SN, among many others, has settled on the word “surprising” to describe Mrs. Elisabeth Harper’s sudden political arrival. Others used “stunning” and almost all are asking why, how and for what purposes. While I don’t have any definitive answers, I foresee some positive work ahead for Mrs. Harper. I start with the negatives in what is the domestic equivalent of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I can see Winston Churchill shaking his head from side to side…
I can also see Mrs. Harper’s presence as a pathetic attempt at ethnic balance and appeal. But clearly, even though Mrs. Harper might satisfy the party’s ethnic calculations, and she has ethical weight, she has no drawing power, all of which brings her utility into serious question. I see no inroads into the black vote, the women vote, or the traditional public service vote. Extend the latter to encompass army, police, and teachers, and the issue of her utility persists. She cannot-and most likely will not-attract either rural or urban votes in any meaningful way. This is a lot of voting territory covered with nothing to show for the journey.
If not drawing power and votes, then what justifies Mrs. Harper’s presence? What does she bring to the table that is tangible? Further, what was/is part of the ruling party’s political calculus in terms of her choice? It must be remembered that there is little room and recognition within the party’s upper echelons for independent thinking, integrity, or class of any sort. Last, how would she blend in, and what would be her role other than the distinctly decorative?
Aside from desperation and image renovation, I can see Mrs. Harper functioning as a valuable facilitator to mend diplomatic fences first, and to maintain a certain minimum standard in public exchanges, ongoing conduct, and a much needed cordiality. Next, I can envision her being rolled out as the clean cop to distract from the many dirty ones; she would be a face and presence and voice that might soothe and disarm the enraged or hostile. Then, Mrs. Harper could find herself in the thankless position of the new sanitizer. There is an urgent need for a replacement for the aging, fading deodorizing act perfected by Dr. Roger Luncheon, and who made a national institution out of saying nothing, while saying much. Alan Greenspan is left in the dust. Mrs. Harper could be right at home parrying, defusing, and detouring in true diplomatic fashion all the perversities that have been so characteristic of PPP rule. She would do well in this particular responsibility, and require little training, since her learning curve would be non-existent. There might be more unknowns right now, but like Rumsfeld Guyanese don’t know what they don’t know.
Having said all of this, I must still wonder aloud what has incentivized Mrs. Harper to agree; how she will regard some of her errant neighbours; and how she faces herself.