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Tuesday, July 30, 2013


“Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three. . .”

The poem was first published by William King in his Useful Transactions in Philosophy in 1708–9. It described a merry king who called for his pipe, his bowl, and his three fiddlers, suggesting that King Cole and his fiddlers played music together as a group.

Well, our Ole King Cole merriment and music are no more . . . as he has been deposed by one of the wealthiest kings in St. Lucia! Ole King Cole has been replaced by the “King from the Chastanet dynasty”.

Initially, Gale and Spider may have brought a measure of disappointment to St. Lucians by allowing the ”Royal Legacy” to perpetuate through the UWP. But on Sunday July 28 2013, there was a sense that this disappointment was drowned in a temporal Chastanet euphoria.

Did I say Euphoria? Yes! While King Chastanet’s supporters were jumping up in joy and jubilation at the spanking defeat meted out to Ole King Cole and his fiddlers, the new Rich King seemed to have been consumed by a different kind of emotion. Whether King Chas’ “merriment” was moderated by the Herculean nature of the task that lay ahead or some other impending threat, it was hard to tell on last Sunday evening.

His victory speech sounded uncharacteristically low-spirited, flat-footed, ordinary and uninspiring. Paradoxically, Ole King Cole, in his concession speech (and even without a prepared script), sounded more “royal” than King Chas. In fact, it may not entirely extraneous to suggest that King perhaps felt a sense of relief, a sense of liberation at relinquishing the position of party leader – an act that was overdue since in November 2011 when he lost the general elections.

Has the Ole King played the domino leadership game fair and square? Was it a “hypnagogic jerk” for King or was it a most welcomed “coup de grâce” for him?

The general feeling prior to the vote was that King had to go. There was a quirky feeling that he probably enjoyed more empathy in the ranks of his “red nemesis” than he enjoyed among his UWP colleagues who made no bones about going for his jugular. Ironically, his main supporters and empathisers turned out to be most questionable elements of the party like Tucker and the Pit Bull. Was that the culmination of his desperation?

Albeit a prevailing school of thought that Chastanet won the leadership contest more by “default” and “orchestration” than “choice” – just as Ole King Cole did in 2011, a vociferous cross-section of UWP seems ecstatic with their “new party king”. (Remember, after King lost the General Elections in 2011, it was incumbent on him to demit office. He merely held on as caretaker leader. Hence, it is argued he was put on the ballot paper only to give Sunday’s charade a democratic face).

It was clear that Ole King did not provide the dynamic political leadership and failed to live up to expectations of the party! But will the “new king” rise to the occasion or do any better than the Ole King Cole? Will he metamorphose from the vociferous and raucous species (we have known him to be) to a more organised, purposeful and skilful leader like Kenny Anthony? Will he self-destruct and implode, and ultimately self-destruct the UWP? Will his absence from parliament be a liability?

On the matter of his “parliamentary wilderness”, let me hasten to add that I don’t buy the argument that one has to be in parliament to be political leader. Granted that being a parliamentarian may give a leader an advantage; however, our political history has shown that it is not a critical success factor. Kenny was not in parliament when he became the leader of the SLP! When Compton was not in parliament either when he was re-elected political leader UWP. George Odlum was mostly in the parliamentary wilderness when he led the PLP. Prudent, ex-UWP activist and leader of his ineffectual UWP-oriented LPM is not in our Parliament, yet he is the LPM leader!

On the contrary, I’m of the view that being out of parliament may actually turn out to be a “blessing-in-disguise” for Chastanet. He has three years to cover ground, to mobilise and to re-organise the party. He has enough time to build - and even rebuild - a new credibility. But can he do so?

In the weeks leading to the convention, he demonstrated an overwhelming propensity to mobilise; but is that propensity sustainable? Does he have the focus, fortitude and vision to stay put? Will the ideological arguments thrown at him by his detractors both within and outside the UWP party come to haunt him? Will his family background and seemingly excessive wealth be factors that will bring him to heal or will they be success factors?

It is noteworthy that members and sympathisers of his own party (like Richard and Juke Bois) were the “main framers” of the pedigree and genealogy argument against him. Clearly, Richard is doing to Allan what Rick did to Kenny in the past! Irrespective of the un-tenability of his position, Rick invariably attacked Kenny on the grounds of pedigree and excoriated him for his “genealogy”. Lately, members of Chastanet’s own Kingdom have been using a similar strategy against him. But it is left to be seen how this pans out in the days ahead. Will Richard gobble up his own vomit and conform?

Whatever happens, the litmus test for King Chastanet will be how he deals with radioactive elements like Richard, Bousquet and even the controversial Guy Joseph (who campaigned so hard for him). His success in that regard will be what will differentiate him from Ole King Cole.

Meanwhile, St. Lucia can breathe a sigh of relief for being spared another national disgrace by the UWP rejection of Rufus “Bruce Tucker” Bousquet as party chairman. It would be a humiliation of our integrity. We have made the mistake of electing him twice to our parliament and the Old King Cole made the fatal mistake of appointing him as our foreign minister. I hope Chastanet promptly begins to clean the UWP Augean stables with a sense of urgency and never to allow that disgrace to befall St. Lucia again.

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