Rushton’s parry

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

Paolo Kernahan

WHEN WAS the last time you saw a politician take the high road?

Probably never.

MP for Mayaro and chief “insurrectionist” in the UNC Rushton Paray gave some responses to questions from reporters that were peculiar by most standards in this country – they were intelligent, thoughtful and strategic.

What the hell is his problem?

He did so amid an onslaught of character assassination typical of our largely inerudite political players.

In submitting his nomination papers (which were likely filed directly in the nearest wastepaper basket) the embattled Paray, reflecting on the distantly looming general election, said, “It’s not only about removing the PNM. It’s about how do we reset TT for the right track to prosperity, with all the global headwinds that are coming. I want to be able to have the best opportunity – grandchildren, your children, to make sure we have the best chance for success…”

Paray spoke directly to citizens, not the party faithful and one-track voters. His answer eschewed the default setting of opposition politics – badmouthing the incumbent.

For any political party trying to persuade apolitical citizens, people need to see that you can do more than diagnose poor governance. That’s easy enough for reasonably intelligent people.

When Rushton Paray spoke about his family and yours, he touched on a primal concern – the safety, well-being and equality of economic opportunities for our loved ones is all we want, regardless of our political disease.

The MP for Mayaro could have swung back at his opponents, who have draped him with all sorts of epithets – the most appalling of which is “PNM financier.” He has also been labelled an agent of the PNM.

To return the volley would reduce his political gambit to a gasping footnote; nothing more than the public airing of party squabbling.

By directing attention to the most pressing need – preparing to face the serious challenges at our door – Paray took the focus off himself and put it on an objective we should all be concerned about. From a communications perspective, it was a deft manoeuvre.

As an aside, the idea of Paray as a PNM agent doesn’t make sense no matter how you come at it. The PNM doesn’t need an infiltrator to do what the Opposition does on its own with astonishing ease – staying in opposition.

Paray was also asked whether calls for internal elections would scuttle his chances of being chosen again to represent the constituency. He said, “I expect to be treated fairly…I think my chances are as good as anyone else’s.”

Maintaining that kind of equanimity in the maelstrom of political slander is a calculated move.

Mayaro is considered a marginal constituency. Without involving personalities, Paray put the ball in the court of the UNC executive. The party must decide whether they want to oust a man who won that seat twice.

The idea of counting on the PNM being so bad that it will make the Opposition look good is a laughable misreading of what makes voters tick.

Some commentators say Paray consigned himself to the political cemetery for challenging the party leadership. Given his expressed character, it’s unlikely he had much of a future in the UNC anyway. At some point in your career, you either make your move or get off the commode.

With our divisive, primitive political culture the party able to appeal to both the malleable rabble and the more enlightened, educated minority can turn the tide of political and developmental stagnation.

The late MIT professor Patrick Winston told his students, “Your success in life will largely be determined by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas.”

In our society, such qualities are in short supply in our leadership. Winners don’t so much rise to the top but float to the top – this is true of both the public and private sectors. People get ahead on the strength of who they know, not what they know.

Still, if you have good ideas and can communicate them effectively, you can move the political contest beyond the infinite loop of tribal inertia.

I would never put my head on a block for any politician. Still, Paray’s public utterances and actions echo the desperately-needed qualities of leadership that I’ve written about for years.

Objective minds in this country can only come to one conclusion – TT is in a terrible place. Politics-as-usual offers no egress.

Paray has made his gamble; how it plays out will tell us what kind of nation we want for ourselves and future generations.


"Rushton’s parry"

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