Whatever battles lie ahead for the PNM Government and Opposition UNC, Parliament’s new year starting yesterday found UNC MP Ganga Singh on the Government side. Briefly.
Singh who recently helped facilitate unity calls from former UNC jefes—which his boss has rejected—wasn’t holding many conversations with UNC colleagues. But he was on the Government side talking to PNM’s Marlene McDonald and heading to PNM front benches to warmly hug and kiss PNM’s Camille Robinson-Regis.
All were later on their correct sides—Prime Minister Keith Rowley, in detailed statement, moving to deflect Opposition efforts to ignite Australian scrutiny of his Government’s Australian ferry acquisitions.
It will hardly be the last such task for the PM hereon since he’s already began such work in recent addresses.
Government’s head start entry all week, onto the three-election landscape, has seen corresponding Opposition action, both sides prepping foundations minding respective political business for the fight ahead which now influences every action each takes.
Government’s tweaked external image in a blitz week, from canned presentations to public “Conversations”; UNC tweaking internally to strengthen external profile.
It didn’t take Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West’s prediction that 2019 will be “better”, to understand elections are ahead. PNM’s media cocktail party held for the first time in the term at the Hyatt also dispels doubts on reinforced outreach.
Public feedback ahead will indicate how much Rowley’s recent innovative way of addressing T&T, seeking fresh communication footing, reached target following his lecture/slide mode. The approach, however, was as much discussed as his facts, requiring backup from his Finance Ministers.
There were also conflicting ministerial views that the presentations were the start of PNM election campaigning for polls ahead (Colm Imbert) or not (West).
Plus more mix-up that the presentations were addresses to the nation (Stuart Young) or not (Imbert).
The seasoned Imbert, skirting spin was forthright enough to acknowledge, while it wasn’t a rally-form campaign launch, with three approaching polls, it was the start of campaigning since Government has to start focusing on issues important to voters.
Imbert’s other comments signalled the strength of Government's footing with J Public.
That Government felt the need to address T&T via a “new”, “different” way to convey a message to “wider” audiences in an “easier” way acknowledges the measure of the disconnect deficiency and Government’s challenge following a tough term. Validation of the problem also, from West’s admission that people have complained about Government communication.
For Government to resort to lengthy recap reminding citizens of its difficulties post-PP may shed light on how comfortable it feels in the election year start-up and how its campaign will be anchored—negatively fingering the PP—as a contrast to its performance, opinion on which is divided.
The UNC has as much—likely more work, within and without. Some believe its profile as alternative government needs work, despite perceived PNM unpopularity.
Consolidation received an unexpected kick-start after unity noises emanated from ex-UNC jefes Basdeo Panday, Jack Warner, and Vasant Bharath at a Singh function.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s reply via New year’s message was coldly clear—using Panday’s line—that she wouldn’t “sleep with the devil”, warning UNC’s evolution requires “new faces”.
She’s pulled members closer with a Christmas dinner and Monday’s caucus with MPs and senators. Singh was noticeably absent.
Insiders said on Monday, she sought feedback on her leadership, party, elections, and the “ground”. Efforts were made to empower MPs to form party groups and assure the “new faces” hint didn’t necessarily mean replacing all. UNC’s targeting 23 general election seats. New faces are expected in some heartland seats and East-West corridor where UNC remains challenged.
Sources said Monday’s talks which appeared to be an effort to right imbalances was “a wake-up call on all sides”. UNC’s preparing to open nominations by its January 27 Assembly, officials indicated.
It remains to unfold if Government outreaches will close distance with required various quarters, and how UNC’s footing will stand after PNM’s countermoves including audits, probes legal matters.
This week began the business of elections, political ramparts are being drawn. The fight’s on ahead of the war. It won’t stop for the next three years.