Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Let me start by stating the obvious: I am not a member of any political Party and have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome of the general elections other than that of an interested observer. Secondly, I do not have crystal ball nor do I have access to the Oracle of Delphi.

If a person lives in Port of Spain or in the West he could be forgiven if he were asked today who is going to win Monday's poll if he answered the PNM. But a more discerning observer would pay attention to certain 'straws in the wind' that seem to suggest otherwise. For example, the Express newspaper has been virulently anti-Government until about the last two weeks. Why? You couldn't pick up the Express a mere three weeks ago without the first three or four pages carrying stories that were critical of the PP Government. I personally counted at least nine anti-Government stories in the Express about three weeks ago on the first three pages of a particular edition. Then, all of a sudden, the newspaper has adopted a more moderate stance and has been fairly neutral over the last two weeks. Why? What happened?

Further, for the last two Sundays in a row the Express has not published the results of any poll. Why? That newspaper normally employs the Nigel Henry polling firm Solutions by Simulation. So? Why hasn't the newspaper published the poll?

My information is that the Nigel Henry polls (which are generally regarded as the most accurate of all the public polling firms) are showing a PP/UNC victory and that the UNC is ahead with somewhere between 21 seats on the low side to 24 seats on the high side!

Could this be the reason for the apparent move to the centre by the Express? In other words, is the newspaper in possession of information that the PP/UNC is in reality ahead, but doesn't want to admit it but also doesn't want to end up with egg on its face if the PP/UNC does in fact win? If not, then why hasn't the newspaper published any polls for the last two Sundays in a row?

The next 'straw in the wind' was the behavior of Dr. Rowley and the PNM last week when they made a big fuss over some alleged criminal act of the UNC and reported it to the Acting Commissioner of Police. You see, normally, when somebody is winning he/she doesn't whine about some action of his/her opponent. Instead he/she focuses on the finish line and surges ahead. But Dr. Rowley isn't doing that. This, to me, lent credence to a report that I got that at a high level PNM meeting last week Dr. Rowley was complaining angrily that the PNM's internal polls were showing that the PP/UNC was surging ahead of the PNM and he was demanding answers as to how to stop this.

The next 'straw in the wind' is the body language of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar and her lieutenants. The Prime Minister looks tired, but she does not look as though she believes that she is losing. Quite the contrary. She carries herself like a winner.

Now, over the last five years I have observed Mrs. Persad-Bissessar very carefully. When she is under severe pressure (and there have been such moments in the last five years) you can see that she is feeling the strain and that she is not in complete control. But over the last two weeks, she hasn't looked as though she is not in control.

Look: I'll be the first to admit that everything that I have written here is not something to 'bet the farm' on. But over a lifetime in and out of politics I have learned to pay attention to little things ... 'straws in the wind'.  And I also know that both political Parties run internal polls almost on a daily basis during election season and that these internal polls (which are never published) are much more accurate than those which are foisted upon us by the newspapers. Their internal polls have to be deadly accurate. No modern political Party can operate without a first class, reliable pollster. The pollster does not just give the information about who is winning or losing but also on what issues are resonating with the public, where the particular Party is weak and where it is strong. In these circumstances, I look very, very closely at the top 'bananas' on both sides (because only a handful on each side ever gets to see these polls) and see how they are behaving; what their body language is like. It tells a lot. And while I will admit that I am definitely not an expert on body language, as a very amateur student of the art I have found it to be very helpful in a myriad of situations such as this one now.

I am aware of the polls being published in the Guardian. But for reasons that are not relevant to this particular post I tend to discount them. Let me just say that the Guardian has its own reasons for wanting a PNM win, but has learned to be more discreet about it than its rival the Express.

So? What's my prediction for next Monday? PP/UNC by a nose! And I'll bet one dollar to one doughnut on that. (We can decide afterwards who pays the dollar and who pays the doughnut!) Am I certain about my prediction? Not at all! At the time of writing there are still six long days to go and this race is the tightest that I have ever seen in all my years on this planet in this twin island state. Any number can play, but if there are no more great surprises I will stand by what I have said and be absolutely prepared to admit that I was wrong ... if events prove me to be!

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