By James Gaskell
In my article printed on December 2nd 2005 I extended the offer of an interview with me to anyone putting himself or herself forward as a candidate in Nevis’ 2006 elections. There has been no response from anyone in Mr. Amory’s Citizens Movement. As two months have elapsed I have to conclude that my generous offer does not appeal, and that I shall have to make do with an imaginary interview, and who better to start with than The Honourable Vance Winkworth Amory himself. You will appreciate therefore that none of what follows actually took place.
England’s most famous playwright, Sir Harold Pinter, received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. He used his acceptance speech as a political forum for his case against Messrs. Bush and Blair and the Iraq war. He began by saying; ‘The Majority of politicians on the evidence available to us are interested not in truth but in power, and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies… Unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination as citizens to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory’.
A little ‘over the top’ perhaps, as benefits a dramatist, but the central message is clear. Dig deep for the truth, do not expect that it will all lie on the surface in the form of the first answers you are given. I had this in mind as the Premier approached my house.
JMG: Good morning! Before we start how would you like me to address you, ‘Vance’ your first name by which you are known to most of Nevis, ‘Winkworth’ your middle name, ‘Mr. Amory’ your title, ‘Premier’ the Office you hold, or perhaps ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ the Office to which you have been aspiring these past ten years?
VWA: I think ‘Winkworth’ would be best. I need a new image.
JMG: You’re right, but haven’t you left it a little late? Haven’t you seen all these signs saying ‘Time Come For Them To Go – Vote Them Out’?
Winkworth: Can’t say I have. You see I have heavily tinted glass in my car windows, and of course I am frequently off island.
JMG: If I were you I would take all these notices and calls of ‘Time For A Change’ rather seriously. Sim Daniel was in office thirteen years and your then new party managed to persuade the electorate that his Administration had lost direction. Now after fourteen years the situation is reversed; you find a new look NRP calling your Government tired, rudderless, bumbling, bankrupt of ideas, corrupt and, rather as they say in the death notices other unpleasant adjectives ‘too numerous to mention’. If you let that simple slogan ‘Time For A Change’ sink in to the collective conscious of the voters, then frankly, you are but a footnote to the page.
Winkworth: I would remind you that the good voters of Gingerland have voted for me ten times, and on the last occasion their support was so strong that I received three quarters of the vote. In addition I have made hundreds of speeches, I am an experienced and adept television and radio performer, and on a personal level my smile is as broad as my handshake is firm. I project sincerity and integrity.
JMG: That’s a matter of opinion, but is it enough? After all an incompetent fool can project those qualities.
Winkworth: I trust that you are not suggesting that I am a fool?
JMG: Of course not. Competence, the ability to get your policies, your vision as you sometimes call it, brought to reality is a different matter.
Winkworth: I am proud of the achievements of my Administration and I intend to defend every one of my policies and, if necessary, each one of my Ministers.
JMG: Would you be prepared to do so in a series of television debates with the NRP leader Joe Parry?
Winkworth: I would, and I issue that challenge here and now. Before the last election he refused to debate with me on TV. He is a coward.
JMG: I suspect that he might say that the setup for that debate was going to be fixed against him. Indeed, I saw the debate you held with Hensley, organised with compère ‘Webbo’. He is an accomplished moderator, never lost for words, but he is known to be a particular personal friend of yours so he might in future wish to excuse himself from a debate in which you are involved. We remember that you were given, by Webbo no doubt, the prime position in front of the cameras whilst Hensley was relegated to a corner. Those kind of tactics won’t do for a Parry/Winkworth debate, and you can’t have those whose jobs may depend on you, Bussue or O’Flaherty, as moderators. In any debate held with an unbiased neutral moderator or perhaps two moderators one selected by each participant, and equal positioning, lighting and sound, I believe that Parry will trounce you.
Winkworth: He will do no such thing. I am much more handsome than him, and that matters on television. I smile my smile of sincerity more than he does.
JMG: You may call it your smile of sincerity, Winkworth, but in the UK where PM Blair smiles his smile of sincerity, no one believes anything he says any more. Some consider him a serial liar. This tends to happen to those who cling to power too long. Can you be sure that your smile does not radiate insincerity? As you say Parry may smile less than you but he will come over not only as more sincere, but more serious and knowledgeable. He will laugh more than you, and those laughs will be at your expense. He will ridicule what he considers your Administration’s failures and your lack of ideas.
Winkworth: As Goethe said ‘When ideas fail, words come in handy’.
JMG: Yes I remember, but he also said ‘Oh, how tired I am of the struggle!’ You do look tired, and you have been trying without success to interest enough Nevisians in Secession for some ten years now. You have failed. You don’t seem to have any new ideas. Isn’t it time to let someone else have a go?
Winkworth: Never! What else would I do? I travel abroad on behalf of the island up to twenty times a year. People should be grateful for this.
JMG: I don’t think you should worry about the future outside politics. You are an intelligent man, something will turn up. John Major, Prime Minister in the UK after Margaret Thatcher, now has the position of European Director of the US-based Carlyle Group, a billionaire concern working its Saudi oil contacts. He has to be making a packet a minute. You must have made good contacts on your trips abroad. There is a life after politics.
As for your travel abroad, I am afraid people are never grateful. More likely they will be saying to themselves ‘He has been in power fourteen years and travels between ten and twenty times a year; that is between 140-280 trips in all. Was it, for example, necessary to go to Australia? How much has it cost us the taxpayer, and what is there to show for it?’ The voter is a canny creature. He will be doing his own arithmetic and calculating how much better off he might have been if taxes had not been raised. Would you not be wise to retire now?
