Consider This | Choosing competent candidates
“It is therefore my intention to ensure that we offer to the Bahamian people an attractive team of mostly first-time candidates who will serve as future leaders.”
— Philip Brave Davis, leader of the opposition
Several weeks ago, Philip Brave Davis stated: “It is therefore my intention to ensure that we offer to the Bahamian people an attractive team of mostly first-time candidates who will serve as future leaders.” That was a refreshing pronouncement by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader because, prior to his intervention, the prevailing belief was that the PLP would run many of the same candidates who led the party to its greatest defeat in modern Bahamian political history.
Never since its creation in 1953 had the PLP suffered such an enormously embarrassing thrashing at the polls, and never before in Bahamian history had a sitting prime minister lost his parliamentary seat.
Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider this… What kind of candidates must the PLP choose in the next election if it intends to persuade Bahamians to support that party?
There are some persons who believe that the PLP will offer many of the same candidates who served in Parliament during the 2012—2017 term. Others believe that the political culture within the PLP is so intransigent that the old guard will fight tooth-and-nail to retain the status quo by offering ensconced elements who cannot be uprooted. Those entrenched elements believe that, given the electoral record of the past two decades where the governing party has been unable to be re-elected, and particularly in light of voters’ remorse that has quickly percolated since the May 2017 election, all the PLP has to do is bide its time to be voted back into office, almost automatically.
These are all fatal fallacies that have absolutely no basis in fact. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is therefore essential for the PLP to recognize that the only way for it to be successful at the polls next time is to offer mostly new, impressive, competent candidates who will demonstrate that the party has a new outlook and is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Lessons from the last election
But it is not sufficient for the PLP to simply offer new candidates to be appealing to the electorate. That is precisely what the Free National Movement (FNM) did in 2017. However, most objective observers would agree that, although new candidates were central to the FNM’s electoral playbook, we are now experiencing one of the worst classes of parliamentarians in modern political Bahamian history. Many of the new parliamentarians, by their conduct and public pronouncements, have demonstrated that they were unprepared to serve in the House of Assembly. Many, both by their Cabinet and parliamentary performances, have manifested that they do not understand how Parliament or government is supposed to work. This is evidenced by the FNM’s decision to go into a closed conclave last weekend to assess how to reset its political agenda and public performance. This has become a necessity because many Bahamians are generally unimpressed by the governing party’s performance.
Consequently, newness is not an end in itself. More essential than newness is competence. This reality, more than anything else, should inform the PLP’s decision in the selection and preparation of its candidates who must meet several important criteria to obtain that party’s nomination.
In a previous column, we listed 19 criteria that must be considered in selecting parliamentary candidates. Among other things, those candidates must be free of scandals and not involved in malfeasance or misfeasance; should possess a good education, formal or otherwise; must be committed to caring for the poor and the elderly; must support polices which protect the rights of workers and must consistently demonstrate good and sound judgment and common sense. They must be honest, possess integrity and should have a clear vision of the way forward and have the ability to articulate it so that people will be able clearly understand it and buy into it.
In addition, they should possess the ability to inspire the young to dream greatly and to meet the future boldly. Prospective candidates must sympathize with the least among us, possess a reasonable understanding of the world, along with a great knowledge of The Bahamas, and the capacity to intelligently discuss both. They should have a good understanding of our economy, our culture, the Westminster system and the constitution of The Bahamas.
Above all, successful candidates must boldly represent the interests of their constituents whose interests should be paramount when deliberating and creating public policy once elected to Parliament.
Who would be disqualified as candidates?
Who should be disqualified? The PLP must take the difficult decision not to allow any of its former representatives to offer in the next general elections who behaved in a manner that demonstrated that they acted in their own best interests and not those of their party or their country. In addition, none of the former PLP MPs who lost the confidence of their constituents or displayed a sense of arrogance or entitlement should be nominated.
None of the former parliamentarians who were guilty of offensive remarks and actions to people and the general public, like sticking their middle fingers up and spanking themselves on the bottom, are worthy of consideration for office. They are totally unfit to serve.
With those provisos in mind, I can think of very few former PLP ministers and MPs who will satisfy the aforementioned standards to be considered for a nomination the next time around.
Challenging times and pressing national issues
These are serious times. Many Bahamians are hurting. Many of our communities are engulfed in criminal activity. Fear of making ends meet is pervasive. Many are concerned for their personal safety and welfare. The overall quality of public education must be urgently reformed. Inadequate healthcare is pervasive. The poverty level grows, the standard of living of many has regressed, illegal immigration is still burdensome and, sadly, a tragic lack of confidence and proper investment in Bahamians persists.
If we are to emerge from the malaise that has engulfed our political culture, the candidate selection process must demand that political parties offer candidates who are of a high standard in ability, character and commitment. PLP candidates must be demonstrably stable and capable of advancing new ideas for the growth and development of our country. They must have a clear vision of a better Bahamas.
The Bahamas deserves that the very best of its sons and daughters come to the fore and lead in the task of making this, our beloved country, which is placed in the most beautiful location on earth, the great nation it could and should be. There can be no room for mediocrity or second-rate performers among our leaders.
The welfare of the Bahamian people is at stake. That which is best for them must be the focus of attention of all who offer for public service. In the next election, the PLP must clearly display its commitment to choosing new, impressive, competent candidates. To do otherwise would demonstrate a disastrous disdain for our nation and its people and would most certainly contribute to the writing of an ignominious conclusion for the PLP in the political story of The Bahamas.