Leaked UPP 2014 post election report spoke of fear of second defeat

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“Our argument should’ve been that we are the lesser of two evils – not that we were a hope that was needed now more than ever.” That quote was taken straight from a 17-page United Progressive Party (UPP) post-election 2014 report, which was recently leaked to OBSERVER media.
Although the document is some three years old and refers to the outcome of the 2014 polls, it is the first time it has reached the media and being reported on.
According to party stalwarts who leaked the report over the weekend, the above stated reason was again among those that cost the party the 2018 general elections as it did in 2014.
In a 17-page document titled: ‘Post Election Report. Why we failed & the Way Forward: June 2014’, the unnamed author highlighted a total of nine reasons why the party failed to get enough voter support to retain power for a third term.
The report pointed to the issue of campaigning on ‘hope’ in 2014, as opposed to being the “lesser of two evils.” It should be noted that the party campaigned on “Hope” again in the 2018 general elections, which was a landslide in favour of the ruling Antigua Barbuda Labour Party, with one more seat than when it won in 2014.
In the section of the document titled: We diminished Baldwin Spencer & Undermined Our Brand, the author wrote, “As I have maintained from the beginning, I think that “Leadership Matters” was the right brand in November 2013. However, our campaign consistently undermined the brand by diminishing Baldwin Spencer and his leadership brand.”
The author continued, “The compromise, to include ‘UPP Now More Than Ever’, was tone deaf. According to research, people did not think that the UPP was needed now more than ever. Our argument should have been that we are the lesser of two evils – not that we were a hope that was needed now more than ever.”
According to the author, the party did not want to “litigate the campaign on our record in government as that was perceived as a liability and not an asset”, so it instead used the slogan “Leadership Matters”.
And, it said that although Baldwin Spencer was not a very strong candidate, research showed he was more popular than the UPP and Gaston Browne who was leading the then opposition ABLP.
So, according to the UPP report, the aim at first was to “instead litigate the campaign as a choice between an upright, moral and Christian man who has the heart of the people versus a weak corrupt puppet.”
But, the strategy failed, the UPP said, because when it was time “to show his strength as a leader”, Spencer failed.
The report outlined that “the single most disastrous moment of the campaign was during the Jah Cure/Tarrus Riley concert in March [2014]” where Spencer addressed 10,000 people…and said that his hands were tied and he was helpless and unable to call the election because he needed Gaston Browne to withdraw the court cases.”
The party said having done that, Spencer basically told the people that he was not in charge, but that Browne was running things . So he, Spencer, set himself up as someone who was “weak” and “helpless.”
It was a “self-inflicted” blow, that “undermined our brand”, which was that “leadership matters.”
The report also noted that Spencer conducted many “rambling, incoherent addresses to the nation” and there was nothing memorable from them. Therefore, the public saw him as a “hyperintellectual prime minister who was wasting their time.”
Another reason given for the party’s landslide defeat at the polls was that “infighting was rampant.”
And, the author said that “infighting kills…and in this election, the united in the United Progressive Party was in name only.” The report pointed to a “number of meetings” where there was “open hostility”, “screaming and yelling”, “lack of respect for the leader”, “lack of respect for each other” and these were described as “appalling.”
The report stated that the infighting diminished trust in the institution and demoralised candidates, staff and consultants and ultimately led to a “lack of strategic direction.”
Other points were that the overall media strategy failed, long- form campaigning also fell flat and the party felt afterwards that it should have used “sound byte politics and policy slogans” instead of the “long-form cerebral arguments” it had used.
The party said it “could not get ABS to run” the IHI tapes regarding ABLP candidates’ alleged involvement in corruption. At the time of the election, the tapes were circulating on social media after first being leaked to an online media entity.
The author of the report wrote, “The fact that we, as the government of this country, could not get ABS to run with them and introduce them into the public discourse with follow up investigations and stories is another failure of our campaign and governing structure.”
And, in addressing the party’s failure to “bring justice” as was the campaign promise in 2004 and again in 2009, the UPP said this
failure, for 10 years, to ensure “the ALP would do time for their crimes” resulted in the ABLP being “exonerated” in the “eyes of the public.”
Another point of note was that the report indicated that if the UPP wanted to win, it had to change the faces of those in leadership.
In the section titled “Refresh the Leadership”, the report noted that, “If we do not refresh the leadership, we will have a difficulty claiming the mantle of change in the next election … In addition to changing the Political Leader, it’s also important to refresh the party’s executive … we need a new secretary general and party chairman who has the energy and vision to rebuild and reinvigorate the party.”
A fatal blow too was, according to the report, the party “did not have the will to win” as its leaders and candidates “… lacked the fire this time. We were comfortable.  We were complacent. And we were tired.”
In the report, the UPP didn’t just look at itself and what it did wrong, but it also examined what the labour party did right.
It noted that the ABLP made several good moves: “The Rebrand; New Logo, New Name; New Leadership: Gaston Browne; Hide Lester, Robin and Cutie; A Vision: Easy to Understand Promises; Negative Message was Clear; and Strong Funding.”
Nearing the end of the report, before outlining comeback strategies, the author noted, “We (the UPP) are in a dangerous position…we have been reduced to a rump party…we believe that given our rump status, the reclamation of government will be at least a two election project…The fear is that we turn into a weak opposition and a near permanent minority.”
The post election 2014 report said the party needed fresh and youthful faces for 2019, to execute a more aggressive campaign, reassure the donor base and unveil candidates early to allow them to campaign so the electorate can become familiar with them.
The 16 candidates who contested for seats for the UPP in March 2018, were unveiled in November 2017 and most were new. The new political leader, Harold Lovell, was among the defeated.
In this year’s general election, which was actually constitutionally due in 2019, the UPP won only one seat while the labour party took 15 and the Barbuda People’s Movement secured one. In 2014, the UPP had won three of the 17 seats in Antigua and Barbuda.

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