In Nurse Patsy you have a popular, hard working, credible opponent. You have an invigorated NRP fighting for ‘all five’. You are at serious risk of losing each and every seat. Taking retirement now, means that you are an undefeated ex-Premier, ready for new challenges. Defeat, on the other hand, is bound to be ignominious, and may consign you to oblivion. Should you win, do you really want to endure four more years with the same unresolved issues and new crises, but only the same colleagues and the same ideas with which to confront them? Any one’s ideas in the same demanding job after a time become limited and grow stale.
Winkworth: I shall fight to the end. I shall put my Party’s policies before the electorate in a 2006 Manifesto. I shall debate with Parry. I shall win the debate or debates and the election. You seem to forget that the economy is doing well, and we have brought in Newfound Development Company to build a five-star, 150-room hotel on Pinney’s Beach and 3-400 villas. This will ensure prosperity for our people.
JMG: Yes, I see that in your Administration’s publication ‘Nevis Digest’ for September/October 2005 Mr. Guishard in his ‘Foreword’ letter, says, ‘Let me briefly mention the five star hotel development that the NIA has successfully managed to bring on our shores’. Would it not have been more accurate and charitable to do as the Prime Minister did at the Ground Breaking Ceremony for Ocean’s Edge Resort, a venture in St. Kitts by Newfound Developers? He said ‘We are particularly delighted that the project was initiated by local investors, including the St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank, The TDC Group of Companies, The Ram’s Group of Companies and the Frigate Bay Development Corporation’. Mr. Guishard in his claim for your Administration has cut out the role of TDC who introduced Newfound first to St. Kitts and then to Nevis. A little clarity and charity from you would be helpful. You can be sure that the PM claimed credit for all good things which he hoped would flow from Ocean’s Edge Resort, and I suggest that that credit will stick to him more firmly than will your Administration’s claim for one hundred percent credit in the Pinneys Development.
Winkworth: I did not realise that Malcolm had not mentioned TDC. The NIA was glad of the introduction, but I have to say that confidence reposed by the Directors of Newfound in the Administration and especially in myself was far more important, so we are justified in taking the credit.
JMG: I am curious about your NIA publication ‘Nevis Digest’. I noticed that there were numerous pictures of you and of Malcolm in groups or singly doing this or that or more often making a speech. Out of idle inquisitiveness I thought I would count the photographs in a series of issues. This was my count:
June 2005 Winkworth 2 Malcolm 3
July “ “ 5 “ 5
August “ “ 5 “ 5
Sept/Oct “ “ 10 “ 10
It is almost a football score card. Three of the four games end in a draw after heavy scoring.
Winkworth: I was not aware that there would be so many pictures of Malcolm. I must speak to the editor.
JMG: I am sure that information or disinformation comes to you as Premier from time to time.
Winkworth: Yes it does. Information comes from any of my huge number of supporters. Disinformation from the dwindling band of the misguided, who seek to damage my Administration and cast it in a bad light.
JMG: Then you will appreciate that information/disinformation comes my way as a journalist. It is not always immediately obvious which it is. As you are with me today I shall relate one matter to you. I categorize it as disinformation. I feel sure that there is not a molecule of truth in it and I thought I should give you the opportunity of confirming my view. I only put this up to you as a group of ninepins for you to knock over with one powerfully bowled ball. The disinformation is that your Administration in 2003 just before the 20th Anniversary of Independence was asked for its consent that the name of Simeon Daniel go forward for a knighthood (at the same time as the name of Kennedy Simmonds). Consent was withheld.
Winkworth: That is certainly untrue. It shows how far those who wish to impugn my integrity will go. Mr. Daniel is my friend. He has backed my call for Secession against the policy of his NRP. St. Kitts has its Knight, Sir Kennedy, Nevis should have one also.
JMG: You were not thinking of Sir Winkworth were you?
Winkworth: I confess I do like the sound of it. It is easy on the ear. That Great Leader, Sir Winkworth, yes I like it.
JMG: I am afraid you will have to be content with the naming of the Nevis Airport. Knighthoods are not likely to be given to serving Premiers. Actually I think you, or if you prefer, your Cabinet has made a mistake in putting your name on the Airport Building. Your opponents are making great play with the question ‘Where is Vance?’ I can’t help thinking that the same thought will come to mind whenever your voters pass or enter the Airport and see the words ‘Vance W. Amory International Airport’. The answer they will give themselves, is that Vance has flown away again.
Winkworth: That reminds me, I do have a plane to catch.
JMG: Dear me, we’ve hardly got started, and from the answers you have given I think you need a little practice on some of the substantive issues and the more serious criticisms of your performance, before you debate with Joe Parry. How long will you be away?
Winkworth: About ten days.
JMG: Then we shall have another imaginary interview as soon as you get back, where you will have the opportunity of telling me how it is that you are able to support your Minister of Lands in the matter of the eighty acres, why it was that you never thought it necessary to consider the commercial viability of Nevis Express before committing the people of Nevis to a US$1.5 million guarantee, how it is that your Administration never produces contracts made with third parties, and yet claims that all it does is open and transparent, how it was that in spite of a perfectly good contract for sale and purchase of a plot of land from the Barrett family, it took your Administration twelve long years before it paid up and at that without proper interest, and other matters which will go to the heart of your Administration’s claim to competence and integrity.
Winkworth: I look forward to our next meeting. In the meantime I shall exercise my smile of sincerity and perfect my firm handshake.
JMG: You do not seem to get the message, Winkworth. They may have been successful weapons in the past, but the people are asking themselves what lies behind the smiles and the handshakes and many are coming up with the answer ‘nothing’. What you need to do is to think about the issues, and in some matters you will have to do something that you have not been prepared to do in the last fourteen years, and that is to accept the blame yourself. If you cannot provide full and open answers to all that you may be asked in the campaign then your smile may become fixed in the voters minds as a contortion produced to mask reality. A sneering smirk.