Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What will be Perry Christie Legacy?

The evolving Christie legacy

The Nassau Guardian Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas

The return of Hubert Ingraham to the leadership of the Free National Movement (FNM) in 2005 marked the beginning of an all-out assault on Perry Christie.  The then revitalized FNM branded deep into the political flesh of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader disparaging terms, describing Christie as inadequate as a leader and as a man.

When the FNM won the 2007 general election it continued the assault.  Christie experienced much torment in the House of Assembly for the next five years, a consequence of coming second in a two-party election.

Many people still regard Christie as weak.  Now, though, those people must at least acknowledge that he was strong enough to sit in Parliament for five years and take the taunts of men and women who had far fewer accomplishments than he did.  Some who describe themselves as strong don’t have what it takes to sit in Parliament out of power and face the criticisms of the other side.

Christie is now back in the post he lost in 2007.  He has also retired Hubert Ingraham, his friend and rival.  He is 70.  He has been in the House of Assembly from 1977, and was a senator before that.  In the winter of his political career, he now sits as “master of his own fate”.  Christie has a decision to make, the same decision Ingraham and Sir Lynden Pindling had to make.  Ingraham and Sir Lynden messed up that decision.

It is, of course, when to go.  Some may say it is too early to think of such a thing after election wins.  But for the wise, long-term planning is a constant companion.

After scrapping through a controversial 1987 general election, Sir Lynden ran again in 1992 and lost.  He ran yet again in 1997 and suffered a catastrophic defeat.  Ingraham made history in 2007, coming back and becoming prime minister for the third time.  In the face of a down economy, a roadwork debacle and a crime problem he ran again and was sent into retirement in defeat.

Christie can see what happened to his mentor.  He can see what happened to his friend.  He must now choose how it will end for him.

Hubris is the greatest threat to great men.  Thinking they are the best things ever and that they will always be loved, many leaders march over political cliffs confident that their greatness will sustain them.  When they fall and fail, many realize years later that it was obvious way back then that there was a noble and easy to choose exit point different from crushing defeat.

The choice of when to leave for undisputed leaders is a personal one.  No colleague can force you to go.  What must be remembered, though, is that it is not fun for defeat to be your last memory in political life.  For some it is like a nightmare that cannot be escaped.

If Christie chooses his exit strategy involving handing over power at a point of his choosing, and retiring at a point of his choosing, he would prove to be wiser than Ingraham and Sir Lynden in crafting his exit.  He must be careful that he does not wander through these years, having made no decision about his future and ‘accidentally’ running again five years from now because it is just too close to the election.

If Christie wants to run again as leader of the PLP, no one can stop him.  But, he should make that choice rather than drifting into such a decision.  If he departs he should do it properly giving the next PLP leader time to make some impression to the country before heading into the next election.

It will be interesting to see what Christie chooses.  Will he be like Sir Lynden and Hubert, or will he leave while he is on top?

October 08, 2013