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LETTER: Is the UPP A Sinking Ship?



My decision to take time out to write this letter is as a result of the dismal turn out of the United Progressive Party/Antigua Barbuda Workers Union, Labour Day march.

Everyone, except for the blind UPP supporters, have all come to the conclusion that their march was nothing short of an embarrassment. And this in an election year. In contrast, the ABLP’s gathering at the Sir V.C. Bird bust and the ensuing march were most impressive. Indeed, independent observers are of the view that the ABLP’s march outnumbered the UPP’s by almost two to one.

However, true to form, the UPP leadership and supporters, are in their usual denial and rather than face the undisputed facts, have elected to revert to their usual lame and ridiculous excuses, which they have used since their 2014 defeat at the polls. They have stated with a straight face that thousands marched with the UPP/AWU and this, in the face of multiple videos which show their march to be closer to about a generous five hundred.

They state that Labour’s march consisted mainly of children and Majorettes “who can’t vote”. Blissfully ignoring the fact that these children have parents, who by the very fact that they allowed their children to march, were clearly in support of Labour. They vote, as do their older children. Videos also show that there was a large turnout of young and younger voters in Labour’s march. As to the presence of these young voters, the UPP comforted themselves with the belief, that these young Antiguan and Barbudan voters came only for the music (Burning Flames), the shows and the food. What was most noticeable about the UPP/AWU march is the average age of the marchers which consisted mainly of granddads and grandmas. A large slice of middle-aged persons and a scarcity of voters under the age of thirty-five. This abject failure must be viewed in the light of the UPP’s claim that they will win the next election and take over the reins of government.

There is an old saying, which I hope I am getting correctly: “To try something over and over and failing, and continuing to try the same thing and expect a different result, is a sign of insanity.”

It is appropriate to the leadership and supporters of the UPP, who have never accepted that they have been soundly beaten at the polls by Labour, to resort to the most outrageous excuses to rationalise its multiple defeats. These excuses range from the sublime to the ridiculous:

  1. The ABLP won because they bribed the voters with gifts from refrigerators to computers to cash, wrapped in Labour tee shirts.
  2. They paid voters to give up their voter’s ID cards (presumably to prevent them from voting).
  3. Labour won because the foreigners and Antiguans and Barbudans, who voted Labour are all “low lives”. This was spouted ad nauseam on Observer Radio by Algernon Watts, Knight et al.

These excuses were repeated and continues to be repeated even though the elections of 2014, the UPP lost to Labour, in what was a stunning victory.  So, from about 2017, the UPP in opposition had

convinced itself that it would take back the government quickly and in fact, frequently implored PM

Browne to “call the election now.” This was the mantra of Chaku Symister and other activists.

The UPP was cock-a-hoop, convinced in their own minds that they were marching on to victory. In fact, in 2018, the UPP fared even worse than 2014 when they had retained only 3 seats. PM Browne called

the election early as is his legal prerogative, and it was more of the same, as the UPP continued to

maintain they would re-take the government. Chaku et al continued the rallying cry of “call the election now.”. Once again, the UPP suffered a smashing defeat, worse than the last time. The ABLP won 15 seats, the UPP won 1 (All Saints East & St. Luke) and the BPM took the Barbuda seat.

The ABLP polled 23,063 or 58%, down 1,175 votes while the UPP polled 14,440 or 36% down 3,368 votes; the ABLP had a plurality of 8,623 votes and there was a 76% turnout.

Then followed the usual litany of excuses and rationalizations as noted above plus a new one:

That the UPP was not ready because the Prime Minister called the election early. This, they opined should not be permissible and there ought to be constitutional reform, whereby the general election is called on a set and particular date each electoral cycle.

Just imagine the main opposition party admitting that it was not ready for an election, months after repeatedly demanding an early election. We are now approaching another election within months, and the new “My UPP” has pulled out the same old playbook and reverted to the same failed campaign strategies – noise, cussing, cussing CARICOM brothers and sisters, making outlandish promises and accusing the Ministers of enriching themselves(with absolutely no evidence or empirical data); bemoaning the failure of the government to offer a stimulus of $1,000 even though every public servant was paid his/her salaries/wages during the lockdown.

A serious deficiency in the UPP’s campaign is that their rhetoric is aimed entirely at their base, which is made up of some not so bright people, wo display their political ignorance on Facebook and Observer Talk Radio. That is bad enough, but it is worse when the candidates, leadership and activists “shout to the echo chamber.”

Another serious problem for the UPP is the caliber of many of their political spokespersons, some of whom are criminals, found guilty of serious crimes; others with dubious reputations. Add to that its campaign management is in the hands of Chester Hughes, of whom the least said the better and its public relations is in the hands of the fast-talking Winston Henry aka “Fled the scene”, who is fast and loose with the truth. There is also the lack of political skills and instinct in the party’s hierarchy in particular D. Giselle Isaacs, its arrogant chairperson, but more about this at another time.

Finally, the UPP has presented a slate of candidates, who, but for a few exceptions, lack the capacity to govern, have no track record of success, are mostly unemployed, underemployed and are mostly underachievers. Also, candidates like Pearl Quinn, Franz De Freitas, Alister Thomas, Algernon Watts and Cleone Athill and others irritate and put off independent voters, who shudder to imagine any of these persons as a Minister of government.

It is for all of the above reasons that I state without fear of contradiction, that the UPP will be defeated in the upcoming elections. The only remaining questions are:

  1. Will the election be a clean sweep for the ABLP?
  2. Will the UPP hold on to its single seat?
  3. Will the BPM take the Barbuda seat>
  4. Having been soundly defeated for a third consecutive election, will the present slate of candidates remain relevant in the political future of Antigua and Barbuda?
  5. Can the UPP withstand a third humiliating defeat and survive as the main opposition party, or will it disappear as a sinking ship in the political ocean of Antigua and Barbuda politics?

Time will tell.


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