Practising the politics of the centre

Guyana Chronicle
May 22, 2000

WHAT IS arguably one of the best definitions for the concept of `politics of the centre' may have come from Britain's celebrated broadcaster Trevor McDonald. On a visit to his homeland late in 1996, McDonald told the `Sunday Express' about his privilege of being the first journalist to interview South African icon, former President Nelson Mandela shortly after Mandela's 27-year incarceration. The Trinidadian said he asked Mandela how it was possible for him to sit down with the perpetrators of apartheid and come to any kind of political accommodation. Mandela had replied that in any kind of difficult situation, one must always be prepared to compromise on fundamental principles. "That was the politics of the centre, trying to reach an agreement for the good of the nation," Trevor McDonald explained to his interviewer in the `Sunday Express'

Astute political leaders are relinquishing ideological strait-jackets and are moving more to the politics of the centre in their efforts to bring more people into the active political process. American President Bill Clinton, who has spent his public life in the nation's democratic party, skillfully assumed some of the republican party's views on major issues, and as a result, was successful at the polls. His more youthful counterpart, the very personable Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose sagging popularity is now being revived by his new baby son, also coveted some of the campaign planks of the conservative party and so was able to appeal to a more responsive electorate. This initiative was not the only strategy of Blair whose Labour party was out of the corridors of power for well on 15 years. Blair has also articulated what he refers to as the `Third Way' as a political doctrine that takes the best aspects of capitalism and fuses them to the best principles of the political left. And although he has been criticised for this strategy, events around the world daily are indicating that harsh market reforms and the stringent socialist economy are both wanting in human terms.

In Guyana's polarised political culture, a new dispensation of politics of the centre would be a tremendous neutraliser of hide-bound thinking and ingrained behaviour patterns. The positive trend would be to find out or discover what is good for the nation, what will make Guyana a more inclusive and harmonious nation and what would give all Guyanese the animus to leave ethnic stereotypes and racial disputations way behind and to pull together for the national weal.

Elections are to be held within another eight or so months. And as we have noted in this column time and again, the two main parties are packing their quivers with the predictable arrows of accusations, recriminations, historical charges and countercharges. How refreshing it would be to see the people of this country embark on a new path of healing that would be different from the old track with its pathologies of bickering and distrust. Our leaders must be persuaded to adopt the politics of the centre.