Why the National Democratic Party (NDP) Failed
Submitted by William Skinner, former member and candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP)
There is always a root cause that sometimes leads to success and at other times failure. While the root cause of the NDP’s formation was somewhat similar to that of Errol Barrow breaking from Sir Grantley Adam’s Barbados Labour Party and forming the Democratic Labour Party, it is obvious that when Richie Haynes broke away from the Democratic Labour Party, he was no Errol Barrow.
The NDP’s birth was also seen as one man’s personal ambition and although the party was relatively successful, in terms of other third parties, the perception was that its roots were opportunistic. Very early in the party’s life, considerable time was spent trying to overcome Haynes’ negative image. Haynes himself had always said that in politics perception conquers reality. The problem with Haynes’ image was addressed in a position paper authored by Cranston Browne, an Executive member, which stated that Haynes’ image was one of the party’s biggest problems. Although it can be said that Haynes’ positives started to improve, the party’s management was thought to be somewhat secretive.
The BLP and DLP successfully painted Haynes as extremely rich. The propaganda on the ground, being that the party was being financed by wealthy white business people, who had conspired with Haynes to “sell out ” the country. NDP candidates in the field were being accused of not spending the money when they were canvassing. It was very difficult to counter that belief. Most of us were essentially broke and could not compete with our opponents in the money ring. Our candidates, in most cases, could not afford to establish constituency offices and therefore could not afford to convince experienced canvassers in the constituencies to join assist them.
The party was resilient enough to contest three general elections, which in my opinion, was a creditable achievement. However, not having proper constituency branches was a problem from the inception. Haynes was not a big believer in constituency branches. He preferred the town hall styled meetings that provided good optics. He refused to accept that the town hall meetings were attracting the same faces. From a pure public relations perspective, he had a mortal fear of small numbers and did not see the sense in keeping constituency meetings that, for a new party, would scarcely attract more than two dozen people, if the branch was well organized.
When we review the above: the perceived reasons for its failure; Haynes’ negative image; candidates’ weak financial strength and poor constituency presence, it is easy to see why the party could not effectively remove the BLP/DLP. These parties had popular leaders: Forde, Sandiford and Arthur. They have tremendous constituency presence; well established candidates; longstanding financiers and most of all solid supporters. It will be noted that Haynes eventually regained his seat. However, for all his opposition to constituency branches, he maintained excellent constituency management, with an experienced cadre of “captains” even when he was out of parliament.
The late Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Michael Manley, wrote in his book, The Politics of Change, that there are three approaches to politics and therefore three approaches to power since “politics is the business of power”. According to this excellent thinker: there are men who see power as something to be acquired for its own sake; there are those who see power to be used for the purpose of minor adjustment in the society and then there are the idealists who seek to arrange fundamental change. I have concluded that when the National Democratic Party no longer served Haynes’ interest, he quietly put it to sleep.
It was Sir Roy Trotman who said that: “the NDP was formed for the wrong reason, at the wrong time by the wrong people”. There was obviously no party structure that would have been present to prolong its life. Its death therefore was as orchestrated as its birth.