked the Government with emails he knew were fraught with critical inconsistencies, emails he never sought to verify and the PP put up a technical defence that was more than convincing. Reports are that after walking out of the Chamber on Wednesday night, PNM MPs were seen celebrating. What was there to cheer about? They should have stayed and stood their ground until the very end. The PNM’s reason for joviality could only have been that they knew despite the major inconsistencies found in the document, they had left a question mark hanging over the Government’s head, one which might not be answered before the two elections, if ever at all. Perhaps that’s why Dr Rowley boasted that he had done his job.
If the PNM finds this type of leadership appealing, then they cannot understand what Morean-Philip does — that TT cannot see a visible, credible alternative. How can the PNM sell a new PNM when the first thing people see is the leader and the current PNM leader’s performance is completely unappetising? God only knows that the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government has committed its fair share of faux pas; that it is far from angelic, but its chief possesses charm, political charisma. Despite his rumoured makeover, Rowley is still perceived as churlish, aggressive and desperate for power and with the exception of PNMites, the country is almost afraid to contemplate life in TT with Rowley as PM. Those are the unpalatable facts.
Like any other Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar cannot maintain the high ratings she did at the start of her term. In 1997 when New Labour came to power, Tony Blair had a rating in the nineties, his popularity soaring to unprecedented heights. By the time he left office, his approval rating stood at less than 30 percent. But can Rowley raise his ratings above Kamla’s sufficiently in order to win the next general election?
Can he convince a hesitant electorate that he is a credible alternative, that he is the man for the job? His meetings seem to attract mainly the PNM elders and he appears at home only in Tobago. This week’s no-confidence motion, predicated on dubious emails, did not improve his standing in Trinidad and with the exception of the usual suspects, many were left wondering whether they could have confidence in the Opposition Leader.