Choose your Hobson carefully

BC Pires
BC Pires


Hobson’s choice. The option of taking either what is offered or nothing – OED

MONDAY WILL almost certainly deliver yet another in a long line of general elections in TT that may possibly make a change but will certainly make no difference.

This isn’t an opinion or an idea, it’s just counting.

In almost 64 years of independence, we have had a grand total of three political parties in government in Trinidad and perhaps one and a half in Tobago (the PNM Tobago candidate and the Tobago anti-PNM candidate).

For 30 years, a full anthropological generation, after independence there was no substantial change in Parliament. The African party invariably formed the government and the Indian party, the opposition. Since 1956, either the African or the Indian party has always won the election, apart from 1986, when the Trinidadian political equivalent of a one-hit wonder, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR), won by the only genuine landslide ever recorded. The NAR, an electoral non-aggression pact of opposition parties, began falling apart the very moment the champagne was popped.

So TT has only two permanent political parties based entirely on race, the only essential difference between them. For decades now, they have both advocated almost identical policies (which are only for pappyshow, anyway) to such an extent that, the moment they get into government, they accelerate the policies they ridiculed for the previous five years.

The clearest illustration of this principle – or, more accurately, this lack of principles – was made by the NAR, which ran its flagship election campaign on the idiocy of the Priority Bus Route, the horrendously expensive paving of the old train tracks and replacing railways with buses: when elected, the same NAR not only failed to bring back the railway, it extended the PBR!

So there is no real choice but that of the two main parties and no real difference between those, apart from the reality of race and the widely held perception that the African party is marginally less corrupt and significantly more incompetent than the Indian party, and vice versa. The PNM motto, in dialect, could be, “All you know we doesn’t thief becaw we doesn’t do nothing at all” and the UNC’s, “We does thief so much, even all you does get a little something.”

Even the slowest of snails crosses the road eventually and it’s probably true that race matters less and less in the day-to-day lives of most people everywhere in the world, give or take a Republican party and a Vote Leave government or two. So you may find, nowadays, Rastafarians at Goodwood Park dinner parties and cane cutters’ children playing golf at Moka, just as you found Muslims in the 1956 PNM and Presbyterians in the 2020 UNC.

But a leopard cannot change his spots and, in Trinidad elections, an African doesn’t change his dashiki and an Indian doesn’t change his dhoti, so to speak.

So, come Monday, toss a coin and pick a horse; the ride is firetrucked either way.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast and, for half a century now, Trinidadian breasts have longed for a viable third party. The notion of the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR) existed before frustrated ex-PNM attorney general Karl Hudson-Phillips formed the ONR and will exist after all the three-letter imitation political parties currently chasing the same dragon have evaporated.

There are, apparently, 19 political parties contesting – or at least taking part in – Monday’s election; it’s a fairly safe bet 17 of them will come up with nothing. A Facebook page and a high opinion of yourself do not add up to a political party.

And hoping and praying for change do not replace working for it. Pay attention, on Monday, to one seat, Laventille West, contested sincerely by longtime activist Kirk Waithe, past leader of the Arrive Alive campaign and current leader of the Facebook group, the Nationwide Organisation of We the People.

See if his fate is any different from any dog who dares bark when the current incarnation of the Doc speaks.

Put another way, before you can have a government, you must first have a citizenry.

BC Pires is the political leader of the Nothing Matters and What If It Did Movement. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at


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