United Workers Party (UWP) supporters can hardly contain themselves over news that investigative journalist Lennox Linton will contest the Marigot constituency for the party in the next general election.
Last week, sitting MP and party leader, the Hon. Edison James, told reporters that he would be stepping down at the end of his current term in office to clear the way for Linton’s candidacy. It has also been rumored that James is secretly pushing for and will stand behind a possible Linton bid for the party leadership.
Labour party officials have sought to downplay this development, but the news has infused UWP supporters and breathed new life (and hope) into the party. Already, they are predicting victory for the popular talk show host at the polls and a return of the UWP to government. One caller to Q 95 Hot Seat hailed Linton as “the best thing that has happened to the party and Dominica in a long time”. Another described him “the Barack Obama” of Dominica.
But while while UWP supporters continue to celebrate their party’s newest and hottest political rising star, the sobering question that must be asked is, how big an acquisition is Mr.Linton? Is he the long awaited ‘messiah’ that will lead the party to the promise land?
That Linton will win Marigot is a no-brainer. But he will win Marigot for the very same reason Justina Charles will carry Grandbay or Ian Douglas Portsmouth; these are safe seats. Marigot is a UWP stronghold. If the party presents a broomstick dressed in blue at the next elections, the people will vote that over the Dominica Labouyr Party (DLP) or Freedom Party candidate. Of course, Linton is no broomstick but you get the picture. As a native of Marigot, he might even be able to galvanize support for and mobilize crucial votes on behalf of party candidates in key battle ground constituencies in the Northeast like Wesley.
The UWP however will need more than Wesley, Castle Bruce and the Carib Territory to wrest the government from Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. That’s not an impossible task, but to do that, the party will need to win at least eleven seats. There are a number of marginal constituencies, presently in the labour camp, that (with the right influence) can easily migrate to a worthy challenger. The question is, could Linton, as the new ‘political Leader’ broaden and translate his regional appeal and popularity into a groundswell of grassroots support across the nation to influence the election outcome in places like Roseau, the Valley, St.Joseph, Grand Fond, La plaine, Colihaut and Soufriere/Scottshead?
I seriously doubt he could. While Linton may be able to mobilize UWP’s voter base, he is too much of a polarizing figure to woo disillusioned labourites looking to jump ship. And it is very unlikely that he will be able to attract large numbers of swing voters who often veer towards bipartisan candidates. The fact of the matter is, unlike Skerrit, Linton is not very ‘likeable’. Skerrit for example, could pull-off an election victory in most constituencies in Dominica. Linton on the other hand would be hard-pressed to win outside of Marigot.
Linton also comes with too much political baggage. While his investigative work has resulted in monies being returned to the treasury, it’s hard not to think of him as being on a witch hunt or involved in some kind of political scheme. The Labour Party got the UWP out on allegations of corruption and so they are seeking to return the favour. That kind of perception causes people to dig in and further diminishes Linton‘s likeability and national appeal. So while Linton’s candidacy and possible leadership of the party may not hurt fellow candidates, it won’t necessarily help them.
To pull off an election victory, the UWP will have to present a compelling agenda and a team of credible candidates who can win on their own merit. Until such time Skerrit and the Labour Party has nothing to fear.