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Hours before Leadership Change

It was back on 8th October, 2000, that the young lawyer assumed the leadership of PAM, from Dr. Sir Kennedy Simmonds, following two successive defeats at the poll, (1995 and 2000), by the Labour Party. When Grant therefore entered the arena of elective politics, his party was at its lowest ebbs; out of government, a dwindling popular vote and with absolutely no seats in the National Assembly.

As Grant reminded his followers just last week during an independence dinner, “When I assumed the office on the 8th October, 2000, I took over what was then the daunting but important task of leading the People’s Action Movement. I took the helm at a time when no one wanted to come forward to bear the brunt of the burdens in a party, which at the time had no seats and no representatives in parliament.”

The UWI and Harvard trained lawyer said he had decided back then that youth was on his side, and he was young enough and determined enough to give himself to the important and difficult task of leading a political party.

He admitted that he also recognized that he was filling the big shoes of former leader and the nation’s First Prime Minister, Kennedy Simmonds, who had decided that it was time for him to pass the baton on to a younger generation, after a quarter century (25 years) as National Political Leader of PAM. At the time, Grant who is now 47, was only 35 years old, but was ambitious with an enormous amount of energy.pas

For him, it was an honour to step up to the plate to fill the void. Agreeing that it was a tough journey, Grant has extended his thanks and appreciation to all those who assisted his efforts during the period he led the party, especially the one individual who never wanted him to enter the political arena, his wife, Mrs. Wendy Morton-Grant. Despite her advice against the move, Mr. Grant said that she was also the individual who remained a tower of support and strength. Similarly, he said if it were not for the wisdom and guidance of his parents, the road would have been tougher.

Grant is now leaving his position as Party Leader with his organization with three members in parliament, (two elected and one, an appointed senator). He also steps aside as leader after helping his party to improve its share of the popular vote after the loss in 2000 by almost a 25% margin.

In 2000, the final election contested under Simmonds, PAM received 29.5% of the National Vote, compared to Labour’s 53.7%. This meant that Labour pulled off a victory with a huge 24.2% margin in the popular vote. However, in each of the two elections held under Grant’s leadership, Labour’s overall numbers have steadily fallen, albeit by only small margins; 50.6% in 2004, (compared to 53.7% in 2000); and 46.6% in 2010, (compared to the 50.6% in 2004). PAM however, registered 31.7% in 2004 (compared to 29.5% in 2000); and 31.6% in 2010.

See figures below for comparisons:

Election Year                        PAM                Labour

1993                                33.6%           43.8%

1995                                34.8%           49.6%

2000                                29.5%           53.7%

2004                                31.7%           50.6%

2010                                31.6%           46.6%

This however is no moment of absolute comfort for PAM because the party, now with the new leadership of Shawn Richards, is still faced with the mammoth challenge of expanding its overall voter base, but more so in areas like East Basseterre, Central Basseterre and in Old Road/Challengers/Half Way Tree, where Grant ran on two occasions.

It would appear as though that the political fire and desire for elective politics are still in Grant’s DNA, because though he is stepping aside as leader, he has offered himself to be the party’s candidate in constituency Number 4, provided he is approved by his constituency group and the new leader. Both entities have in the past suggested that he should contest.

It was only recently that well known social and political commentator, and someone who has criticized Grant and called for his resignation as PAM leader, Mr. Washington “Washie” Archibald, opined that Grant was cheated out of his victories during the 2004 and 2010 polls, where it is alleged various voter irregularities were engineered by the incumbent party. Grant was said to have lost the 2004 poll by 51 votes and the one in 2010, by a margin of 29. Officials in PAM and some observers on the side-lines have expressed the desire to see Grant contest again, because it is their strong belief that the next time around his fortunes will be different.

According to one analyst, essentially what PAM really needs is a shift of approximately 800 votes across 3 constituencies, and this could win them five seats, assuming that they maintain control of constituencies Number Eight and Five and that Labour would win only West Basseterre, St. Pauls and Constituency Number Seven.

This is difficult but not impossible. PAM has had its days of political glory under Sir Kennedy, and at one point they won six of the 8 seats in St. Kitts, leaving Labour with only 2 (St. Pauls and West Basseterre) in 1984.

On Sunday 30th September, Shawn Richards, who has been a Deputy Political Leader for approximately 8 years, will replace Grant as the new leader. He defeated the other PAM Deputy Leader, Eugene Hamilton in a close contest last Sunday, (23rd September, 2012), to become the new head of the organization.

It would therefore be expected that Richards will place urgent priority on the development of new initiatives that would strengthen the party’s organizational capabilities, with the mission of devising strategies to improve its share of the electorate. Richards would have to energize and motivate his supporters, restoring hope that the party has a chance to win the next elections.

Time is short however, thus, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said; “the urgency of now” must be applied.

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