All Members of the House of Assembly Form a United Front. Everyone in
Momentum is building up. Village and constituency meetings are being held all over the island. For the first time since the last elections, significant crowds of citizens are coming out to hear and support the speakers and panelists. A sort of election fever is heating up. The chorus of “full internal self-government” is now being sung loudly and clearly and in unison. The issue that is gaining everyone’s attention is opposition to continued rule over the island’s affairs by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. All the elected representatives are singing the same tune. Down with Orders in Council! Unity runs so high that bills and motions proposed by government representatives are taken up enthusiastically by members of the opposition. Not a word of opposition is heard, in or out of the House.
So, the question today is, what is happening?
Those of us who have been around for a few years will not have failed to notice that general elections are just around the corner. The House of Assembly’s life comes to an end in early 2010. Elections must be held by April of that year at the latest. What is a politician’s most powerful motive? To get reelected, of course! A popular platform is a sure help in this process. What better subject than “freedom from the foreign oppressor”? After all, it has proven successful in the past all over the world. The book is a best seller. It is a song the words of which are known by heart.
The FCO can be relied on to feed the fire. They have repeatedly stated that they will not entertain a move for full internal self-government, except within the framework of a short timetable for independence. Both government and opposition members of the House have stated that they are not interested in political independence for
It was noticeable on Anguilla Day that the crowd in the stands sat stoically while the police band played the National Anthem. Only the dignitaries under their special tent felt obliged to stand up. The crowd in the stands only jumped to their feet when the tune of the National Song began. The evidence is clear. The message is sinking in. There is a common enemy we must unite against. And, thank God, they are foreigners! This is so much better for a country’s soul than an internal dispute and a fragmented nation!
It is going to be an uphill battle for the new crop of candidates. Not only do they have to struggle against the natural advantage enjoyed by the incumbents. The old war horses have begun to paint themselves as the radical patriots. Will the young and coming politicians find an alternative issue that can capture the imagination of the electorate? To have any hope of success in the coming struggle, they will have to find a platform of their own that will distinguish them from the present crop of representatives. They cannot be seen to oppose “full internal self-government”. That would be to tar themselves with the charge of lack of patriotism. A young politician does not win an election by swimming against the current.
What does it all mean? The next two years are going to be difficult ones for the relationship between the FCO and the Anguillian people. Turmoil is coming. What will be the long-term effect? Will our leaders be able to control it? Will they succeed in using the issue to win another term, and then let things calm down? Or, will matters get out of hand, and political excitement turn into civil unrest? That is not in the best interests of anyone of us trying to earn a living and pay our mortgage.
We shall just have to wait and see.