Labour needs Clear and Strong Leadership to Rebuild the Party

Sir Anerood Jugnauth is a lucky man. In 1982, 1983, 1987, 1991 and 2000, he was considered lucky (or clever) enough to have others ride him to the prime ministership. This time round, luck was again on his side, but it is not his allies who carried him to victory but his opponents.

In the most astounding outcome of any general election in our history, three men who were last in government together more than 25 years ago have found themselves back in Cabinet. Anerood Jugnauth, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo and Anil Gayan were members of the Cabinet appointed after the 1983 elections. No one and most probably none of the three could have foreseen that they would once again be part of the same Cabinet in the 21st century.

Whatever the circumstances that led the MSM-PMSD-ML alliance to power, the government has a comfortable majority and the legitimacy to govern at a time when the country needs to address a number of challenges both domestic and global. Politics and sheer demagoguery have prevailed for too long and have had a negative impact on governance.

In his first public statement after the results were announced, Dr Navin Ramgoolam wished the new government well. Labour should not systematically oppose the new government but instead focus on rebuilding the Party.

For the past few years, Labour did not, for all intents and purposes, exist as a party. Labour no doubt thrived as a movement or as a political family, but it was allowed to disintegrate as a party and there was no will at all to even maintain the semblance of a party.

Labour went into an election calling for a mandate on major electoral and constitutional reforms without any debate whatsoever within the Party. The rigmarole of Executive Committee “ratification” can fool no one. The Party does not exist anymore.

Labourites must now rebuild the Party or face oblivion.

The Party must be revived and this will only happen if there is no power vacuum within the Labour movement in the next few weeks and months.

Labour more than ever needs a clear and strong leadership over the coming months to ensure that the Labour Party is still around when it is due to celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2016.

Whether Dr Ramgoolam continues to serve as leader or Labourites elect a new Leader, the Party will be revived only if, at this critical juncture, there is real leadership and an unflinching commitment to re-organise Labour as a genuine political party.

Respect

Had Dr Ramgoolam lost the elections to the Remake, he would have lost power but he would not have lost his people.

Given the unpalatable terms of the alliance with the MMM, he has now not only lost power but many of his people.

He also lost many of his supporters because he did not treat them with respect. In fact both Labour and MMM paid a heavy price for treating their own people with contempt by having an agreement between two individuals imposed on them. Instead of having a bottom-up approach to major electoral and constitutional reforms, they adopted a top-down approach and rushed into an election without first garnering the support and respect of their own people.

The task ahead for rebuilding Labour will therefore be a very arduous one. Given the pace at which the new government is hitting the ground running, Labour cannot afford to maintain its legendary snail pace. Strong leadership, management skills and organisation methods are required right now, much more than textbook Machiavellian political gamesmanship. Right now the Party does not need a Master-Tactician but a Visionary-Manager.

The new government has moved very fast and by appointing heavyweights to portfolios like Energy, Education and Health, it is likely to deliver in a speedy and efficient manner in the coming weeks.

Ivan The Ethical Enforcer

Ivan Collendavelloo has often been lauded as “un homme d’honneur et d’intégrité”. As one of the leaders of the ruling alliance, the country can now expect him to live up to his reputation and ensure Ethical Governance. The government should govern and not engage in witch-hunts, character assassinations or blatant and damaging political patronage. Everybody will be looking up to Ivan Collendavelloo to ensure that this is what the government does. People expect him to be the Ethical Enforcer.

If there is one lesson which politicians of all hue and shade have to draw from what happened in the country over the last few weeks, it is that in 21st century Mauritius with a more mature and sophisticated electorate, people expect to be treated with respect.

Otherwise they vote with their feet.

Putting People First

History will remember the irony that a government which came to power proclaiming that it will put people first was booted out of office because two leaders showed total disregard for the people and for their own supporters. In fact people came last in their scheme of things.

Whilst Labour leadership’s public discourse was replete with references to modernity, it allowed the Party to fall into decrepitude.

Labour must acknowledge that, in spite of all that it achieved in office since 2005, it failed over the years to keep the Party afloat and it failed miserably over the past few months to treat people with the respect that they deserve. By rebuilding the Party and making sure that it is not just a loose movement but a Party with strong foundations and modern management, Labour will not only do justice to its founding fathers and to its core supporters who were always there in the good and the bad times but continue to play its historical role in moulding a modern and just society.

The task ahead for Labour is not politics but rebuilding the Party.

The Labour Party at 80 must become a Party once again.

 

* Published in print edition on 19 December 2014

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